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New York Prisoner Awarded $500 for 20 Days’ Wrongful Isolation

On June 21, 2006, a New York Court of Claims awarded $500 to a prisoner who claimed he was kept in “almost total isolation” for 20 days while housed at the Elmira Correctional Facility in order to attend two upcoming trials.

Renee Towles was transferred from the Mid-State Correctional Facility where he was housed in the honor dorm to the Elmira prison for two trials in August 2000. Towles claimed that the entire time he was at Elmira—from August 10, 2000, though August 30, 2000—he was allowed only four showers and one hour of recreation. Towles further claimed that was never allowed to attend religious services and had no access to the law library.

Towles sued the state, pro se, claiming the isolation violated New York Codes, Rules, and Regulations Title 7, Part 304.3, which states that special housing unit prisoners are generally to be afforded at least one hour of outdoor recreation per day. At trial judge Melvin L. Schweitzer also found that Towles’ captors had also violated prison directive 4009 which stipulates that prisoners are to be afforded at least three showers per week and given the opportunity to visit with clergy upon request.

A sergeant who testified on behalf of the state presented no evidence to counter Towles’ contention that he was confined to his cell for the entire 20 days he was at Elmira. Consequently, Schweitzer awarded Towles $500 for his wrongful and excessive confinement. See: Towles v. The State of New York, Court of Claims, New York, Case No. 103271.

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Related legal case

Towles v. The State of New York