by Christopher Zoukis
On October 17, 2017, the New York Commission of Correction issued new rules governing the treatment of prisoners held in solitary confinement in local jails. The rules came in the wake of several class-action lawsuits over the use of and conditions in solitary, one of which recently settled for just under $5 million.
Under the new rules, local jails – but not state prisons – must provide at least four hours of out-of-cell time per day to all detainees held in segregation. In addition, jail officials are now required to notify the state when a prisoner is held in isolation for more than a month, and when pregnant detainees or detainees under the age of 18 are placed in solitary for any amount of time.
Fox News reported that the state has been working to address issues related to the use of solitary confinement pursuant to one class-action settlement while other cases remain pending, including a suit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union.
“Amid public reports of misuse and abuse of solitary confinement, these new standards will inject much needed uniformity, accountability and transparency in the process for all local jails,” Governor Andrew Cuomo stated when announcing the solitary rule changes. “These new standards will help root out unacceptable behavior and build upon the landmark reforms put into place at state prisons, creating a consistent level of quality and fairness at all facilities across New York.”
Jack Beck, with the Correctional Association of New York, a prisoner advocacy organization, said the new rules are a move in the right direction but further reforms are needed. The Correctional Association advocates for limiting the use of solitary confinement to no more than 15 days. “We have quite a ways to go,” Beck said.
A related class-action challenging a now-discarded policy in New York City jails settled in August 2017. The case was brought on behalf of 470 prisoners who were subject to the “old time policy,” whereby detainees who were in solitary when they were released from jail were returned to solitary if they were re-arrested. The policy, which was intended to force detainees to serve every day of their punitive segregation time whether they were released from jail or not, settled for $4.96 million.
According to the New York Daily News, prisoners who were subjected to the policy will receive $175 for each day they spent in solitary, which averages to about $10,500 per detainee. The district court certified the class and granted initial approval of the settlement in December 2017, and the case remains pending a fairness hearing and the court’s final approval. See: Parker v. City of New York, U.S.D.C. (E.D. NY), Case No. 1:15-cv-06733-CLP.
Sources: www.foxnews.com, www.nydailynews.com, www.governor.ny.gov
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Related legal case
Parker v. City of New York
|Cite||U.S.D.C. (E.D. NY), Case No. 1:15-cv-06733-CLP|