Criminal Justice

Ensuring Humane Conditions of Confinement in NYS Prisons

Summary

Under the unprecedented February 2014 agreement between the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), the state agreed to immediately begin to remove pregnant and mentally disabled prisoners from segregation. Unfortunately, there continues to be a significant use of solitary confinement in the state’s prison system. This practice is in need of immediate and further reforms. More


Ensuring Humane Conditions of Confinement in New York State Prisons

Summary

The New York State Department of Corrections has historically operated some cells that segregate prisoners for periods of time for disciplinary and administrative purposes.  Since the 1970s, the State has developed “Special Housing Units” (SHUs) where inmates spend 23 hours a day in single cells.  Such inmates are denied congregate programming or religious worship, but offered limited privileges related to visitation, law library and education.  In recent years, the state has approved plans to create a more limited version of SHU cells in a maximum security facility and designated medium security facilities.  These units are specifically designed to keep contact between inmates and staff to a minimum.  Current plans call for long periods of confinement in cells that severely restrict access to personal hygiene, physical exercise, human contact and religious services.

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Support Reform of the Juvenile Justice System and Increase the Capacity for Community-Based Programs

Summary

An effective juvenile justice system must be restorative and therapeutic in nature rather than retributive.  It must seek to rehabilitate youth who come into contact with the criminal justice system, place crime within a community context, and offer alternatives to incarceration of juveniles while holding public safety paramount.  Juvenile detention centers should be the last resort rather than the norm.  Community-based strategies allow youth who do not represent a threat to community safety to stay with their families and provide greater access to supportive interventions.  This strategy facilitates greater collaboration between state, city and county agencies and community-based programs with social service and restorative justice expertise.  Reforms to the juvenile justice system serve the goals of restorative justice practices by bringing healing to youth, families, and neighborhoods impacted by youth crime and offer a more humane alternative for restoring safety to communities.  The comprehensive reform of the juvenile justice system is critical and merits swift and decisive action to prevent losing another generation of New York’s youth to a broken system.

Conference Position
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