N.Y. CO's union continues to push for changes to HALT solitary legislation
The union says prison violence rose by 33% in the year since HALT took effect
By Joe LoTemplio
PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — It's been one year since the state implemented HALT inside prisons, and the correction officer's union continues to argue for change, saying the policy has created extremely dangerous conditions behind prison walls.
"It's unfathomable that the New York State Legislature refuses to acknowledge what is clear to those of us who live and work in our prisons," Michael Powers, president of the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association, said.
"The HALT Act has made the prison environment extremely dangerous for both staff and the incarcerated community alike. The rate of assaults in prison is significantly up as there is little to no deterrent in place to dissuade individuals from attacking staff or settling scores with fellow inmates. This level of violence is unsustainable and needs to be addressed immediately."
The union says violence inside prisons has skyrocketed within New York's correctional facilities since the Humane Alternatives for Long Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act went into effect in all state-run prisons on April 1, 2022.
The HALT Act severely limits, or in some cases eliminates, the ability to place inmates in Special Housing Units separated from the general population.
The union says state-maintained data reveals extremely high rates of prison violence during the first full year the HALT Act has been in place, and they are once again calling for a full repeal of HALT.
According to numbers maintained by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), since the HALT Act was enacted last year, there were 3,113 total assaults recorded in New York's correctional facilities.
That dwarfs the 12 months prior to HALT's enactment where only 2,375 assaults were recorded, a near 33% jump in overall violence, the union said.
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'THE NUMBERS DO NOT LITE'
Publicly posted state data shows a record number of inmate-on-staff and inmate-on-inmate assaults was set in 2022, the union said.
"Several weeks ago, during the state Joint Legislative Budget Hearing on Public Protection, the Democratic majorities of both houses had the state-maintained data directly in front of them and the opportunity to question those who have decades of experience in the correctional system about how to address the significant rise in violence, but they chose to remain silent," Powers said.
"The numbers do not lie. Conditions in prison have never been worse and for supporters of HALT to sit idly by and pretend HALT is making prisons safer is appalling and should be held publicly accountable."
SAFETY AT STAKE
North Country Assemblyman D. Billy Jones (D- Chateaugay Lake) a former correction officer himself, said the rise in violence inside prisons over the past year since HALT went into effect is unacceptable, and he will continue to keep pressing for changes.
"The safety of our correctional officers and civilian personnel within these facilities is at stake and it is critical to address the increase in violent incidents so that these hardworking North Country residents and their loved ones have the peace of mind that they will be protected at work," Jones said.
"After 20 years as a correctional officer, I know firsthand how important it is to make these changes to HALT, and I will keep pushing for these necessary reforms to put an end to these acts of violence."
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