Update Wednesday, March 5 at 12:03 p.m.: New York is not ending solitary confinement for developmentally disabled inmates as previously reported. It is limiting these inmates’ time in isolation to 30 hours.
New York will end the practice of solitary confinement for certain classes of inmates, including youth and pregnant inmates as part of an agreement announced Wednesday, the New York Times reported. The landmark agreement stemmed from a lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union challenging the state’s confinement practices. Some 3,800 prisoners are held in solitary confinement every day for between 22 and 24 hours as punishment for violating prison rules, according to the NYCLU. And now, New York will be the largest correctional system in the country which prohibits solitary confinement for youth inmates.
Solitary confinement is an ineffective and inhumane form of punishment, advocates have long argued. It exacerbates or even causes mental illness, and can increase rates of recidivism, the NYCLU argued. New York has been confining inmates to solitary confinement for months and even decades, when experts have argued that the maximum “tolerable span” one can spend in solitary confinement is closer to 15 to 30 days.
“This agreement is an important step toward dignity and decency,” Leroy Peoples, a lead plaintiff in the lawsuit who served 780 consecutive days in solitary confinement as punishment for filing false legal documents, said via the NYCLU.
If the reform moves as scheduled, the lawsuit should be resolved in two years, the New York Times reported.