The organizations and individuals who make up the Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement agree on the following observations and principles.
We call on Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, and the New York State Legislature to act on these observations and principles to reform New York’s abusive isolated confinement policies and practices.
People who are confined in a cell for 22 to 24 hours a day without meaningful human contact, programming, or therapy live in inhumane conditions that often cause deep and permanent psychological, physical, and social harm.
New York currently imposes such isolated confinement far too broadly, routinely, and frequently in response to non-violent conduct, and for far too long a period of time—often months and years.
Isolated confinement is ineffective, counterproductive, and unsafe because it fails to address the underlying causes of problematic behavior, and often exacerbates that behavior as people deteriorate psychologically, physically, and socially. New York continues to release nearly 2,000 prisoners directly from isolated confinement to the streets.
Human rights bodies have concluded that isolated confinement may violate human rights depending on the circumstances and that it should be used only in very exceptional circumstances, as a last resort, for as short a time as possible, and with adequate safeguards in place.
Sweeping reform of New York’s use of isolated confinement is a critical milestone on the path toward New York fully embracing evidence-based incarceration policies that are smart, progressive, and humane.
I. New York must adopt clear and objective criteria to ensure the limited and legitimate uses of separation, such as a last-resort response to a designated level of imminent violence or threats to safety and security.
II. New York must dramatically reduce the length of time anyone spends separated.
III. New York must automatically exclude certain vulnerable people from isolated confinement, including young people and people with significant physical, mental, and cognitive disabilities.
IV. New York must fundamentally transform the nature of any separation of incarcerated persons, provide intensive therapeutic responses to problematic behavior, treat all incarcerated persons with humanity and dignity, offer meaningful human interaction for those separated, and make available individualized treatment and meaningful programming when people are separated.
V. New York must provide all incarcerated persons with an effective mechanism for obtaining transfer from separation to the general prison population and provide meaningful support to help people transition back into the general population and our communities.
VI. New York must enhance transparency, fairness, and accountability in the operation of any form of separation and in the procedures that result in people being separated