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Solitary confinement opponents call on state legislature to pass bill

Thomas O'Neil-White

Simultaneous rallies were held across New York on Wednesday, as advocates for solitary confinement alternatives demanded the state legislature reconvene to pass the HALT Solitary Confinement Act.

The protesters say solitary confinement continues to be a cruel and inhumane form of punishment and there is enough support in the state to pass the bill.

During a live Zoom press conference, HALT advocate Anisah Sabur stood outside the office of State Assembly Speaker Carl Heasite and said enough is enough.

“As a solitary confinement survivor, I demand the leadership to reconvene immediately and pass HALT now,” Sabur said  

Advocates like Sabur point to the opinion of health officials who say long durations of solitary confinement can cause long-term physical and psychological problems.

In Buffalo, supporters of the HALT Act demonstrated their support for the bill by circling and honking their car horns around Niagara Square and the downtown Holding Center.

Credit Thomas O'Neil-White

Denise Edmond stood outside of the jail with a sign calling for the release of inmates currently in solitary. Her son has been through the state penal system and is due to be released next week. She said he has suffered psychological trauma from his experience and she is fighting in the hope no one else will suffer the way her son has.

“For the other people that are locked in solitary confinement that are not allowed to see their family, to tell their family what’s going on. They’re hiding people’s situations," Edmond said.

In addition to limting the number of hours an inmante may stay in solitary confinement, the HALT legislation includes enhancing due process protections before an inmate is put into confinement and substantial training for staff working in confinement units.

Advocates say there is bipartisan support for the bill and enough votes to pass it, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to bring to the floor for a vote.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.
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