State correctional officers union sues to overturn HALT Solitary Confinement Act
Edward McKinley is reporting for the Times Union the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association Fri., May 7, sued in federal court to overturn a new law banning prolonged solitary confinement in state prisons. The civil complaint ties decreasing segregation practices to an increase in violence against both employees and inmates since 2012. The union is asserting the law, in addition to other restrictions on solitary confinement, violate the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by putting officers in an unnecessary amount of danger at work. The Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act, or HALT Solitary, was signed into law in March. Criminal justice advocates hailed the legislation calling it a much-needed step for the state, bringing New York into compliance with the United Nations standards. Those standards define prolonged solitary confinement for more than 15 days as torture. In the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Albany, the correctional officers union argues policies that prohibit isolating violent inmates has endangered union members and those "who are attempting to serve out their sentences peacefully." The complaint asserts that banning solitary confinement diminishes accountability for people who commit violent acts while in prison and creates a dangerous living and working environment by placing people with violent histories in congregate settings. The legal action was taken on behalf of the 18,000-member union with six employees named as plaintiffs. A spokesperson for the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, Thomas Mailey said, "The HALT bill has been signed into law and DOCCS has been working on a plan to safely implement the law, which still provides for segregated housing for acts of violence against officers and other incarcerated persons." The law has not gone into effect, so its effect on overall rates of violence are not yet measurable. Read the full story in the Times Union.