SOLITARY CONFINEMENT IN NEW YORK: THE FACTS
Solitary and Other Forms of Isolated Confinement Are Inhumane, Counterproductive, and Unsafe.
- People in isolated confinement in NY State spend 22 to 24 hours a day locked in a cell the size of an elevator, alone or with one other person.
- They may be permitted one hour to exercise alone in a cage; they do not receive any meaningful programs or therapy, and cannot make phone calls.
- The sensory deprivation, lack of normal human interaction, and extreme idleness can lead to intense suffering and severe psychological damage.
- Isolated confinement fails to address the underlying causes of problematic behavior, and often exacerbates that behavior as people deteriorate psychologically, physically, and socially.
- Nearly 2,000 people in New York are released directly from extreme isolation to the streets each year; they receive no educational, vocational or rehabilitative programming, and no transitional services to help them prepare for their return to society, increasing rates of recidivism.
- Isolated confinement serves no legitimate purpose; states that reduced their use of isolation in prisons by up to 75% saw significant decreases in prison violence.
People are Regularly Held in Isolation in NYS for Periods of Time that Amount to Torture.
- Most people sent to isolation in New York State prisons spend months or years there; some individuals have been in solitary confinement in New York’s prisons for more than two decades.
- The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has denounced solitary confinement exceeding 15 days.
- New York currently places no limit on the time in isolated confinement.
There Are Far Too Many People in Isolation, Disproportionately People of Color.
- On any given day, about 4,000 men, women, and children are in isolated confinement in New York State prisons; thousands of others are in solitary in local city and county jails.
- Black people represent about 18% of all people in NYS, but represent 50% of those incarcerated in NYS, and 60% of people held in solitary confinement.
- Five out of six sentences that result in isolated confinement in NYS are for non-violent conduct.
Even Particularly Vulnerable People are Held in Isolated Confinement.
- Children or people with mental illness are disproportionately likely to be put in isolation.
- Pregnant women, elderly people, and people with severe physical disabilities are held in isolation in NYS; members of the LGBTI community have also suffered additional staff abuse by being placed in solitary confinement.
Processes Are Arbitrary and Unfair, with Insufficiently Trained Staff, and Little Accountability.
- Corrections officers are not sufficiently trained to address people’s needs or problematic behavior; as a result, the default response is to write a disciplinary ticket for an alleged rule violation.
- Hearings by DOCCS employees to adjudicate disciplinary tickets that result in isolated confinement are arbitrary and unfair: 95% of people charged with a rule violation are found guilty.
- These processes occur within the closed prison system, with little public reporting by DOCCS.