In March of this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a new law that put limits on solitary confinement for inmates in New York correctional facilities. Members of the correctional facility unions are fighting back against the new law, and they are suing to overturn it.

The Humane Alternatives to Solitary Confinement Act reduces the amount of time that an inmate can spend in solitary confinement in correctional facilities. The maximum amount of time that an inmate can spend in isolation has been limited to 15 days. Inmates between the ages of 18 and 21 will no longer be allowed to be placed in solitary confinement. The law also expands services available to inmates before they re-enter the general population.

The new law does not take effect until next April, but members of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association are not waiting until then to take action. They have entered a lawsuit against the State stating that the new law violates the officers’ federal civil rights and that it will lead to an increase in violence inside the prison system.

The complaint says, “These policies diminish accountability for those incarcerated individuals who commit violent acts while in prison, and create a dangerous living and working environment.“

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Just like anything else, there are two sides to every story. Correctional officers deserve a safe working environment even though they work with some of society's most dangerous criminals. On the other hand, solitary confinement has been known to cause severe mental illness in those who suffer from isolation for too long. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

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