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December 6, 2012

NYCLU sues New York over solitary confinement practices

As reported in this Reuters piece, "New York's largest civil liberties group filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against state corrections officials on behalf of a convicted rapist who spent 26 months in solitary confinement after a non-violent offense in his cell."  Here is more:

The lawsuit is the latest challenge to standards by which some 80,000 inmates a day are confined up to 23 hours a day in isolation or with another inmate inside cells as small as a parking spot.

Critics claim solitary confinement is a form of torture that inflicts lasting psychological damage and is meted out in many states too arbitrarily and, increasingly, too often....

The lawsuit, filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union in federal court in Manhattan, asserts Leroy Peoples was placed in solitary confinement for nearly 26 months after jail guards discovered forged legal documents in his cell....

"New York's prison authorities permit the use extreme isolation ... as a disciplinary tool of first resort for violating almost any prison rule, no matter how minor," NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement.

Between 2007 and 2011, New York State prison officials segregated inmates 302 times for "smoking in an undesignated area," 135 times for "wasting food," 114 times for "littering" and 234 times for "untidy cell or person," according to a recent NYCLU study of state prison segregation records....

In October, state corrections commissioner Brian Fischer responded to the NYCLU study. "As a society removes those individuals who commit crimes, so too must we remove from general population inmates who violate the Department's code of conduct and who threaten the safety and security of our facilities," Fischer said in a statement, which did not address non-violent offenses. "The possession of drugs, cell phones and weapons pose a serious threat within this ... system."

There were 563 assaults on staff and 666 inmate assaults on other inmates last year, out of a population of about 56,000, state corrections records show.

The NYCLU has this press release about its lawsuit, and the full 29-page complaint can be accessed at this link. In addition, the NYCDL's October 2012 report on New York's use of solitary confinement is available via this link.

December 6, 2012 at 09:05 PM | Permalink

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