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Salazar, Souffrant, and Forrest propose bill to target corrupt prisons and jails

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Senator Julia Salazar and Assemblymember Phara Souffrant Forrest have introduced the “Rights Behind Bars” bill in response to a multi-part investigation that found New York state prisons and local jails were violating the HALT Solitary Confinement Act and flouting state law. The bill aims to address these violations and limit incarcerated people’s rights in prison and jail.

The legislation includes measures to strengthen the HALT Solitary Confinement Act, such as overturning bans on personalized care packages, making prison and jail phone calls free, and limiting impunity for abusive corrections officers. It aims to place the rights of incarcerated people and their families in New York within the framework of international human rights law.

The bill has garnered widespread support and seeks to change the trajectory of New York’s criminal justice system by placing human dignity at its core. It also aims to hold prison and jail facilities accountable for following the restrictions of the HALT Solitary Confinement Act.

The “Rights Behind Bars” bill would also require facilities to allow daily visits, mandate regular access to fruits and vegetables, and price items in prison canteens at least 60 percent below market rates. The legislation seeks to reverse a policy banning most care packages from family and friends, and make communications with loved ones free.

The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) does not comment on pending legislation. However, the bill aims to address numerous issues uncovered by investigative reporting, including violations of human rights and abuse of incarcerated individuals.

Moving forward, the bill will be considered by Senate and Assembly committees after the legislative session begins next month. It has the potential to bring about significant changes to the criminal justice system in New York and ensure greater protection of the rights of incarcerated individuals and their families.

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Photo credit nysfocus.com

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