This State Just Ended Solitary Confinement For These Groups

Woman holding "Solitary is Torture" sign
Zain Murdock
April 8, 2021

At the end of March 2021, New York finalized the HALT solitary confinement act. This victory comes over 8 years after the start of the HALT campaign to end the practice completely. And, well, that’s part of the issue. They’re not ending it completely.

Solitary is over for minors, pregnant people, the elderly, and “individuals with a serious mental illness.” But, the practice of solitary confinement itself has been proven to increase risk for suicide and self-harm. So, what – and who – defines “serious?”

Prison survivor Victor Pate puts it like this: “People who do not have a mental health issue before being placed in solitary often … come out with some type of damage that continues long after." 

So, New York, if the goal is to protect people with mental health issues from solitary, why continue to create those issues for people who didn’t have them before?

Like we’ve said before, long-term isolation does not protect incarcerated people – it's mental torture. Imagine being alone in an elevator-sized room 22 hours a day! If New York, with its brutal history, can eventually end solitary, though, any state can. The next step?

We must invest in initiatives to help incarcerated people get jobs, housing, and other resources post-release. And then? Abolishing this system whose true intention is to continue torturing our people.

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