Solitary confinement for juvenile, pregnant women and developmentally disabled prisoners will be limited under a deal struck by state and the New York Civil Liberties Union, the group announced Wednesday.
The NYCLU first sued the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision in 2012, arguing that the state’s system of solitary confinement — in which prisoners are placed in a cell by themselves for 22 to 24 hours a day — violated the U.S. Consitution.
Under the agreement, the state will no longer place pregnant inmates in solitary housing units “except in exceptional circumstances” approved by the corrections department’s central office. Inmates who are age 16 or 17 would be limited to no more than 19 hours in their cell per day and be offered the opportunity to exercise outdoors five days a week, according to the agreement.
For developmentally disabled inmates, the deal calls for the state to create an alternative program for those who have been in solitary confinement for more than 30 days. The program would be housed at the Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, Sullivan County.
“New York State has done the right thing by committing to comprehensive reform of the way it uses extreme isolation, a harmful and inhumane practice that has for years been used as a punishment of first resort in New York’s prisons,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement.
The agreement between the state and the civil liberties group places a two-year pause on the lawsuit. After that, the group will drop the legal challenge if the state holds up its end of the bargain or continue the suit if it doesn’t.
Many of the aspects of the agreement — including the creation of alternative housing centers for those sentenced to solitary — are contingent on the corrections department securing funds in the state budget. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers face a March 31 deadline to have a spending plan in place for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which begins April 1.
Here’s the agreement, provided by the NYCLU: