Solitary Confinement

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.




News | March 11, 2015

“The kids aren’t all right”

n this timely and insightful piece in The Hill on March 11 by the CA's Gabrielle Horowitz-Prisco, Director of the Juvenile Justice Project, and Sarah Bryer, Director of the National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN), the authors lay out a cogent and fact-based case for why there needs to be significant change in our youth justice system.Read More

News | February 28, 2015

NY Times article exposes culture of violence at Attica long known by the CA

A New York Times article published today exposes what we at the Correctional Association of New York have long known: that Attica Correctional Facility continues to operate as a symbolic and real epicenter of state violence and abuse of incarcerated persons in New York State prisons. The history of the 1971 rebellion and the state’s violent suppression still infuse Attica’s walls and operations. Read More

News | February 12, 2015

CA Releases 5-Year Study of Reproductive Health Care for Women in NYS Prisons

On February 12, 2015, the Women in Prison Project at the Correctional Association of New York (CA), the state’s oldest criminal justice reform organization, released a major report entitled, “Reproductive Injustice: The State of Reproductive Health Care for Women in New York State Prisons,” the most extensive study of reproductive health care in a state prison system to date, and one of the most in-depth studies of conditions for women in prison in the country.Read More

News | December 19, 2014

CA Testifies Before NYC Correction Board to Oppose New Rule Establishing Enhanced Supervision Housing (ESH) Units

In testimony presented at a public hearing on proposed rule making by the NYC Board of Correction (BOC), the CA strongly expressed its opposition to the establishment of Enhanced Supervision Housing (ESH) units in its jails. The CA also called for an end to solitary confinement for everyone incarcerated in NYC and New York State jails and prisons, responding to recent reports that NYC will end such treatment for 16- and 17-year olds only.Read More

News | December 5, 2014

CA Responds to Grand Juries’ Failure to Indict Officers in Garner and Brown Killings

The outrage expressed following the recent refusals of grand juries in Ferguson and Staten Island to indict the cops who murdered Michael Brown and Eric Garner is not surprising. The fact that no indictments were issued is similarly not surprising. The grand jury results signal, once again, the undeniable flaws in the so-called criminal justice system and the racism that flows throughout it. It is this same racism that created an actual debate about the unconstitutional stop and frisk practices of the NYPD.Read More

News | November 13, 2014

CA Demands Better Care for People with Mental Health Needs in the State Prison System

The Correctional Association of NY testified on November 13 before the New York State Assembly’s Committees on Correction and Mental Health, demanding state officials to improve care for people with mental health needs. Based on the CA’s unique statutory authority to visit New York’s prisons and its advocacy on behalf of people with mental health needs, the CA provided comprehensive testimony about the barriers to quality prison mental health care and recommendations for fundamental change.Read More

News | November 7, 2014

CA Participates in Review of U.S. Human Rights Record

On November 12 and 13,  a committee of human rights experts at the United Nations will convene a formal review of the United States’ record on torture. Taking place in Geneva, Switzerland, the review will look at whether the federal government is sufficiently living up to the Convention Against Torture (CAT), a global treaty that outlines specific measures for governments to take in preventing torture or any type of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.Read More

News | October 21, 2014

CA Testimony before New York Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

Last month the Prison Visiting Project (PVP) testified before the NY Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights regarding New York’s prison system and the fundamental reforms needed to end the torture of solitary confinement for incarcerated youth and all people. As a follow-up to that meeting, PVP Associate Director Scott Paltrowitz prepared written testimony further underscoring the urgent concerns raised during the July meeting – including the four key aspects of reform that the CA would like to see the Advisory Committee explore and consider in issuing its own recommendations.Read More

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News | October 19, 2014

The Clinton Correctional Facility Report

Clinton Correctional Facility has an infamous history of staff violence, brutality, dehumanization and racist attitudes that are an affront to any sense of humanity. The Correctional Association (CA) visited Clinton in July 2012, received more than 600 surveys from people incarcerated at Clinton, and obtained updated information about conditions at Clinton in 2014.Read More

News | October 4, 2013

Working to end torture in New York

PHOTO: Tyrrell Muhammad sitting with hands folded on panel.

At any given moment in New York’s prisons, more than 4,000 men, women, and children are held in solitary confinement. Another 1,000 people are in solitary in New York City jails. CA staff members Scott Paltrowitz and Tyrrell Muhammad are leading our efforts to end what the United Nations calls torture — solitary confinement.Read More

CA in the Press | March 20, 2015

Support grows for keeping teens out of NY prisons

Support appears to be growing in Albany, N.Y., for legislation that would keep teenagers out of New York’s adult prisons. Governor Andrew Cuomo backed the “Raise the Age” campaign. Now, Assembly speaker Carl Heastie, one of the state’s most powerful Democrats, has signed on, along with a growing number of police and prosecutors.Read More

CA in the Press | March 16, 2015

Law enforcement are backing ‘raise the age’ initiative

The fight to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York and protect youth from ruining their lives with one mistake continues as support from advocates for the governor’s proposal grows stronger. “It’s not right. It’s not fair. We must raise the age,” said Dennis R. Hawkins, executive director of the Fund for Modern Courts.Read More

CA in the Press | March 10, 2015

Shackled and in Labor

Twenty-nine U.S. states allow pregnant incarcerated women to be shackled, even during labor and delivery. This barbaric practice has been condemned by many medical and international humanitarian organizations, including the American Medical Association, Amnesty International, and the United Nations Committee Against Torture. But it wasn’t until 2000 that even one state—Illinois—enacted legislation restricting the use of restraints.Read More

CA in the Press | March 7, 2015

Una vida dedicada a las presas y sus derechos

“Algunas de las mujeres con las que hablamos nos relataron cómo dieron a luz con grilletes en sus muñecas o sus tobillos, encadenadas durante el parto, imagínate. Otras fueron esposadas durante el embarazo con esas ´black boxes´ o cajas negras que debían cargar arriba de la barriga,” relata indignada esta doctora boricua que entrevistó a casi 1,000 presas en distintas cárceles de NY.Read More

CA in the Press | March 3, 2015

Despite anti-shackling law, pregnant prisoners say practice persists

When Miyhosi Benton was escorted to court from the Orange County Jail in New York in 2011, an officer fastened cuffs around her ankles, a belly chain around her waist and shackles around her wrists. It’s a routine procedure for prisoners attending trial, but Benton, now 26, was five months pregnant with her second child at the time.Read More

CA in the Press | February 20, 2015

New York Is Illegally Shackling Pregnant Incarcerated Women

The state of New York is illegally shackling incarcerated women during childbirth, according to a new report on reproductive justice from the Correctional Association of New York. “Women continue to be shackled on the way to the hospital (even when they are in labor), during recovery (even within hours after giving birth and for long periods of time), and on the way back to the prison (even with waist chains just days after having a C-section),” the report said.Read More

CA in the Press | February 17, 2015

Assessing Health Care of Women in NY Prisons

For the most part, women in prison deal with the same health issues as women in the community: periods, pregnancy, menopause, HIV/AIDS. But reproductive health care and health education in New York’s prisons is sorely lacking, according to a report released last week by the Correctional Association of New York. The only independent organization with unrestricted access to New York’s prisons, the Correctional Association produced the study by conducting surveys and visiting women’s correctional facilities between 2009 and 2013.Read More

CA in the Press | February 17, 2015

Report: Gross Violations of Women’s Reproductive Rights in NY Prisons

In what is being considered the most extensive investigation into women’s reproductive healthcare in New York’s state prisons, an eye-opening series of allegations of human rights abuses and neglect are coming to light. The results are staggering: shackling inmates after delivery—despite a state law forbidding restraints during or after labor; delayed trips (or none at all) to medical examiners, leading to sexually transmitted infections and other conditions to worsen; a limited supply of tampons and pads that led to women improvising with magazines and newspapers.Read More

CA in the Press | February 17, 2015

Women in New York State Prisons Face Solitary Confinement and Shackling While Pregnant or Sick

(February 16, 2015)  What does solitary confinement have to do with reproductive justice? Quite a lot, says a new report about reproductive health care in New York’s women’s prisons. The Correctional Association of New York, a criminal justice policy and advocacy organization, released Reproductive Injustice: The State of Reproductive Health Care for Women in New York State Prisons.Read More

CA in the Press | February 13, 2015

Giving birth while shackled may be illegal, but mothers still have to endure it

Imagine being pregnant and going into labor. Now imagine having handcuffs around your wrists attached to a chain, leading to a chain wrapped around your waist. Another chain leads from your waist to your feet, where cuffs keep them only inches apart. This is a practice known as shackling. Across the United States, prison policy dictates that people be shackled whenever they are transported outside the prison.Read More

Prison Monitoring Reports

Attica State Prison

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

Prison Monitoring Reports

Greene Correctional Facility

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

Prison Monitoring Reports

Auburn Correctional Facility

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


Reassessing Solitary Confinement


In June of 2012, the Correctional Association submitted written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights about New York State’s use of solitary confinement. Read More

Organizational Materials

CA Bulletin: Fall 2011

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

Fact Sheets

Substance Abuse Treatment in New York Prisons

Effective in-prison treatment programs go beyond the recovery of individual participants to enhance the quality of life within a prison and improve public health and safety outside its walls.Read More

Organizational Materials

CA Bulletin: Spring 2008

In this issue; Prison report on healthcare; Laura Davidson honored; WIPP premieres "Strength of a Woman"Read More

Fact Sheets

States that Provide Mental Health Alternatives to Solitary Confinement

Throughout the country, a growing number of states now prohibit housing inmates with mental illness in solitary confinement. Read More

Reports & Research

Addressing Key Criminal Justice Issues in the 21st Century

This special report presents some of the Correctional Association's top reform proposals for the state's administration to consider, as well as the benefits they could provide for both the communities most heavily impacted by incarceration and for society as a whole.Read More


Testimony on Mental Illness and SHUs

Testimony by Jennifer Wynn, Director, Prison Visiting Project At the Correctional Association of New York on Special Housing Units before the Corrections Committees of the New York State Assembly. Ms. Wynn addresses today the dire need for more humane housing and treatment for the nearly 1,000 inmates with mental illness who are currently confined in 23-hour disciplinary lockdown in New York State prisons. Her testimony is based on findings from a recently completed two-year research study that examined the quality of mental health care in New York prisons and involved site visits to 23 correctional facilities by project staff and outside psychiatrists.Read More