ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — It’s been just over a year since the state implemented the HALT Act; limiting the time an incarcerated person spends in solitary confinement to 15 days. Some say the bill makes prisons more dangerous, but others think it’s necessary to maintain the mental and physical health for incarcerated people.
According to the State Department of Corrections, since HALT was enacted, there’s been a total of 3,113 assaults in New York’s correctional facilities. The year prior, that number was 2,375. A 33% jump in overall violence. It’s something the Correction’s Officers union sees first hand. “Incarcerated, individuals, understand the system, you know they play the system, they work the system to an extent and I’m not suggesting that they all do it but you know there’s some that do it and they recognize that the consequences aren’t there anymore and there’s no deterrent for them to stop that,” said Michael Powers, president of NYS Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association.
Recently, the New York City Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against DOCCS on behalf of two plaintiffs claiming that correctional facilities were violating HALT guidelines and keeping incarcerated people in segregated confinement for more than 15 days. “What our state prison system is doing, is taking a very wide range of conduct, things like spitting water, or throwing a sugar packet, and determining that that satisfies very stringent criteria for imposing, extended, segregated confinement,” said Antony Gemmell, director of detention litigation at the New York Civil Liberties Union. But Powers said that’s a complete exaggeration, “It’s unfair for them to suggest that that would even be considered.”
Gemmell explained that after 15 days, correction officers must either get incarcerated people back to the general population or into a residential rehabilitation unit, which DOCCS says is full. Powers said they also lack the proper resources, facilities, and staff to limit segregated confinement to 15 days. “And no disrespect towards the legislators that promoted this, but what do they know about the system? More importantly, they didn’t provide the money and the resources to be able to fully implement this even if we were in favor of it which we’re not,” said Powers. To help with staffing, One budget measure would lower corrections officer age from 21 to 19. But Without a finalized budget, it’s unclear what assistance will be coming from the state.