NewsLawsuit Claims Disabled Inmates Kept In Solitary Despite Law

Lawsuit Claims Disabled Inmates Kept In Solitary Despite Law

Lawsuit claims disabled inmates have been kept In solitary despite law for humane alternatives to long-term solitary.

A team of disability advocates and law firms have filed a lawsuit against the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) and New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) on behalf of incarcerated inmates with disabilities.

The Legal Aid Society, Disability Rights Advocates, and Winston & Strawn LLP filed a class action lawsuit on May 8 against the agencies for participating in violations of the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act (HALT), which decreased the use of solitary confinement in prisons and jails throughout the state, according to a press release shared with BLACK ENTERPRISE. 

Andy Gneco and Stephanie Peña have experienced similar circumstances. Both Afro-Latinx inmates have been held in solitary confinement by DOCCS despite hearing and mental health challenges. Gneco was subjected to solitary confinement for approximately 22-24 hours per day — including in the Special Housing Unit — during his time behind bars at Auburn and Clinton Correctional Facilities. 

Isolation and sensory deprivation, in addition to forced isolation from Gneco’s daughter, led to depression and anxiety.

Notes from the law insinuate solitary confinement can become counterproductive. Other states that have adapted this ideology to make more “humane” jail practices have decreased violence and increased jail safety. Josh Rosenthal, supervising attorney at Disability Rights Advocates, said it’s time for New York to get on board. “It is long past time for the State to end the use of solitary confinement for people with disabilities,” Rosenthal said. 

“Words are not enough, and DOCCS and OMH must comply with state law and stop this vicious practice once and for all.”  

RELATED CONTENT: Young Black Inmates Are Suffering In Inhumane Conditions

Source: Black Enterprise

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