Spectrum News: "Report: HALT Solitary Confinement Bill Would Save $132 Million Annually"

Date: December 3, 2020

By Susan Arbetter | December 2, 2020

The Partnership for the Public Good, a coalition of Buffalo-based advocacy groups, has released a financial analysis of the “Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act” (S.1623/A.2500) also known as the HALT bill.

The report, titled “Save Money, Save Lives” directly contradicts Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2019 statement that the bill would be too costly to implement.

“I am in favor of better, safer, more humane procedures,” Cuomo told WCNY’s Susan Arbetter. “What the current proposal does, however, it mandates that the state and local jails build a new type of jail."

The governor estimated that building new facilities would cost $350 million and another $1 billion for local jails.

Andrea Ó Súilleabháin strongly disagrees.

“We believe the research and the financial analysis in this report really speaks for itself,” the executive director of the Partnership for the Public Good told Capital Tonight. “By restricting solitary confinement like the HALT bill calls for, there’s a whole range of savings for the state. Primarily, there are entire prison buildings and jail units that are dedicated to solitary confinement. By closing some of those facilities down and reallocating staffing, just that alone brings about $80 million in savings.”

For a list of projected savings, you can find the report here

The bill has some muscular opposition from the union that represents the state’s corrections officers. Michael Powers, President of the New York State Correctional Officers Police Benevolent Association send Capital Tonight this statement about solitary confinement, also known as special housing units or SHU.

“Designed with safety for all in mind, special housing units separate dangerous individuals from the general population, and only when they commit serious infractions. They also provide safety to incarcerated individuals who would be subject to dangerous situations among the general population,” Powers stated. “The NYCLU settlement reached as a result of Peoples v. Annucci significantly reformed how special housing units are used, and regulations recently promulgated by the State further limit the ability of the Department to utilize SHU to ensure safe facilities. We need a full accounting of how exactly the NYCLU settlement and promulgated regulations will impact our correctional facilities before any additional restrictions are implemented.” 

Peoples v. Annucci is a long-fought case (it started in 2011 and resolved in 2018) brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union on behalf of an inmate at Green Haven Correctional Facility who sought compensatory and punitive damages after being sentenced to three years in the Secure Housing Unit (SHU).  

In May, the Halt Solitary Confinement campaign released a report which documented a surge in suicides in New York prisons, driven, the group claims, by solitary confinement.

This is an issue that is expected to be taken up by the legislature once the 2021 session begins.


Read the article on the Spectrum News website here.