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NYCLU to Submit Testimony at Senate Judiciary Hearing on Solitary Confinement

At a Senate hearing today, the New York Civil Liberties Union will submit testimony regarding the human rights, fiscal, and public safety consequences of solitary confinement. The testimony comes on the heels of a historic agreement reached between the NYCLU and the New York State Department of Community Corrections (DOCCS) to reform the way solitary confinement is used in New York State’s prisons, the fourth-largest prison system in the United States, with the state taking immediate steps to remove youth, pregnant inmates and developmentally disabled and intellectually challenged prisoners from extreme isolation and agreeing to an evaluation by experts to recommend additional comprehensive reforms that would benefit all prisoners.

“What’s happening in New York should send a strong message to policymakers and corrections administrators around the country: Reform is necessary and reform is possible,” said NYCLU Senior Staff Attorney Taylor Pendergrass. “The developments in New York reflect a shared belief by corrections leaders and advocates that the harms caused by extreme isolation must be addressed. The leadership and support of the federal government at this crucial moment is essential to supporting national reform.”

The Senate hearing will include testimony from a number of criminal justice experts and advocates including a former death row inmate held in isolation before later being exonerated.

This is the second time the subcommittee has held a hearing on solitary confinement. In July 2012, the NYCLU submitted testimony discussing the preliminary findings of the NYCLU’s in-depth investigation into solitary confinement practices in the state prison system. Those findings were later documented in “Boxed In: The True Cost of Extreme Isolation in New York’s Prisons.” The report found that New York State subjected thousands of individuals to prolonged extreme isolation as discipline for violating prison rules and eventually prompted the class action lawsuit, Peoples v. Fischer, which ultimately led to the agreement between DOCCS and NYCLU to reform New York’s use of solitary confinement.

Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights
Reassessing Solitary Confinement II: The Human Rights, Fiscal, and Public Safety Consequences

Tuesday, Feb. 25 at 2:30 p.m.

Room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC

Taylor Pendergrass, Senior Staff Attorney, New York Civil Liberties Union
Elena Landriscina, Legal Fellow, New York Civil Liberties Union

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