Imagine living in a space the size of a bathroom, for months or years, without the ability to leave or go outside for 23 or 24 hours a day. The sensory deprivation, lack of normal human interaction, and extreme idleness imposed by such conditions can lead to intense suffering and severe psychological debilitation, even in healthy, well-functioning adults. For people suffering from mental illness, the consequences can be even more devastating.
Whether called disciplinary segregation, special housing units (“SHU”), supermaxes, the hole, or the box, isolated confinement is a common practice in prisons across the country. Although some states have significantly reduced the use of isolation in recent years, New York continues to impose disciplinary confinement at rates more than double the national average.
Isolation is routinely used, not primarily to address chronically violent behavior or serious security or safety concerns, but often in response to non-violent or relatively minor prison rule violations, or even as retaliation for questioning authority, talking back to an officer, or filing grievances. Moreover, people often continue to accumulate SHU time while in disciplinary confinement, resulting in long-term isolation, sometimes lasting a decade or more.
Since its inception and particularly in recent decades, the CA has reported on the use and conditions of solitary confinement, advocating for more humane alternatives. The CA believes that rather than using ineffective and inhumane punitive responses to rule violations, facilities should instead provide treatment and programs that address the underlying causes of individual behavior, such as substance abuse or mental illness. The CA’s investigations into the conditions of isolation in New York prisons inform its collaboration with coalitions comprised of families of those subjected to isolation, their communities, and other advocates to limit and reform the use of disciplinary confinement.
For example, after years of in-depth reporting, and advocacy as a member of Mental Health Alternatives to Solitary Confinement Coalition (MHASC), the CA was instrumental in the passage of the “SHU Exclusion Law,” which took effect in 2011 and requires that people with severe mental illness be diverted from isolation to special residential mental health treatment units. The CA continues to push for drastic reductions in the use and length of isolation for all people, improved conditions of confinement, and alternative responses, treatment, and programs.
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
Lawmakers, Advocates, and Survivors of Solitary Confinement Back Legislation Limiting Use of Isolation in New York’s Prisons and Jails
(April 12, 2016, Albany, NY): The New York Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC) held a press conference with lawmakers and survivors on Tuesday to advocate for legislation that would limit the use of solitary confinement and other forms of isolation in New York’s prisons and jails. The press conference was part of a full day of activities by over 200 people from across the state to draw attention to the torture of solitary confinement and to advocate passage of the Humane Alternatives to Long Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act, A. 4401 / S. 2659. Read More
In 2015, CA Executive Director Soffiyah Elijah organized three trips to Cuba, providing travelers an opportunity to observe up close how Cuba's criminal justice system operates in comparison -- and contrast -- to the way that the United States' system prosecutes and incarcerates people. In a recent 2016 issue of Guernica magazine, writer Hyatt Bass, who was a part of one of the CA delegations to Cuba, interviewed Elijah about the distinctions between the two countries when it comes to the concept of punishment.Read More
(January 26, 2016, New York, NY) The Correctional Association applauds President Obama’s decision to restrict the use of solitary confinement. These limitations are a historical first step, including banning solitary for youth of 16 and 17, adding protections for other vulnerable populations including other young people and people with mental health needs, decreasing the lengths of time people can spend in solitary, and limiting the release of people directly from solitary to the outside community. Read More
Federal and local prosecutors said on Wednesday that there was insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges in the 2015 death of a prisoner at the Fishkill Correctional Facility who died after an altercation with a group of guards there. An autopsy classified the death of the inmate, Samuel Harrell, 30, as a homicide, and the prison had long been identified by inmate advocates as a place where officers routinely abused inmates.Read More
Victor Pate spent almost two years in solitary confinement in New York prisons, off and on. Once, he said, he was isolated for 90 days for having too many bed sheets in his room. Only two sheets were allowed per prisoner, but Pate was at his prison job when laundry pickup came, he said, so he kept a few extra sheets to ensure he would have clean ones.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
For decades, domestic violence survivors have been criminalized, prosecuted, and imprisoned for acts carried out by their abusive partners. In January, 30-year-old Noor Zahi Salman was arrested in connection with the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre that left 49 people dead and many more injured and traumatized. Salman’s name had, until then, been largely unfamiliar to the U.S.Read More
In New York State, 16 and 17-year-olds arrested or detained can be sent to adult prisons and jails. Despite multiple studies that show a teenager’s brain functions are not fully developed, our state insists on charging young people like adults, creating a generation of over-incarcerated youth in New York. We sat down to speak with Justice League Member, Angelo Pinto about the campaign to raise the age.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
Nicholas Zimmerman will spend Christmas locked in his cell at Clinton Correctional Facility, the men’s state prison 20 miles from the Canadian border. Instead of opening presents with his family, he’ll wake to a breakfast tray slid through a slot in his door. He’ll spend most, if not all, of the day inside his cell.Read More
She Killed Her Abuser Before He Could Kill Her—Then Served 17 Years. Now She’s Taking on the System.
A proposed New York State law could offer justice to women who fight back against abusive partners. Kim Dadou is doing everything she can to make it a reality. On the night of December 17, 1991, Kim Dadou’s boyfriend, Darnell Sanders, drove up to her mother’s house. He waited for her in his car, parked on the street.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
VOICES FROM CLINTON: First-Hand Accounts of Brutality, Torture, And Cover-up From People Incarcerated at an Infamously Abusive New York State Prison
New York State prisons are plagued by a pervasive and entrenched culture of staff brutality, violence, abuse, racism, dehumanization, and intimidation, as well as the routine infliction of solitary confinement. As Correctional Association of NY (CA) reports on Clinton, Attica, Greene, Fishkill Correctional Facilities and other prisons have long documented, these abuses and their cover-ups are regular and typical practices in Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) prisons.Read More
Under unique statutory authority granted to the CA in 1846, WIPP monitors conditions in women’s prisons in New York, a role played by no other group in the country. WIPP coordinates the Coalition for Women Prisoners, a statewide alliance of more than 1,800 people, and carries out advocacy campaigns to reform harmful criminal justice policies.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
Every time the CA visits a women’s prison in New York, reports abound concerning the poor standards of health care in general, and the struggles experienced by women who are incarcerated to secure women-specific care. “Reproductive Injustice: The State of Reproductive Health Care for Women in New York State,” the February 2015 report by the Women in Prison Project, reveals the failure of the New York State prison system to provide quality reproductive health care and treat women with respect for their basic dignity and human rights.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
Join the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA) Campaign and be part of a movement to change the criminal justice system’s harsh and inappropriate response to DV survivors who act to protect themselves from an abuser’s violence.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
Lady Kathryn Williams, an advocate, survivor and member of the Coalition for Women Prisoners testifies about the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act at the Senate Democratic Conference Public Forum on Domestic Violence.Read More