O'Donnell and Rozic Introduce Bills to Reform Solitary Confinement, Bring New York into Compliance with International Human Rights Standards

Assembly Correction Committee Chair Daniel O’Donnell and Committee Member Nily Rozic introduced bills this week which would conform New York’s solitary confinement laws to the new recommendations issued by the United Nations Committee against Torture in November.

“New York’s prisons should be places of rehabilitation, not holding cells that make inmates even more prone to violence and crime than they were before. Reducing overreliance on solitary confinement is an important step in this direction,” O’Donnell said. “Its excessive use is counterproductive, and has been shown to be particularly damaging to young people, pregnant women, and those with mental illness. Now that the Committee against Torture has established so clearly that only minimal use of solitary confinement is acceptable, and that no solitary confinement for the young and the mentally disabled is acceptable, I look forward to moving our two bills swiftly through the legislature.”

Assembly Member O’Donnell’s bill (A1346) would require that all solitary confinement sanctions be imposed as a measure of last resort, and for the minimum period necessary. It would also ban solitary confinement for inmates under 21 years of age, and for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled.

Assembly Member Rozic’s bill (A1347) would ban solitary confinement for pregnant women and nursing mothers in prison.

“The findings of the United Nations Committee against Torture clearly indicate that we need to re-evaluate the disciplinary practices used in facilities across New York and consider humane alternatives,” said Assembly Member Rozic. “While solitary confinement is difficult on all inmates, it is an excruciating hardship on pregnant women. Extreme conditions and restricted access to medical and mental healthcare makes time spent in SHU devastating and detrimental to the life of a woman and her child. I look forward to passing these reforms so that women can receive the critical care, exercise, and nutrition a healthy pregnancy requires.”

Both A1346 and A1347 are awaiting action in the Correction Committee.