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Disability Law: Mental Disability Law Blog
Mentally Ill Prisoners Boot the SHU
On January 15, 2008, the New York State Senate and Assembly passed a bill that mandates the removal of imprisoned people with serious psychiatric disabilities from 24-hour solitary confinement. Under the new law, these individuals will be moved into treatment-based secure facilities instead.
The law also requires the state to conduct mental health assessments of everyone housed in segregated or special housing units (known as SHUs).
The Associated Press reports in part:
New York has had more prisoners in segregated units for disciplinary purposes than any state. Almost a quarter of the prisoners in the segregated housing in New York had a history of mental illness and advocates for the mentally ill said solitary confinement can lead to more suicides and poorer mental health.
The measures also provides more mental health training for corrections officers and prison staff. The Commission on Quality Care and Advocacy for People with Disabilities will monitor mental health programs in state prisons.
The new bill is an improvement over the measures Spitzer take last year. The Associated Press explains:
Last year, the Spitzer administration acted to provide better treatment of mentally ill prisoners, ending 23-hour-a-day solitary confinement and limiting the use of a bread-and-cabbage diet and other punishments. Disability Advocates had sued the previous Pataki administration in federal court in 2002, claiming the state failed to provide treatment the prisoners needed and that solitary confinement led to severe psychiatric deterioration, self-mutilation and suicide.
Spitzer decided mentally ill prisoners in the special units would get at least two hours of treatment outside of their solitary confinement cells each day and as many as four hours additional recreation time.
You can learn more by visiting Boot the SHU.
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