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

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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. On December 18,  U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced plans to join a class action lawsuit over excessive force and violence at Rikers Island.

The ESH units, which the BOC asserts are necessary to address what they say is an increase in violence by those being held in NYC jails, will continue to detain people for long periods in isolation, including 18- to 25-year olds, with only 7 hours of out of cell time each day. Gabrielle Horowitz-Prisco, Director of the Juvenile Justice Project (JJP), provided testimony that “Extended isolation can be psychologically shattering for anyone and the Correctional Association strongly opposes its use for all persons, regardless of age. We simultaneously note that extended isolation is especially harmful for developing adolescent minds. Solitary confinement has been shown to both cause and exacerbate mental illness in adolescents.”

Scott Paltrowitz, Associate Director of the Prison Visiting Project (PVP), in his testimony stressed the widespread violence and abuse not only in NYC facilities but across the state as well, and cited the severe restrictions on basic services like visiting, correspondence, packages, religious activities and access to law library services that would occur as a result of the ESH units. “If there needs to be separation of certain people from the general population in order to address violence, that separation should serve as an opportunity for effective interventions, not as pure punishment that will only lead to additional violence,” the testimony recommends, and notes that “… the ESH unit will be the most restrictive setting possible and thus is very likely to not include any programming for people held in the unit.”  Additionally, PVP pointed the impact of these units on particularly vulnerable groups including people with mental health needs and young people who are not adolescents.
Download full PVP testimony

Download full JJP testimony