The New York State Bar Association is renewing its call for significant reductions in the use of solitary confinement of inmates and for new protocols for separating violent and nonviolent prisoners.
“New York’s correctional system makes too much use of solitary confinement,” said President David M. Schraver of Rochester (Nixon Peabody LLP). “Prolonged solitary confinement is inhumane and not worthy of our justice system.”
In 2013, the association’s House of Delegates approved a report that cites numerous experts and studies on solitary confinement’s detrimental effects on mental health.
“Courts of law, legal scholars, medical commentators and independent observers have documented the wide range of deleterious effects that solitary confinement can have on the confined individual,” the report states.
Recommendations include restricting solitary confinement to ensure it is used in very limited and legitimate circumstances, adopting criteria for separating violent and nonviolent prisoners, setting standards for ensuring separation under the “least restrictive conditions practicable,” identifying inmates who should not be in solitary confinement; and reducing the number of special housing unit beds.
In addition, the report recommends solitary confinement sentences be limited to no more than 15 days, the state Legislature enact measures to restrict the use of solitary confinement in state and local facilities across the state and the state should conduct public hearings to examine the harmful effects of long-term solitary confinement.
The report is available at www.nysba.org/substantivereports.