Corrections officers, state lawmakers speak out against HALT Act
ELMIRA, N.Y. (WENY) -- Union leaders representing state corrections officers, along with lawmakers from the Southern Tier stood in front of the Elmira Correctional Facilities to speak out against the HALT Act, and the impact it has had on prisons across New York.
The HALT Act is a state law that went into effect in April 1st, 2022 after it was signed into law by then-Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2021. The law changed the amount of time an inmate can spend in segregated confinement to no more than 15 days, or 20 days in a 60 day period. Senator Tom O'Mara (R - Big Flats) says the law has stripped correctional systems of a tool to keep inmates under control.
“They're out of their cell and with other inmates for hours throughout a day,” O’Mara said. “We have no effective discipline system in the department of corrections now, as a result of HALT.”
Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R - Corning) said the implementation of the law correlates to the staggering inmate statistics. In 2010, there were 577 inmates on staff assaults out of an inmate population of 57,000. In 2021, there were 1177 out of a population of 32,000. Palmesano says limiting segregated confinement has made it harder to discipline inmates.
NYSCOPBA President Michael Powers was vocal about the roadblocks the Act has created for prison staff. At Wednesday's press conference, he spoke about inmates assaulting one another, including one who was slashed at the Elmira Correctional Facility two weeks prior on August 3rd. He shared how even worse scenarios have become a reality because of the HALT Act.
“Two people have been murdered inside our corrections facility,” Powers said. “We've had two homicides in the last four years in the prison system. What's that tell you?”
Assemblyman Palmesano says the prison population has gone down but attacks have increased threefold. In 2010, on average, there were 10 recorded attacks per 1,000 inmates. In 2021, there were 37 attacks per 1,000.