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Study says prison reform bill is a money saver for Erie County, New York State

Thomas O'Neil-White

A fiscal analysis done by the Partnership for the Public Good estimates Erie County would save over $500,000 a year by passing a solitary confinement reform bill. In turn, New York State would save over $100 milion by passing the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement or HALT Act.

The bill restricts the use of solitary confinement in state jails and prisons and follow international human rights standards.

Erie County Legislative Chairwoman April Baskin said it took a couple years for her to get other county legislators on board to support the bill.

“It’s sad to say, but in my two years of working on this matter locally,” she said. “I have found that a lot of people who are reluctant to the concepts, are reluctant so because they just believe that people who are incarcerated are bad people. There’s a negative stigma associated with those who are incarcerated.”

In the prison system, Black and Brown people make up the majority of inmates.

“Those of us that do this work in the justice system know that there are systemic barriers that lead to our robust incarceration system,” Baskin said. “And it unjustly, disproportionately impacted mostly communities that are impoverished, communities that are overlooked, and communities of color.”

Proponents of the bill, which has support across the state, hope to see the bill pass in the next legislative session in January.

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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