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Activists push for solitary confinement reform

Activist and former state prisoner Jerome Wright speaks about his experience in solitary confinement.

A replica of a solitary confinement cell was set up outside the state office building Wednesday afternoon. A group of activists were protesting the state’s use of solitary confinement.

A recording of haunting screams, shouts and banging noises can be heard from the inside of the 6 by 9 foot,  wooden solitary confinement replica. It was placed on the sidewalk on Court Street in downtown Buffalo.

Steve Hart is with an activist group. He describes the sound in the recording.

"I assume that’s a lot of people banging on walls or banging on cell doors," Hart said. "And the screaming, are the people who are in despair or who have lost their minds, because what happens is, even if you are in good mental health when you go in, you deteriorate mentally."

Jerome Wright is also a member of the group. He says he spent several years in solitary confinement while serving time in a New York State prison. He says the mock cell is pretty close to accurate.

“The dimensions is accurate, the ambiance is accurate, and the difference is that when you go in there, from out here, you know you’re going to get let out," he said. "And, that puts a whole 'nother level of intensity that nobody can understand unless you can actually experience.”

The group has been in contact with Senator Chris Jacobs office. His office released the following statement from the senator.

"I have met with representatives from Halt Solitary to hear their concerns, and their advocacy for Senate Bill 4784, which is currently in the Rules Committee.  Solitary confinement reform efforts continue to be discussed with stakeholders critical to the process, including the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, and the New York State Corrections Officers Police Benevolent Association.  Should this pending legislation or any of the potential reforms being discussed come before the full Senate for a vote, I will give them my full attention and consideration.”