Palmesano Blasts Gov. Cuomo For Approving Bill Limiting Use of Special Housing Units to Segregate Violent and Dangerous Inmates

Will lead to even further escalation of violence against staff and inmates inside correctional facilities

With the stroke of a pen, Gov. Cuomo made an already dangerous, ‘powder keg’ environment inside our correctional facilities even more volatile for staff and inmates. Gov. Cuomo, Wednesday, signed into law Assembly Bill 2277, which will limit the use of segregation of dangerous, violent and disruptive inmates from other inmates in the general population by placing them in Special Housing Units (SHU).

Advocates of this legislation have often referred to this as “solitary confinement” or “torture,” said Palmesano. “It is not! Individuals residing in Special Housing Units receive property, services and amenities like those in the general population. They receive and have access to outdoor recreation, personal visits, unlimited legal visits, religious counseling services, daily medical sick call and emergency sick call, daily visits from an offender rehabilitation coordinator for counseling services, frequent mental health assessments, headphones and radios, access to tablets for phone calls and for various forms of media as well as access to a variety of other services and amenities.”

“Unfortunately, the governor’s prison closures, coupled with his policies, or lack thereof, have created a dangerous ‘powder keg’ environment of increased violence, drug contraband and gang activity inside our correctional facilities. He has failed to provide important tools like utilizing a secure vendor mail/package program and K-9 drug dogs at each facility to help keep drugs out of our prisons. Now, limiting and restricting the use of Special Housing Units to segregate violent, dangerous and disruptive inmates from other inmates in the general population will further increase the already-violent and dangerous environment inside our facilities, jeopardizing the safety and well-being of our brave and dedicated correction officers and staff, in addition to other inmates.

“We don’t have to look any further than the governor’s own correctional numbers. Since 2016, inmate-on-staff assaults are up 38%. In addition, inmate-on-inmate assaults have also increased 31% since 2015. It is mind-boggling that the governor and his administration continue to take actions that make our correctional facilities more dangerous for staff and inmates, especially in the face of the rising number of assaults,” said Palmesano.

Last week, Palmesano sent a letter to the governor with fellow Republicans on the Assembly Corrections Committee Joe Giglio and Mark Walczyk, urging him to veto the legislation. In the letter, which is attached, they made it clear that this legislation was unnecessary, costly and dangerous.

The letter is attached.