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Court Invalidates DOCCS’s Illegal Use of Prolonged Solitary Confinement Following NYCLU Class Action Suit 

NEW YORK – Following a 2023 class action lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union and Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York, the Albany County Supreme Court ruled late Tuesday that the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) had violated the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act (HALT) by unlawfully imposing segregation and other restrictive disciplinary confinement on thousands of incarcerated New Yorkers in the years since HALT’s passage. 

“DOCCS has flouted the basic requirements of HALT by routinely imposing extended disciplinary segregation the Legislature saw fit to prohibit. By ignoring these limits, DOCCS has inflicted profound, often irreversible harm on generations of incarcerated New Yorkers, who are disproportionally Black and brown,” said Antony Gemmell, Director of Detention Litigation at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “As the Court recognized in Tuesday’s ruling, prison officials are not above the law. We are gratified by this ruling and will be watching closely to ensure DOCCS complies.” 

In its decision, the Court ordered DOCCS to comply with the requirements of the HALT Act, which prohibits segregated confinement exceeding 3 days, placement in “Residential Rehabilitation Units” (RRUs) of any duration, and disciplinary confinement in several other housing types without making the specific, individualized findings required by the Act. The NYCLU and PLSNY 2023 class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of a class of individuals currently incarcerated in New York who have been illegally subjected to solitary confinement and represent an untold number of class members who will be placed in extended segregation in the future and be subject to the same illegal treatment.  

“This decision is an important step forward in our work to make the law of HALT a reality for the many incarcerated individuals still suffering the harms of unlawful disciplinary confinement,” said Hallie E. Mitnick, Senior Staff Attorney at Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York. 

HALT prohibits segregated confinement—solitary confinement in excess of 17 hours per day—exceeding 15 days under any circumstances, and places strict limits on solitary confinement exceeding three consecutive days, or six days in any 30-day period. Yet DOCCS has been holding individuals in segregation beyond the three-day limit for a wide range of behavior that does not pose imminent risk to the facility’s security.   

Solitary confinement that lasts more than 15 consecutive days is recognized by the United Nations and various human rights organizations as torture. The practice causes severe trauma and is linked to higher rates of recidivism and a reduction in public safety. Following decades of advocacy from the NYCLU, partner organizations, survivors of solitary confinement and their families, New York was the first state to codify the United Nations Mandela Rules into law by passing the HALT Act in 2021.  

You can find the court decision here:  


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