But, big news from SDNY on solitary confinement: Yesterday, Judge Scheindlin approved a settlement in Peoples v. Annucci that will overhaul solitary confinement in New York state prisons. The settlement is about what is called the “SHU,” which is pronounced like “shoe,” and is an abbreviation for “Special Housing Units.” The agreement should, among other things, end this type of solitary confinement for more than 1,100 people, limit the duration of time people have to stay in solitary, and eliminate the use of solitary as punishment for minor violations. Judge Scheindlin wrote that the settlement is the “best example of the power of impact litigation to redress conditions that affect the most vulnerable members of our society.”
It should, however, be noted that while this is a big change, it does not do everything. Some class members objected that the settlement didn’t go further, including that it didn’t require additional cameras in SHU areas and greater access to mental health treatment. Also, when talking about solitary confinement reform, it’s always good to remember that there are many different types of restrictive housing in prison facilities – the SHU is just one – and some class members called for improvements to other types of administrative segregation.
Want to know more about solitary reform? Check out the HALT Solitary Confinement Act, which has been pending in the N.Y. state legislature for years now, and would ban isolated confinement for any longer than 15 consecutive days.