At its Feb. 25 meeting, Tompkins County’s Workforce Diversity and Inclusion Committee (WDIC) took steps to halt the overuse of solitary confinement in New York State. The WDIC unanimously approved a county resolution in support of Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Isolated Confinement (HALT), a New York State Senate and Assembly bill to limit the use of punitive isolation in state and county correctional facilities.

WDIC Chair Leslyn McBean-Clairborne said, “I was bringing this resolution to WDIC because I thought there was a certain degree of diversity issues in this.” The county resolution notes that certain already marginalized groups are held in solitary confinement at a disproportionate rate.

The county resolution also briefly describes the conditions of solitary confinement, which typically involve 22 to 24 hours per day spent in a small cell. The measure references the studied psychological impact of prolonged solitary confinement and notes, “Five out of six sentences that result in solitary confinement in New York State prisons are for non-violent conduct.”

WDIC member and Tompkins County Personnel Commissioner Deb Prato asked McBean-Clairborne for confirmation that the local resolution only offers support for the state resolution and does not move forward any separate local measure. McBean-Clairborne said that this resolution is only in support of the state bill, but she did not rule out the possibility of a separate county resolution in the future.

McBean-Clairborne noted that the resolution supporting HALT was approved by the Budget, Capital, and Personnel Committee before coming before WDIC. Next month it will go before the Public Safety Committee and, if approved there, it will move on to the full legislature on Tuesday, March 17.

Ultimately, if it is approved by the full legislature, copies of the resolution will be sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo; Senators James Seward, Mike Nozzolio, and Thomas O’Mara; and Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton.

This article was originally published in The Ithaca Times.

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