Greece, NY Police Enter and Shoot Home Owner Because ‘Things Didn’t Look Right’

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

The content below was shared by Ryan Conklin to get more attention on a situation that never should have happened. As you read, consider just how different the reaction from those at the Greece police outfit would be if the triggerman and person shot and killed would have been reversed.

Date of Incident: 11/9/2014
Individual Responsible: Jared René
Outfit: Greece (NY) Police Department
Phone: 585-720-4104

Editors Note: Much of the content below was gleaned from the write-up Greece police explain Stone Road shooting by Victoria E. Freile and Meaghan M. McDermott, which was posted on 2014.11.11 to DemocratAndChronicle.com.

The shooting occurred Sunday morning after Greece, NY police and animal control officers were called to Stone Road, near Stone Ridge Drive, for a report of dogs running loose in the area.

Greece Police Chief Patrick Phelan said officers located the dogs, two pit bulls, and went to 1677 Stone Road, the home where they believed their owner lived.

Officers did not receive a response to their knocking on the door, so they entered the house there an ‘unlocked’ door to check the welfare of whoever might be inside. Phelan said two officers at the scene could see water running and the stove top on. Running water and a stove on cannot be seen from outside the home and do not constitute ‘Exigent Circumstances’.

Once inside, officers found a man — later identified as Thomas Manza — naked and asleep on a bedroom floor, with a shotgun beside him. René, 31, fired twice, striking Manza once. Following surgery, Manza, 34, remains in a medically induced coma in guarded condition at Strong Memorial Hospital.

The Greece, NY Police department has a long history of misconduct and corruption: CopBlock.org/tag/Greece

He said his son would often let his dogs, Kikki and Jayda, out the back door to run around in the fenced yard, leaving the door open so the dogs could reenter at will.

They entered my son’s house without a warrant, what is this wellness thing? They’re saying they entered the house to check someone’s wellness, but my son wasn’t in distress. … I don’t understand why they entered the house and now my son’s almost dead up there in the hospital.

Anthony Manza said his son would often sleep with a fan running, so it was no surprise that he might not have heard police knocking or yelling in the windows.

After the shooting, police executed a search warrant at the rental home, where they found a personal-use amount of marijuana, as well as two long guns. Police charged Manza with first-degree menacing, a felony, for ‘allegedly’ pointing a loaded firearm at police in his house during an unlawful entry search.

“We’ll often find a house where things just don’t look right and we need to check the welfare of the residents,” Phelan said. “Often times, we’ll find somebody that’s been injured and can’t get to the door, we’ll find somebody who’s committed suicide, we’ll find somebody who has a medical condition and they’re unconscious. It’s not that unusual.”

‘Things just don’t look right’ doesn’t give the police the right to enter you home and shoot you.

There are four main circumstances in which a warrant is not required for police to search your house:

1. Consent
2. Plain View
3. Search Incident to Arrest
4. Exigent Circumstances. This exception refers to emergency situations where the process of getting a valid search warrant could compromise public safety or could lead to a loss of evidence. This encompasses instances of “hot pursuit” in which a suspect is about to escape.

None of the above were given or relevant to this unlawful search.

RELATED LINKS

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Known New York Based Police Accountability Groups

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Greece, NY Police Enter and Shoot Home Owner Because ‘Things Didn’t Look Right’ is a post from Cop Block - Badges Don't Grant Extra Rights

Pretrial Detention is an Assault on Liberty

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

The write-up below by Kaetan Mazza was originally posted to NewYorkNatives.com on 2014.11.12. A relative of his shared it, and it is reposted here as it makes clear the misallocation of resources and rampant rights-violations caused by the structure and actors of the injustice system. 

Hear Me Out: Pretrial Detention is an Assault on Liberty
by Kaetan Mazza

America locks up a lot of people. By any metric you consider, it tends to be at or near the top of any list tallying prisoner populations. This fact, in itself, is not so damning until combined with the fact that most of those locked up are charged with nonviolent crimes. What’s worse is that the vast majority of the jailed aren’t even proven criminals. They’re suspects awaiting trial, languishing as the slow wheels of justice churn through their case.

I’ll admit, I have kind of a unique perspective on criminal law. I have close friends and family who have served honorably in law enforcement; my kin specifically in the NYPD. I understand their various opinions. From them I can begin to appreciate the complexities and subtleties of protecting and serving. I, on the other hand, have instinctual criminal tendencies. As a rule, I try to break any law I find idiotic, and often violate even the ones I agree with. This amalgamation of influence in my life has afforded me the opportunity to see the penal system from both sides of the bars.

Last year, while driving around Brooklyn, scrambling to accomplish tasks for work, I made the unfortunate decision of answering my phone while behind the wheel. Immediately, and seemingly out of thin air, one of NYC’s finest appeared in front me and signaled for me to pull over.

After several minutes a female officer arrived at the scene and approached my window with cuffs drawn and a hand on her service pistol. Apparently I had an unpaid ticket from 2008. Not surprisingly, I did not recall the incident. I was, as she said, “going down.” Having several hundred dollars on me, I pleaded with them to allow me to pay my fine with late fees. My appeals were met with unsympathetic assertions of protocol.

RELATED: Cage Complex, Why is America’s prison population soaring? by Wendy McElroy at FEE.org

From there I was placed in a holding cell by myself for several agonizing hours while being processed into the system. During this time I was refused food, water, and any contact with the outside world. The thought of the worry and fury my absence was causing was extremely stressful.

Following a spell of solitude a man was placed in the cell with me. By his own account, he was in the thralls of severe PCP intoxication. If you have never witnessed anyone under the influence of this obscure drug, it can be both hilarious and terrifying.  Luckily he remained somewhat calm, alternating between twitchy incoherent rambling and comatose distant stares. I remained acutely aware of the possibility of an uncontrollable freak out at any moment.

About four hours in, I was given the opportunity to make a phone call. Unfortunately I was also told by a guard that I would have to spend the night and see a judge in the morning. I called one of my coworkers to let them know I was OK and discuss how to mitigate the problems my arrest had caused.

After about five hours in confinement, by which point I had been given about thirty seconds with a water fountain and no food, I was handcuffed again and put in a van with two other men.  As I was transported to another facility, one of those men told me, unsolicited, how sick he was going to get as his heroin withdrawal set in. He held back none of the disgusting details.

Upon arrival I was placed in a bigger cell that held about fifteen other unsubstantiated criminals, including my van mates. Chatter revealed that we were all low level offenders. There were a few shoplifters, drug possessors, and people like me who failed to pay tickets.

Looking around the room, one of the thornier, more insidious aspects of our justice system became strikingly apparent. Out of the fifteen men, ten would probably identify as black (with about eight of those men under the age of 23), four were noticeably unstable, most had admitted substance abuse problems, and all except myself would be facing the world penniless upon release. This is significant because they represent segments of society that bear the disproportionate brutality of the law. Most of the charges represented in the room would elicit no more than a citation, for most accused. If they did, most would easily bail out.

I slowly started to accept the miserable conditions. My discomfort with the metal bench that I would have to sit on throughout the night, the arctic air blowing in through the vents, and the smells of fifteen men began to dull.

Then my former van mate’s earlier predictions came to fruition. If you’re unfamiliar, severe heroin withdrawal involves explosive diarrhea and uncontrollable vomiting. Needless to say in this enclosed space, it was horrifying. Most of us clustered in the corner of the cell opposite the wretched oozing creature hunched over the toilet. Others, unfazed, took advantage of newly open bench space.

As if on cue, that was when it was decided that we should be fed, and when the corrections officers brought in several McDonald’s bags, a few of us were cautiously optimistic. That optimism was immediately crushed with one bite of the stale food. None of us could force down more than a few bites though we were ravenously hungry. I asked for water and was directed to a faucet near the toilet. It was so rusted and filthy and so near the source of the vomit-shit smell, I decided to go thirsty. We asked that the sick man be moved, they said they’d see what they can do; apparently they never saw anything.

The night wore on for what felt like months. The worst of it wasn’t the grime, gnawing hunger, smell or discomfort. It was the excruciating boredom. The room was bright, cold and crowded, so sleep was not an option. We were allowed no possessions. There wasn’t even any signage in the cell.  Minutes crawled along at a pace that made my balls ache.

Finally, I was released without charge because of a lack of supporting evidence, by a judge who acted as though he had done me a favor. Nearly thirty-six hours after I’d been arrested, I was free. In dirty clothes and with a dead phone, I trudged home wondering if I still had a job. I felt sorry for my cellmates with unsympathetic bosses, kids to pick up, and tenuous relationships. For at least two men this process had made them homeless.

Whatever your political persuasion (unless you’re a fascist), the idea that a mere accusation can result in extended confinement should offend your sense of justice. Liberty and the pursuit of happiness are our most fundamental rights. If someone is to be stripped of that for any period of time, before the due process of law has run its course, I believe there must be an exceptional reason. The only conceivable reason for this would be to protect the public from a potentially violent criminal. There may be a small case for the high-flight-risk, nonviolent felon, but GPS technology has made this concern nearly obsolete.

Why not end the practice of pretrial bondage for nonviolent offenses? Most of them don’t require jail time anyway. It’s cheaper and fairer to cite and release the accused than to house and feed them in despicable conditions. It doesn’t offer a free pass for low-level criminality — sanctions can and should be meted out, but only after allegations have been proven. Punishing people beforehand is a black eye for Lady Justice, no matter how obscured by her blindfold.

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Pretrial Detention is an Assault on Liberty is a post from Cop Block - Badges Don't Grant Extra Rights

Large Settlements for False Arrest

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Submitted by Arkady Bukh

7 Largest Settlements for False Arrest

The shooting of an unarmed teenager in a St. Louis suburb recently turned the national spotlight on the militarization of police and the often co-occurring abuse of authority. American psychologist, Abraham Maslow said in 1966, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, then you see all problems as nails.”

The hammer/nail mentality has cost police jurisdictions across the country significant amounts of money. Money which could be used to replace infrastructure, fund social programs or house the homeless has instead gone to address police brutality.

The National Police Accountability (NPAP) was started with the intention of ending law enforcement’s abuse of authority and gives guidance and support to groups fighting police misconduct.

Made up of plaintiff’s attorneys, the NPAP uses a variety of methods to communicate with members. The organization also hosts continuing legal education seminars nationally and tracks lawsuits alleging police brutality.

A few of the more noteworthy cases the NPAP has reported recently include some with millions of dollars as a settlement and one where just a middle finger raised the anger of the police.

Robert Graham

Robert Graham was caught in stalled traffic in New York City. A couple of NYPD cops worked to maneuver their way out of the jam, without lights or siren, to answer a 911 call. The cops had a difficult time maneuvering around Graham who told the police officers he couldn’t move either. The cops finally got out, answered the call and came back to arrest Graham for disorderly conduct. Graham’s payoff for being pulled from the car by his neck and arrested? $150,000.

Robert Bryant

The Madison County, Alabama, Sheriff’s Department provided Mr. Bryant with a settlement of settlement of over a half-million dollars. What did Mr. Bryant have to do for the payday?

In August, 2012, Bryant was in a pool hall and had a dispute with an off-duty deputy who was also in the bar. When Bryant left the pool hall later, he was followed by the deputy and was pulled out of his car. Several other deputies arrived and stomped on Bryant, knocked some teeth out and left him on the side of the road unconscious. Then they charged Bryant with assaulting an officer. Mr. Bryant was awarded $625,000.

Four RNC Protesters

A New York jury agreed that four protesters at the 2004 Republican National Convention had been wrongly arrested. To help set things right, the jury awarded the four $185,000. Attorney Arkady Bukh worked with other attorneys in representing over 1600 total protesters arrested during the convention. The total amount paid by the city for the wrongful arrests? $18 million making it the largest protest-related settlement in history.

Unnamed Suspect

Penns Grove, New Jersey, had to pay out $2 million for the death of a man killed from being placed in a choke hold. The lawsuit said that police responded to a call at an apartment complex in March, 2010. When they got there, the police reported that a suspect was acting “bizarrely.” The suspect walked away when he was approached by the officers and ignored their commands to halt. Despite not giving any resistance, the man was maced and tackled to the ground. While one officer applied the choke hold, other officers kicked the suspect. By the time the ambulance arrived, the suspect was unconscious. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. The settlement was sealed and the victim’s name has not been released.

“Central Park 5”

Five men who had been convicted and sent to prison for a sensationalized crime which they didn’t commit, were awarded $40 million by New York City to settle a long-unresolved civil rights court case.  The original lawsuit accused NYPD, and city prosecutors, of false arrest, malicious prosecution, and driving a racially-motivated conspiracy. The mayor at the time had fought any settlement for over ten years, taking the fight all the way to federal court.

Occupy Wall Street

The largest Occupy Wall Street settlement, over $580,000, was awarded to 14 protesters who had been wrongfully arrested in January 2012.

Robert Bell

While hardly noticeable in the city’s annual budget, a judge approved a settlement between the NYPD and Robert Bell. Arrested for giving three NYPD officer the middle finger, Bell filed a First Amendment suit and False Arrest claim against the city. When offered the money to drop his lawsuit, Bell agreed and walked away with the money.

Arkady Bukh is a founding member of Bukh Law Firm P.C. (14 Wall St, New York NY 10005, (212) 729-1632) and a published author. Arkady concentrates on high-profile criminal defense cases, as well as police brutality cases. You can view his website here

Large Settlements for False Arrest is a post from Cop Block - Badges Don't Grant Extra Rights

NY State Trooper Brian Beardsley drives drunk, kills man, does no time

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

The content below was shared by someone appalled at the impunity granted to a person who killed another.

Date of Incident: 2011
Individual Responsible: Brian Beardsley Outfit: Canajoharie Police Department Phone: (518) 673-3111
Individual Responsible: James Curry Outfit: Hamilton County Prosecutor Phone: (518) 648-5113

New york state trooper Brian Beardsley admits to drinking and running a man over on his way home. He then fled the scene of the accident and left the man to die.

In May of 2011 Beardsley was charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident – a Class D felony. If found guilty, he could have been caged for up to seven years.

Yet, four months later, in September of 2011, James Curry threw out the charge and Beardsley faced no repercussions for taking the life of another.

Beardsley is now an officer again at Canajoharie Police Department in New York. Why can this man still have the nerve to write us tickets? Fuck him.

village-f-canajoharie-new-york-brian-beardsley-copblock

Killer cop Brian Beardsley is now employed at the Canajoharie Police Outfit (518) 673-3111

 

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Editors Note: Impunity afforded to police employees is not surprising, after all, their entire apparatus is based on double standards. If situations such as those involving Beardsley do not sit well with you, quit granting legitimacy to those who claim to provide safety at the barrel of a gun.

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NY State Trooper Brian Beardsley drives drunk, kills man, does no time is a post from Cop Block - Badges Don't Grant Extra Rights

Video Captures Racial Profiling by NYPD Employee

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

This content was shared by a person who stated that it’s “Clear evidence of racial profiling and aggression. Even tells a passerby he’ll arrest them for obstruction. Obstruction of what crime?”

This is not my video. It was posted by a Youtuber Adam Saleh that I follow. I watch most of the Cop Block videos and this one is one of the worst cop videos I’ve ever seen.

Basically the Youtubers walk with normal clothing by a cop while fighting and the NYPD officer does nothing, Then they walk by in traditional garb from their respective cultures and the cop flips out. Even goes as far as asking them why they are dressed that way.

Editors Note: In the interest of transparency, and because it is individuals who act and who alone are responsible for their actions, it would have been good were the police employee’s face not blurred out and for his name and badge to be ascertained and shared.

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Film the police. Create an objective record.

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Port Chester NY Cop Punches Cuffed Suspect

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

Juan M. Aguilar share the content below.

Date of Interaction: 1/14
Individual Responsible: Thomas Munelly
Outfit: Port Chester Police Department
Phone: (914) 939-1000

Port Chester, New York cop punches the handcuffed Carlos Velasquez in the face, twists his fingers, pulls him by the ear, and shouts at him. Velasquez

For Munelly’s actions, Port Chester taxpayers were told they were on the hook for $20,000, yet that rotten cop was kept the police force.

From lohud.com:

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Click for related Know Your Rights videos and content.

Click for related Know Your Rights videos and content.

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Darren Ilardi, NYPD Employee, Hits, Kills Ryo Oyamada, Colleagues Alter Video to Cover-Up

Monday, September 29th, 2014

The content below was shared by Peter Chin via CopBlock.org/Submit about the death of pedestrian Ryo Oyamada, who was hit and killed by a vehicle driven by Darren Ilardi, a NYPD employee. Thus far, Ilardi has not been held accountable. Might this situation be different were the driver a non-police employee and the person struck a police employee? That fact makes clear the application of double standards, and it should not be tolerated.

Incident Date: 2/23/2013
Individual Involved: Darren Ilardi
Outfit: New York Police Department
Phone: (718) 558–5422


Last year, a Japanese foreign exchange student was run over by a police cruiser in Queens. The NYPD said that the cruiser had its lights and sirens on, but eyewitnesses strenuously denied that, saying that it was silently running over 70 mph down the street. None of those eyewitnesses were interviewed for the police report. The NYPD then refused to release security footage of the accident, and then released a version that corroborated their version of events…until someone found another video that contradicts theirs, and indicates that they had actually doctored the video to release themselves from blame.

Please, help us expose this terrible miscarriage of justice. If the NYPD is allowed to get away with this, then no one can be safe.

This video was uploaded by Vaccaro and White and included on the thorough overview of this incident at Gothamist.com by John Del Signore [you're encouraged to check out that post for analysis on the video and other details about the incident]:

The text below is from the Change.org petition, Investigate Ryo Oyamada’s Death, which has almost 100,000 signers already:

On February 21st, 2013, Ryo Oyamada was struck and killed by an NYPD cruiser while crossing the street. He was only 24 years old. While NYPD claimed that the cruiser’s lights and sirens were on before the collision, multiple eyewitness accounts along with video footage indicate that the officer was driving over 70 mph down a residential street without emergency lights on, and that NYPD may have covered this up.

Initially, NYPD refused to release video footage of the accident. Then they released a heavily edited video that seemed to corroborate their version of events. But new video secured from the NY Housing Authority directly contradicts these claims, and indicates that someone went to great lengths to cover up the truth.

The entire investigation of the scene was botched. None of the eyewitnesses were interviewed for the police report, officers did not measure skid marks left by the car, did not investigate the driver’s phone records from the time of the crash, nor did they retrieve information from the car’s data recorder before it was erased.

Ryo’s death deserves to be independently investigated.

The officer who killed Ryo, Darren Ilardi, said he was responding to a 911 report of a knife assault. However, that 911 call was later determined to be unfounded. Furthermore, radio transcripts and other evidence provided by the City suggest that Officer Ilardi was not assigned to the knife disturbance, nor did he tell anyone he was responding to an emergency. In fact, two other NYPD units had already been assigned to that call.

It’s clear that there needs to be an independent investigation into Ryo Oyamada’s death – and that the NYPD isn’t capable of doing so alone. 

Sign my petition calling on the Department of Justice and the NYPD to conduct a full and fair investigation into Ryo Oyamada’s death. The tragic death of Ryo demands nothing less.

Darren Ilardi, NYPD Employee, Hits, Kills Ryo Oyamada, Colleagues Alter Video to Cover-Up is a post from Cop Block - Badges Don't Grant Extra Rights

Glen Cove NY Police Ignore Property Rights, Employ Thuggery [Video]

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

This content was shared via CopBlock.org/Submit by Rocco Iannacchino about an incident caused by Glen Cove, NY police employees Griggs, Michaelaes, Maceli, Paolilo on March 13, 2014.

After speaking with the police employees at length through his screen door, Iannacchino closed the door and went to his backyard, where he was roughly tackled. Clearly he was not a threat. And clearly the police employees had no right to be on his property and treat him in such a manner or else they would have tried to snatch him up when they were on the front stoop.

In addition to that thuggery and blatent disregard for property rights, Iannacchino was said by a stranger who billed themselves as an “expert” to be “mentally ill”, something that is equally pernicious. For more on this angle, see the work of Thomas Szasz, specifically the book The Myth of Mental Illness. [In the past CopBlock.org held a contest that sought to link the perspective of Szasz with the targeting of police employees who spoke out against corruption.]

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Four police officers came to my door. They said they wanted me to step outside and talk to them. I asked them if I was being arrested, they said, ‘no,’ that they wanted to ask me some questions, “get my side of the story.” I said that talking through my screen door was acceptable, and I would answer any questions they had. They insisted I step outside and discuss this, as I wasn’t “being arrested.”

After about 20-minutes of this back and forth banter, after telling them to leave many, many times, I shut the door figuring they would leave. I went out my back door on my property, and was surprised by an officer running, yelling, holding his hand to his gun, “Get down on the ground.” I did what the officer said and was kneed in the head and pinned with my arm by three policeman. The fourth policeman was keeping my father away from the takedown, I’m assuming so he couldn’t see the brutality.

My father is 82 years old, and on a few occasions, these officers tried to lure my father from my front door, as I protested this wanting my father to stay with me.

On the ground, I had the full force of three men pressing me into the mud, and could not catch my breath. I thought they were going to kill me. I felt the searing heat of a needle being jabbed into me. I squealed due to the pain.

I have the whole event on video tape and the false arrest I have audio as the video camera was knocked from my hands. What are the laws of asking police officers to leave your property if you are not being arrested? I showed them I had no weapons. Once I had been in handcuffs I was searched and had no weapons or anything illegal. They brutally took me down on the ground and hurt my left shoulder that needed medical treatment and a scar on my right wrist of a deep puncture wound.

For two months I had to receive rehab for my shoulder and I still have a scar from a puncture wound on my wrist. The police who admitted on video that I was fine gave me a beating, then brought me to the hospital and forced me to take dangerous mind altering medication that was never needed. I then spent eight days in a hospital for an illness I did not have.

In essence, this is a case of the police and the hospital creating a ‘mental illness’ by proxy. Psychiatric confinement of sane people is a particularly pernicious form of repression.

I am publicly asking that an investigation into my allegations be investigated.
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Glen Cove Police Outfit

Glen Cove NY Police Ignore Property Rights, Employ Thuggery [Video] is a post from Cop Block - Badges Don't Grant Extra Rights

“You Should Be Happy That We’re Doing a Checkpoint”

Friday, July 4th, 2014

When at PorcFest in Lancester, in the ‘shire, I ran into Mike, who’d just had a run-in with some folks who, despite claiming to protect and serve him, hindered his freedom of movement and now claim that he owes them money, or else.

Props to Mike for speaking out about the rights-violation he was subjected to – after all, he’d done nothing wrong. He’d not harmed another person or their property. There was no victim making claims against him. What there was though, was a thief (someone who subsists on wealth stolen from others), who proclaimed that the windows on Mike’s truck were too dark.

What a joke.

Would you feel safer living having to cross a checkpoint multiple times a week when going to work, or to the store, or to visit friends? Do you think it will be easier, and more effective, to speak out and take (non-initiatory of force) action against the bad ideas that support the police state apparatus today, or next year?

St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Outfit

Border Patrol Outfit (Buffalo Sector)

Cop Block Related Links

“You Should Be Happy That We’re Doing a Checkpoint” is a post from Cop Block - Badges Don't Grant Extra Rights

Groundbreaking N.Y. Legislation: Eliminate Extreme Isolation Beyond 15 Days, Create Humane Alternatives

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

LAWMAKERS, ADVOCATES, AND SURVIVORS OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT BACK SWEEPING REFORMS TO USE OF ISOLATION IN NEW YORK’S PRISONS AND JAILS

Supporters Converge from Across the State to Lobby for the “HALT Solitary Confinement Act”

Groundbreaking Legislation Would Eliminate Extreme Isolation Beyond 15 Days, Create Safe and Humane Alternatives

Albany, May 5, 2014 — At a mid-morning press conference in the Legislative Office Building in Albany, leading legislators joined advocates, people who had experienced solitary confinement, and family members of those currently in solitary to promote the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act (A08588A / S06466A).

At the same time, more than 120 individuals from across the state, many of them directly affected by the widespread use of solitary confinement in New York, gathered for an inaugural lobby day at the State Capitol, meeting with more than 50 legislators.

After years of activism by human rights and civil liberties groups, faith communities, currently and formerly incarcerated people, and other concerned citizens, solitary confinement is currently exploding as an issue, both in the media and on public policy agendas.

Supporters are hailing the HALT Solitary Confinement Act as the most comprehensive and progressive legislative response to date to the nationwide problem of solitary confinement in prisons and jails. As written, it would virtually eliminate a practice that has been increasingly denounced as both dangerous and torturous, while protecting the safety of incarcerated individuals and corrections officers.

According to Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry, who is sponsoring the bill in the Assembly, “New York State was a leader for the country in passing the 2008 SHU Exclusion Law, which keeps people with the most severe mental health needs out of solitary confinement. Now we must show the way forward again, ensuring that we provide safe, humane and effective alternatives to solitary for all people.”

“Solitary confinement makes people suffer without making our prisons safer. It is counter-productive as well as cruel,” said Senator Bill Perkins, the bill’s Senate sponsor. “Solitary harms not only those who endure it, but families, communities, and corrections staff as well.”

Additional sponsors of the bill include Ruth Hassell-Thompson, Brad Hoylman, Velmanette Montgomery, N. Nick Perry, and John L. Sampson.

On any given day, about 3,800 people are in Special Housing Units, or SHUs, with many more in other forms of isolated confinement in New York’s State prisons. They are held for 23 to 24 hours in cells smaller than the average parking space, alone or with one other person. More than 800 are in solitary confinement in New York City jails, along with hundreds more in local jails across the state.

New York isolates imprisoned people at levels well above the national average, and uses solitary to punish minor disciplinary violations. Five out of six sentences that result in placement in New York State’s SHUs are for non-violent conduct. Individuals are sent to the SHU on the word of prison staff, and may remain there for months, years, or even decades.

The HALT Solitary Confinement Act bans extreme isolation beyond 15 days–the limit advocated by UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez, among others. Méndez, who is the United Nations’ main torture investigator, has found that solitary confinement as it is practiced in New York violates the U.S.’s international obligations with regard to torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment.

The Special Rapporteur contributed a statement which was read aloud at the press conference, concluding, “The HALT Solitary Confinement Act reflects both safe and effective prison policy and respect for human rights. It should become law in New York State and a model for change across the United States.”

The HALT Solitary Confinement Act goes well beyond the agreement that was recently reached between the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) and the New York Civil Liberties Union to limit the use of isolation on youth, pregnant women, and people with developmental disabilities. HALT completely bars these and other vulnerable populations from being placed in solitary at all.

For those who present a serious threat to prison safety and need to be separated from the general population for longer periods of time, the legislation creates new Residential Rehabilitation Units (RRUs)–separate, secure units with substantial out-of-cell time, and programs and treatment aimed at addressing the underlying causes of behavioral problems.

“Isolation does not promote positive change in people; it only damages them,” said Megan Crowe-Rothstein of the Urban Justice Center’s Mental Health Project. “By requiring treatment and programs for people who are separated from the prison population for serious misconduct, the legislation requires Corrections to emphasize rehabilitation over punishment and degradation.”

The widespread use of long-term solitary confinement has been under fire in recent years, in the face of increasing evidence that sensory deprivation, lack of normal human interaction, and extreme idleness can lead to severe psychological damage. Supporters of the bill also say that isolated confinement fails to address the underlying causes of problematic behavior, and often exacerbates that behavior as people deteriorate psychologically, physically, and socially.

Rev. Ron Stief of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture said, “The diverse faith traditions represented by NRCAT hold in common a belief in the dignity of each human person. We share a conviction that the use of isolated confinement in U.S. prisons and jails violates basic religious values of community and restorative justice. The HALT Solitary Confinement Act provides New York with a critical opportunity to lead the way nationally in increasing access to rehabilitation and ending the torture of isolated confinement.”

Solitary confinement has never been shown to reduce prison violence. In fact, several state prisons systems, including Maine, Mississippi, and Colorado, have significantly reduced the number of people they hold in solitary confinement, and have seen prison violence decrease as well. In addition, individuals released from solitary confinement have higher recidivism rates. In New York each year, nearly 2,000 people are released directly from extreme isolation to the streets.

“The damage done by solitary confinement is deep and permanent,” said solitary survivor Five Mualimm-ak of the Incarcerated Nation Campaign. Mualimm-ak spent five years in isolated confinement despite never having committed a violent act in prison. “Having humane alternatives will spare thousands of people the pain and suffering that extreme isolation causes–and the scars that they carry with them back into our communities.”

Also speaking at the press conference was hip-hop artist Mysonne, who spent time in solitary in New York, and Jessica Casanova, aunt of a young man currently in solitary.

Many of those represented at the press conference are members of the New York Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC), which was instrumental in drafting the bill. CAIC unites advocates, concerned community members, lawyers, and individuals in the human rights, health, and faith communities throughout New York State with formerly incarcerated people and family members of currently incarcerated people.

On May 5, CAIC members from all corners of New York State were gathering at the State Capitol to lobby legislators to support the HALT Solitary Confinement Act.

“CAIC recognizes that we need a fundamental transformation of how our public institutions address people’s needs and behaviors, both in our prisons and in our communities,” said Scott Paltrowitz of the Correctional Association of New York. “Rather than inhumane and ineffective punishment, deprivation, and isolation, the HALT Act would provide people with greater support, programs, and treatment to help them thrive, and in turn make our prisons and our communities safer.”

PRESS CONFERENCE DETAILS:
Date/Time/ Location: Monday, May 5, 10:00 – 11:00 am
LCA Press Room, Legislative Office Building, First Floor198 State Street, Albany

Speakers:

Assembly Member Jeffrion L. Aubry (D, 35th District, Queens),

Assembly sponsor Senator Bill Perkins (D, 30th District, Harlem), Senate sponsor

Five Mualimm-ak, survivor of solitary confinement in New York, Incarcerated Nation Campaign, Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC)

Mysonne, survivor of solitary confinement in New York, hip-hop artist

Jessica Casanova, aunt of individual currently in solitary, CAIC

Scott Paltrowitz, Correctional Association of New York, CAIC

Claire Deroche, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, CAIC

All speakers will be available for interview along with additional family members of    individuals in solitary confinement, advocates, and members of the clergy, including Rev. Dr. Paul S. Johnson, Senior Minister, Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock

PRESS KIT INCLUDES:

Press Release

Summary of the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT)

Solitary Confinement Act

Full Text of HALT Act (A08588A / S06466A)

Fact Sheet on Solitary Confinement in New York State

New York Voices from Solitary Confinement

Congressional Testimony Provided by the Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement

Articles and commentaries on solitary confinement in New York

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:

Megan Crowe-Rothstein, 860-214-2348, megan@urbanjustice.org

Jean Casella, 917-974-0529, casellaj4@gmail.com

www.nycaic.org

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