Testimony Regarding Proposed Rule to Establish "Enhanced Supervision Housing"
1 With 50,000 members, the NYCLU works to defend and promote the fundamental principles and values embodied in the Constitution, New York laws, and international human rights law, on behalf of all New Yorkers, including those incarcerated in jails and prisons. The NYCLU is an outspoken advocate for evidence-based corrections practices that improve public safety and respect fundamental human dignity.
2 “We are also in the process of a top to bottom review of the DOC’s policies, practices and personnel, with particular attention to the adolescent and mentally ill populations, and the application of punitive and administrative segregation.” Letter from Commissioner Ponte to Board of Correction (Nov. 4, 2014) (emphasis added) (http://www.nyc.gov/html/boc/downloads/pdf/Variance_Documents/ESH-Supplem...)
3 The Board’s Committee on Punitive Segregation unanimously moved to begin rule-making on punitive segregation in September 2013. (http://www.nyc.gov/html/boc/downloads/pdf/Minutes/BOCMinutes_20130909.pdf)
4 Because we urge the Board to postpone a final decision on ESH so that it can be considered in conjunction with comprehensive standards, we focus here only on broad areas of concern. In addition, this testimony was prepared without the benefit of reviewing any supporting directives or policies. As noted below, however, we believe it is appropriate that the core principles in the amendments proposed below be codified in the rule itself, in addition to whatever is ultimately contained in directives or policies.
5 See, e.g., Poehlman, J., et al., Children’s contact with their incarcerated parents: Research findings and recommendations, American Psychologist, (65) 6, 575-598. (2010) (showing that greater physical contact with children is associated with lower levels of depression among incarcerated parents).
6 The proposed rule appears to contemplate the possibility of movement from cell to dayroom only by escort, which may create an environment where many individuals stay in their cells even during lock-out time, increasing the effects of isolation, because of the scarcity of available escorts or because of fears regarding the escort process itself.
7 For example, the Department has the authority to open and inspect incoming packages, (see § 1-12(e)(1) of the Minimum Standards), and to revoke the right to contact visits to reduce a serious threat. See § 1-09(h)(3) of the Minimum Standards.
8 Research on brain development has revealed that the human brain is still developing up to the age of 25. See Johnson, S., et al., Adolescent Maturity and the Brain: The Promise and Pitfalls of Neuroscience Research in Adolescent Health Policy, Journal of Adolescent Health, p. 216 (2009), available at http://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X(09)00251-1/pdf. For that reason, psychologists now refer to adolescence as ending at 25. See Wallis, L., Is 25 the new cut-off point for adulthood?, BBC News, (Sept. 23, 2013), available at http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-24173194. Because their brains are still forming, adolescents are at a greater risk of developmental and psychological harm, which could result in serious mental health problems.