New York agrees to settlement on solitary confinement
New York agrees to settlement on solitary confinement

New York officials on Wednesday announced a settlement agreement [text] under which the state will overhaul its solitary confinement practices and procedures. The $62 million settlement comes in a lawsuit filed in 2012 by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) [advocacy website]. Under the terms of the agreement, New York will reduce the number of inmates held in solitary confinement, reduce the maximum length of solitary confinement in most cases, and improve living conditions. NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said [press release]:

New York State has recognized that solitary confinement is not only inhumane but detrimental to public safety and has committed to changing the culture of solitary within state prisons. … No prison system of this size has ever taken on such sweeping and comprehensive reforms to solitary confinement at one time. Today marks the end of the era where incarcerated New Yorkers are simply thrown into the box to be forgotten under torturous conditions as a punishment of first resort, and we hope this historic agreement will provide a framework for ending the abuse of solitary confinement in New York State.

The settlement agreement must still be approved by a federal judge.

The legality of solitary confinement [JURIST news archive] has been an ongoing debate in the US, with many calling for comprehensive prison reform [JURIST podcast]. California settled a class action lawsuit [JURIST report] over its solitary confinement practices in September, agreeing to numerous reforms. In March the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that Virginia could continue to automatically house death row inmates in solitary confinement. In June Colorado enacted a law changing its traditional methods of solitary confinement [JURIST report] by mandating psychiatric evaluations and therapy for inmates diagnosed with mental illness and qualifying for disciplinary intervention. In February New York issued reforms [JURIST report] on the use of such practices on minors.