A new approach, after litigation, to solitary confinement in New York. The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a class action complaint against the New York State Department of Community Corrections concerning its use of solitary confinement. The lawsuit will be suspended while two nationally recognized corrections experts work with the DOCC to reform the use of solitary confinement in New York prisons. A primary goal of this process will stop the use of solitary confinement of inmates under the age of eighteen, pregnant women, and inmates with mental and/or physical impairments.
On any given day, New York has almost 4,000 inmates confined to solitary confinement. The United States leads the world with the most inmates 80,000, incarcerated in solitary confinement. Prisoners in isolation are often confined to small cells without windows, with little to no access to the outside world for years. Inmates are confined to these cells for 23 hours a day. Such extreme isolation has serious psychological effects on inmates who will eventually be released to their community. According to several state studies, 50% of prison suicides occur in solitary confinement.
Gov. Cuomo has recognized that New York’s prison system demands reform. Last week, Gov. Cuomo proposed to offer college programs at ten state prisons to qualified inmates. Without such reforms, we will not reduce recidivism. The present use of solitary confinement defines our society. It is time to change the definition.
By Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com