By STEPHANIE BERZON
The New York Civil Liberties Union today accused the state Department of Corrections of overusing solitary confinement in New York prisons even for minor offenses, branding it a “violation of international human rights”.
Extreme isolation is the punishment given to prisoners by being confined to a tiny, barren cell (also known as “the box”) maybe with one other inmate, to experience a deprivation of mental stimulation and human contact. NYCLU charges that this form of punishment is used “almost cavalierly”, harms the prisoner’s mental health and negatively impacts community safety once the prisoners are discharged.
“Instead of using it as a punishment of last resort extreme isolation appears to have become the remedy of choice for the New York State Department of Corrections,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman at Manhattan news conference.
An NYCLU report said that half of the 4,500 prisoners in solitary confinement spent 23 hours a day locked alone in a cell the size of an elevator or parking spot. Only 16 percent of confinements from 2007 to 2011 were for serious infractions such as weapons possession or assault.
“The way the rules are drafted, almost anything can land you in the box,” says Lieberman
A prisoner identified as “Na’im” in a hand-written letter from Southport Correctional Facility said that his punishment to solitary confinement was for “fishing”, a method of exchanging books and magazines from cell-to-cell.
A woman at the news conference, Sade Jackson, said brother spent time in extreme isolation for a non-violent matter and she “prays that he stays sane.”
In another letter a prisoner said that after two weeks in isolation he began to free run 3.0 v5 femmes wrestle with psychological demons. After several pleas for psychological treatment the prisoner writes that the clinician offered no help “and it stayed that way until I got so bad I had a breakdown and made an attempt to end my life.”
“If you have someone who is with a mental health problem, putting them in the box only makes it worst and makes the problems more manifest and more persistent,” said ACLU attorney Taylor Pendergrass.
Lieberman demanded that Governor Cuomo and Corrections Commissioner Brian Fisher “take immediate steps that would put an end to the current practice and put New York in the vanguard of smart, progressive and effective reforms.”