Prison Isolation = Torture: Letter to the Editor by Mr. Johnny Perez, The New York Times, 4.07.16

07 Apr Prison Isolation = Torture: Letter to the Editor by Mr. Johnny Perez, The New York Times, 4.07.16

To the Editor:

New York State’s impending solitary confinement reforms (“Judge Backs Settlement on Isolation of Inmates,” news article, April 1) warrant clarification. Solitary confinement will be limited to 30 days for first-time nonviolent offenses; however, subsequent infractions could still result in back-to-back sentences that extend time in solitary indefinitely.

Having spent over three years in solitary confinement myself, I know firsthand that misbehavior reports have often been issued arbitrarily, empowering prison guards to make decisions about whether to leave someone in solitary confinement for years. International standards, including the Mandela Rules and the Special Rapporteur on Torture, have determined that solitary confinement beyond 15 days constitutes torture.

Without a limit on the total length of time people may spend in solitary confinement, the torture of months, years and even decades in solitary confinement can continue.

–JOHNNY PEREZ, New York.  The writer is a safe re-entry advocate for the Mental Health Project at the Urban Justice Center.