The New York State Legislature has passed the HALT Solitary Confinement Act, which would limit the use of solitary confinement as a form of punishment within New York prisons.
The state Assembly passed the measure March 16 in a 101-49 vote, while it passed 42-21 in the state Senate March 18.
The legislation now goes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. In a March 18 press release, the New York State Catholic Conference, which represents the state’s bishops in public-policy matters, praised the Legislature’s passage of the act and urged Cuomo to sign it immediately.
“Simply put, long-term solitary confinement is torture,” Dennis Poust, the Catholic conference’s interim executive director, said in the March 18 release. “The deprivation, lack of normal human interaction, and extreme idleness fundamentally alter the brain and can cause immense psychological suffering, self-harm, and often lead to suicide. Issues with which people enter segregated confinement — mental illness, addiction, anger, despair — are only exacerbated by extreme isolation. Additionally, a disproportionate number of those in solitary confinement are people of color.”
Poust also noted that the state’s Catholic bishops have long supported reform of solitary confinement policies.
“We are grateful to Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly member Jeff Aubry and Senator Julia Salazar, as well as all who voted for this legislation,” he said. “We also congratulate Jerome Wright, statewide organizer of the #HALTSolitary campaign, and all of the advocates whose tireless efforts made this day possible.“