Bill S7631-2013

Relates to personal phone calls for inmates in certain circumstances

Relates to personal phone calls for inmates in certain circumstances.

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  • May 21, 2014: REFERRED TO CRIME VICTIMS, CRIME AND CORRECTION

Memo

BILL NUMBER:S7631

TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the correction law, in relation to personal phone calls for inmates in certain circumstances

PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL: To allow state prison inmates entering solitary confinement in special housing units (SHU) to make a telephone call upon admission into SHU and at least once per month thereafter.

SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS: Section one of the bill amends subdivision six of section 137 of the correction law to allow an inmate to make a telephone call upon his or her admission into solitary confinement including special housing unit, keeplock and administrative segregation and at least once per month thereafter.

Section two is the effective date.

JUSTIFICATION: There are approximately 4,000 inmates confined to a special housing unit (SHU) within the state prison system as a result of disciplinary sanctions. Inmates being held in SHU on such sanctions are confined to a SHU cell for 23 hours per day, with an hour of outdoor recreation in a fenced-in pen or cage, and also lose other privileges including access to telephone calls, personal property, packages and commissary. SHU inmates are limited to one visit per week or may be prohibited from receiving any visits. For a sanction which exceeds six months, such inmates are transferred to a dedicated SHU facility in either Chemung or Franklin counties. Since these facilities are far from the urban and suburban communities where most inmates' families reside, transfers often result in few, or no, visits during an inmate's confinement to SHU. Such visits have become even less frequent since the elimination of the free bus program from the state budget.

Solitary confinement has been found to be a form of torture by the UN Special Rapporteur for Torture. There is a national movement to end the excessive use of this form of disciplinary confinement in prisons. The impact of solitary confinement on the family of an inmate so confined is a significant burden in its own right. A parent, spouse or child of the inmate often has no idea of what has happened to his or her loved one when telephone calls suddenly cease. While an inmate has a constitutional right to correspondence, there are times when postage, paper and writing implements are not present, and correspondence to and from the correctional facility may be delayed or unreliable. Permitting inmates to make telephone calls upon admission into SHU and at monthly intervals thereafter ensures that a mother, father, spouse or child is not left wondering what has happened to his or her loved one.

Confinement to special housing unit can last months, and sometimes years, with numerous deprivations. It is well documented that maintaining family relations improves inmate behavior and safety within a facility and increases an inmate's likelihood of success upon release. In order to ensure that punishment is not excessive and counterproductive, this bill requires DOCCS to provide an inmate with access to at least one phone call upon his or her admission into SHU, and at monthly intervals thereafter.

PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: New bill.

FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: None.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Immediately


Text

STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 7631 IN SENATE May 21, 2014 ___________
Introduced by Sen. MONTGOMERY -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Correction AN ACT to amend the correction law, in relation to personal phone calls for inmates in certain circumstances THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Subdivision 6 of section 137 of the correction law is amended by adding a new paragraph (g) to read as follows: (G) WITHIN TWENTY-FOUR HOURS OF DISCIPLINARY CONFINEMENT, KEEPLOCK PENDING A DISCIPLINARY HEARING, OR PLACEMENT IN A SEGREGATED CONFINEMENT UNIT FOR ADMINISTRATIVE PURPOSES, AND AT MONTHLY INTERVALS THEREAFTER FOR THE DURATION OF SUCH CONFINEMENT, AN INMATE SHALL BE PERMITTED TO MAKE AT LEAST ONE PERSONAL PHONE CALL, EXCEPT WHEN TO DO SO WOULD CREATE AN UNACCEPTABLE RISK TO THE SAFETY AND SECURITY OF INMATES OR STAFF. S 2. This act shall take effect immediately.

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