New York State Assembly Passes O’Donnell Bill to Ban Solitary Confinement

Today, Assembly Correction Committee Chair Daniel O’Donnell’s bill, 1346A, passed the Assembly.

Today’s passage of A1346a is an important step in curbing the ills of solitary confinement when used on individuals who should not be exposed to such treatment. I strongly believe that by adhering to the United Nation Committee Against Torture’s (UN CAT) recommendations, inmates will be treated more humanely and with more respect. I am reminded of the deeply grievous story of Kalief Browder, a teenager who was held at Rikers Island for three years without standing trial, and who spent two years in solitary confinement. Mr. Browder was never found guilty of committing a crime and psychologically suffered the consequences of being a minor in solitary confinement. He committed suicide earlier this month. Mr. Browder’s story exemplifies the need for bringing New York State prisons and jails in line with the UN CAT Report’s recommended actions for limiting solitary confinement. Allowing continued use of solitary confinement on minors and the mentally disabled would be to condone torture.

While I am overjoyed that A1346a passed the Assembly, I understand that much work still remains in trying to make correctional institutions safer. I will continue to fight to that end. I urge the Senate to pass this bill as the health and wellness of those inappropriately subject to solitary confinement depend on it.

A1346a would reform New York State’s solitary confinement laws to follow recommendations made by the United Nations Committee Against Torture November 2014 report. In complying with the UN CAT’s recommendations, the bill says that “inmates should only be kept in special housing units for the minimum period of time necessary to maintain institutional order and safety and by prohibiting the placement of juveniles, people with mental illness and developmentally disabled inmates in solitary confinement.”

A1346a will be sent to the Senate for consideration, where it is sponsored by Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D, WF 36th District).