Mental Healthcare and Incarceration
People who suffer from mental illness often need individualized treatment to help them cope. Overwhelmingly, our society has failed to provide such care in the community and instead has criminalized behavioral manifestations of mental illness. Prisons have become the de facto substitute for mental health care, and too often utilize punishment rather than provide the therapeutic treatment people need.
As a result, many incarcerated individuals with mental illness decompensate, end up in long term isolation, and/or commit serious acts of self harm. In the past three decades the percent of individuals with a mental illness in prisons or jails nationwide has tripled and now three times as many persons who are seriously mentally ill are in correctional facilities as in state mental hospitals.
In New York State, the Office of Mental Health (OMH) has identified 8,000 incarcerated individuals as requiring mental health treatment. During the past ten years, partially due to pressure by the CA and other advocacy organizations, OMH has both greatly increased the number of incarcerated individuals receiving treatment and enhanced the treatment services provided; unfortunately, serious problems remain in both access to and quality of mental health care. Moreover, New York State prisons have one of the highest rates of prison suicide in the country, double the national average in 2010.
The CA has long documented the care received and the abuses suffered by those with mental illness inside prisons and advocated for change. Horrified by the tragic consequences of long-term disciplinary confinement, where people with serious mental illness sometimes decompensate to the point of smearing feces on the walls or cutting themselves, the CA has engaged in years of advocacy and coalition work to end disciplinary confinement for the seriously mentally ill.
As a founding member of Mental Health Alternatives to Solitary Confinement (MHASC), the CA and its allies succeeded in 2008 in passing the SHU Exclusion Law, unique legislation that prohibits the placement of people with a serious mental illness in disciplinary confinement for more than 30 days.
The CA continues to report on the experiences of all persons who suffer from mental illness in prison, monitor incidences of, and facility responses to, self-harm, and advocate for improved treatment and care for all people with mental illness.
The CA has been monitoring the high rates of suicide and self-harm in the state prisons for more than a decade and has repeatedly drawn attention to excessively high rates of harm at certain prisons and in specific locations, such as solitary confinement and residential mental health units, to the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), the Office of Mental Health (OMH) and the legislature in the CA’s reports and legislative testimonies. DOCCS suicide rate from 2010-16 was 56% higher than the national average for all US prisons.Read More
Correctional Association of New York releases “Solitary at Southport: A 2017 Report Based Upon the Correctional Assn.’s Visits, Data Analysis, & First-Hand Accounts of the Torture of Solitary Confinement from One of New York’s Supermax Prisons”
New York, NY (December 13, 2017): Today The Correctional Assn. of NY (CA), founded in 1844 and one of the oldest prison watchdog organizations in the country, released a 92-page report providing graphic first-hand depictions of physical, mental, and emotional abuse as a result of days, weeks, and often years of being caged in solitary confinement for 23 to 24 hours a day.Read More
CA Applauds Commitment to Raise the Age in Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address, Laments No Mention of Racism, Violence, and Abuse in NYS Prisons
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CA Applauds Commitment to Raise the Age in Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address, Laments No Mention of Racism, Violence, and Abuse in NYS Prisons January 9, 2017 (New York, NY): The Correctional Association of New York roundly applauds the continued commitment of Governor Andrew Cuomo to raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York, ending the prosecution and incarceration of 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.Read More
Angelo Pinto joined the CA’s Juvenile Justice Project in July 2012 to oversee our Raise the Age Campaign, which seeks to increase New York State’s age of criminal responsibility, end the practice of housing children in adult jails and prisons, and ensure that children in the justice system receive appropriate rehabilitative services. New York remains one of only two states, along with North Carolina, that still prosecutes and incarcerates 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. In this brief interview, as we approach a new legislative session in New York State and continued calls to Raise the Age, Angelo shares his insights, perspective, and advice on how the CA and our partners in this fight can most effectively advocate for this much-needed policy change.Read More
The New York Times in this editorial today is saying what we at the CA have been reporting on for decades: without any any transparency and accountability, the abuse of people who are incarcerated will persist and those who are responsible will still act with impunity. Until accountability is the norm and not the exception, the abuse -- and in some cases, loss of life -- will continue.Read More
Board of the Correctional Association of New York Appoints Carlton S. Mitchell Interim Executive Director
On September 22, 2016, the Board of Directors of the Correctional Association of New York announced the appointment of Carlton S. Mitchell as Interim Executive Director. He will start his duties in September 2016. Read More
As we mark 45 years since the 1971 Attica rebellion, conditions there remain as deplorable in 2016 as there were then. It is time for New York State to finally close Attica. I spent 26 years and 11 months in New York’s prisons from 1979 to 2005, and I was in Attica from 1982 to 1983. I witnessed the most horrific incidents of brutality and experienced it for myself inside Attica. Today I work for the Correctional Association of New York (CA) – a non-profit organization with legislative authority to monitor conditions in all NYS prisons -- so now I go back inside in order to expose the abuses. Based on what I experienced inside and what I see still happening today, it is clear that Attica will never change. Read More
Today’s article (8/26) in The New York Times, “Revisiting Attica Shows How New York Failed to Fulfill Promises,” provides even further justification for why New York must finally and permanently close Attica C.F. This September marks the 45th anniversary of the rebellion at Attica and its violent suppression by the State.Read More
CORRECTIONAL ASSN. OF NY RELEASES “VOICES OF CLINTON: FIRST-HAND ACCOUNTS OF BRUTALITY, TORTURE, AND COVER-UP FROM PEOPLE INCARCERATED AT AN INFAMOUSLY ABUSIVE NEW YORK STATE PRISON”
New York, NY (June 9, 2016): Today, a year after the 2015 escape of two men from Clinton Correctional Facility, the Correctional Association of New York, the oldest criminal justice reform organization in the state, released a new 36- page report on Clinton Correctional Facility, featuring first-person narratives from those incarcerated at the prison. The report, issued by the CA’s Prison Visiting Project, (PVP), is a scathing account of violence and abuse at the hands of prison guards – before and following the escape -- and reveals a culture of utter disregard for basic human rights and an atmosphere of cruelty, racism, and dehumanization that has been allowed to persist unabated, unchecked and unpunished.Read More
(March 31, 2016, New York, NY): Today, the Correctional Association of NY (CA) released a new report on Collins Correctional Facility, a medium security prison in western New York that incarcerates just over 1,000 people. Half of the population is on the Office of Mental Health (OMH) caseload. The report is based on a full monitoring visit of Collins in 2013 and updated information about the prison in 2015. Read More
John J. Lennon, a contributing writer at The Marshall Project, has written for Vice, The Atlantic, and The New York Times. He is currently in Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York. He will be eligible for parole in 2029. Joe Cardo was out hunting for half-smoked cigarettes.Read More
If New York state were punishing misbehaving prisoners by pulling out their fingernails, I believe our local senators and assemblymen would put a stop to this. Yet the legislature continues to allow the extended use of solitary confinement in prisons. Make no mistake, this is torture. Don’t take my word for it.Read More
ALBANY — New York’s complex of 54 state prison facilities is struggling to fill vacant jobs for nurses, doctors and other health care providers. Filling those vacancies and dealing with an aging prison population at facilities across the state have become among the tallest challenges for the $3 billion correctional system, top administrators concede.Read More
Whenever he can, Adam Hall calls his mother and sister from the phones at Great Meadow Correctional Facility in upstate New York. When he has stamps he dictates letters. Sometimes he talks about how badly he wants to come home. But what he talks and writes about most is how he is trying to die.Read More
A petition has been signed by more than 2,100 people opposing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to reduce visitation at New York’s 17 maximum security correctional facilities. As of Saturday afternoon, there are 2,102 supporters of the petition titled “Don’t Restrict Visits in NYS Prisons!” The petition calls the governor’s plan to alter the visitation policy “regressive, counterproductive and cruel.” The initial goal for the petition is 2,500 supporters.Read More
To the Editor: Re “Serving as a Role Model During a Father’s Absence” (The Neediest Cases, Dec. 21): It’s nice to see young Jaylen benefit from the MentorCHIP program. But children whose parents are incarcerated need regular visits with their parents. Studies show that children’s emotional, scholastic and social adjustment improve when they have regularly scheduled visits to alleviate the pain of losing a parent.Read More
ALBANY – Groups frustrated at the state’s unyielding attitude toward releasing some inmates has urged the Board of Parole to go further with new regulations meant to produce more favorable parole determinations. The proposed regulations would base inmate release decisions more on prospective risk to the public and less on the nature of the crime that led to incarceration (NYLJ, Oct.Read More
Fishkill is supposed to take care of mentally ill people like Ben, who was locked up as a schizophrenic teen. It turned out to be a death sentence. Benjamin Van Zandt’s hellish odyssey through New York’s criminal justice system began when the voices inside his head compelled him to light a neighbor’s house on fire.Read More
Rally to End Solitary in Harlem. Photo NYC Quaker Outside the New State Office Building in Harlem on a hot summer day, prison reform advocates stand with NYC Quakers. They oppose solitary confinement and demand an end to the inhumane treatment of inmates. Right now about 5000 inmates in NY are in the shu.Read More
Inmates who qualify for the program would receive a shot of the drugVivitrol – which blocks highs from heroin, other opioids and alcohol – two days before release. The Oneida County Sheriff’s Office wants to start a program to help inmates beat opioid addiction before they leave county jail. Inmates who choose to go into and qualify for the program would receive a shot of the drug Vivitrol two days before release.Read More
“Solitary at Southport: A 2017 Report Based Upon the Correctional Association’s Visits, Data Analysis, & First-Hand Accounts of the Torture of Solitary Confinement from One of New York’s Supermax Prisons”
“The isolation itself is torture. Mentally and emotionally, it breaks you down. Spiritually it strips you. The way it is built is to break you down as a person and push your family away.” From “Solitary at Southport” Solitary confinement is torture. New York State subjects people to solitary confinement and other forms of isolation at rates above the national average and in a racially disparate manner.Read More
The Correctional Association of NY released a report on March 31, 2016 about Collins Correctional Facility, highlighting the large number of people with mental illness incarcerated at Collins and the lack of support and programs for these and other people incarcerated at the prison. Collins Correctional Facility is a medium security prison in western New York that incarcerates just over 1,000 people.Read More
The Correctional Association of NY conducted in depth interviews with 30 people currently incarcerated at Clinton on August 19 and 20, 2015, and corresponded with many more people held at the prison over the last few months. The information reported provides further confirmation of both extensive staff brutality in the aftermath of the June escape from Clinton, as reported by the New York Times; and longstanding and pervasive staff violence and abuse at Clinton, as last documented by the CA’s October 2014 report.Read More
Watch the Correctional Association’s video about the barbaric – and illegal – shackling of incarcerated women during childbirth. In 2009 New York enacted a statute restricting the use of shackles on women during childbirth. The law bans outright the use of restraints on women throughout labor, delivery and recovery “after giving birth,” which is meant to cover at least the duration of a woman’s stay at the hospital. Read More
Attica Correctional Facility, a 2,000-bed maximum security prison in western New York, continues to operate as a symbolic and real epicenter of state violence and abuse of incarcerated persons in the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) state prison system 43 years after the 1971 prison uprising and violent suppression by state authorities. Read More
Greene C.F. has one of the highest concentrations of young people in any New York State prison, and also some of the highest reported allegations of staff violence, harassment, and intimidation against incarcerated persons. The Correctional Association of New York (CA) Prison Visiting Project (PVP) visited Greene C.F. on November 8 and 9, 2012, and received updated information about Greene from incarcerated persons and staff in 2014.Read More
Auburn was the first prison to implement the “Auburn System,” a system of incarceration in which incarcerated people worked in groups during the day, were housed in solitary cells during the night, and lived in enforced silence. Today, Auburn Correctional Facility operates as a maximum security, DOCCS-operated prison for men ages 21 and older.Read More
Testimony delivered by Jack Beck, Director of the CA’s Prison Visiting Project, before the New York State Assembly Committees on Corrections and Mental Health. Download TestimonyRead More
In this issue; Gov. Cuomo announces prison closures; Reflecting back at the 40th anniversary of the Attica rebellion; CA calls for the closure of notorious prisonRead More
In this issue; Welcoming Soffiyah Elijah to the CA; Treatment Behind Bars: New report from the Prison Visiting Project; 300 advocates take on Albany—Advocacy Day 2011Read More