Judge Rules HALT Can Continue, Dismissing Challenge Brought By New York Prison Guards
A federal judge has tossed out a lawsuit brought by the union representing correctional officers from across New York who said C-O's were being placed at risk due to a change in state policy when it comes to punishment for inmates.
The challenge came from the New York State Corrections Officers and Police Benevolent Association (NYSCOPBA) in response the Humane Alternatives to Long Term Solitary Confinement, or HALT Act.
The policy change kicked-in earlier this year and puts restrictions on who and how long individuals can be sent to single incarceration units.
Attorney's for the prison guards argued that limiting the use of solitary, or SHU - single housing units, as a punitive measure makes inmates more brazen and more likely to attack others behind bars and staff.
However, U.S. District Judge Mae D'Agostino dismissed the case saying the plaintiffs would have needed to prove the reform action taken by New York State was so egregious that it would 'shock the conscience.'
The ruling stated in part, via Spectrum News:
November 2021 does not alter the Court's conclusion that reforms to solitary confinement do not shock the conscience and the state-created danger exception does not apply to Plaintiffs’ claims. Accordingly, Plaintiffs’ request to amend their complaint is denied
The ruling also said reforms to the use of solitary confinement do violate a constitutional obligation to the correctional officers.
Further, the union did not demonstrate that putting an end to HALT would necessarily make prison staff any safer.
After the ruling, NYSCOPBA's President, Michael Powers, continued to assert his belief that removing or limiting the use of confinement puts a 'target' on the back of prison guards, and said the union would continue to strongly oppose HALT and organize members to vote out those who supported it.
Via Corrections 1:
"Despite the ruling, we will continue our campaign to repeal HALT by organizing our membership to vote out those in the legislature who supported the act," Powers continued. "Once the legislature is back in session, we will focus our efforts on repealing HALT or amending HALT to strike out the dangerous portions. NYSCOPBA continues to strongly oppose any portions of HALT that limit DOCCS's ability to separate dangerous inmates from staff and other rule-following inmates."
Union officials in CNY have been outspoken about record violence inside state-run prisons involving attacks on other inmates and on staff since a half-dozen facilities were closed by the state earlier this year.