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BROOKLYN DEFENDER SERVICES STATEMENT ON ENACTMENT OF THE HALT SOLITARY CONFINEMENT ACT

April 1, 2021

CONTACT: Daniel Ball, dball@bds.org

***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***

BROOKLYN DEFENDER SERVICES STATEMENT ON ENACTMENT OF THE HALT SOLITARY CONFINEMENT ACT

(Brooklyn, NY) – Kelsey De Avila, Jail Services Project Director at Brooklyn Defender Services released the following statement following the enactment of the HALT Solitary Confinement Act (S. 2836/A.2277) late Wednesday night:

“Last night, after a near-decade-long campaign led by survivors of solitary confinement, families who have lost their loved ones, and families with loved ones currently in solitary, the HALT Solitary Confinement Act was finally signed into law. Today, we remember those who lost their lives to the torture of solitary and hold in our thoughts those enduring this state-sponsored cruelty at this very moment.

This victory is a testament to the resolve and dedication of survivors and families, joined by public defenders, social workers, mental health professionals, faith leaders, LGBTQIA+ leaders, human rights and health advocates.

For too long, New York has ignored the humanity of people confined to jails and prisons, their isolation from loved ones, and the torture inflicted on them and our communities. Whether in pre-trial detention or serving a sentence, people we represent may be subject to the torture of extreme isolation, confined in elevator-sized cells without any meaningful human interaction or access to programs for months, years and even decades with no viable due process protections—and no clear way to get out.

This historic action to limit the use of solitary confinement in New York State’s prisons and jails, takes our state closer to addressing this ongoing human rights crisis and replacing solitary confinement with humane and effective alternatives. We thank Senator Julia Salazar and Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry for championing this legislation and Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Heastie for their leadership in passing the bill with supermajorities in both houses.

We urge that this legislation is not undermined by unnecessary amendments that create new forms of solitary by another name. We will continue our work alongside other advocates to ensure HALT is implemented fully and appropriately. We also urge the legislature to not stop here and continue its work to transform New York’s criminal legal system by passing Fair and Timely Parole, Elder Parole, the Less is More Act and more this session.”

Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS) is a public defender organization serving tens of thousands of Brooklyn residents each year since 1996. Our mission is to provide high-quality and client-centered criminal, family, immigration, and civil legal representation, as well as social work support and advocacy for people who cannot afford an attorney.

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