Starting in March 2022, New York state law will prohibit correctional facilities from isolating inmates for more than 15 days. The bill, signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on April 1, 2021, comes after years of activism aimed at ending solitary confinement in the state.
Review the provisions of the bill and its impact on New York inmates.
The effect on the prison population
Incarcerated individuals and their advocates have long protested the isolation of inmates in New York prisons and nationwide. These groups cite the racial inequities in the solitary confinement system. According to data reported by the New York Times, Latino and Black people represent approximately 70% of the census of state correctional facilities and more than 80% of those held in isolation from others.
Solitary confinement also has a significant impact on mental health. Research published by the American Journal of Public Health associated the use of isolation in prisons with an increased risk of suicide, self-harm, fatality after release and worse outcomes for existing mental illnesses.
The end of solitary confinement
In addition to the general ban on more than 15 days of solitary confinement, prisons and jails cannot use the practice at all for inmates who are younger than 18 or have specific disabilities. Before placement in isolation, each inmate must receive a suicide risk screening. When prisoners have to remain separated from others for longer than 15 days for health reasons, they will stay in a rehabilitation unit the new law created.
New York joins several other states in banning or limiting solitary confinement in recent years, including Colorado, New Jersey and Georgia.