February 2024 Newsletter

February 2024 Newsletter

February is and will be a busy month for IAHR.  HB 1244/SB719 which will end prolonged isolation in VA has now passed the House of Delegates Public Safety Committee and will pass to the Approprations Committee next week. Please respond to the action alert below.  
You will also find an Action Alert for the DC Omnibus Crime Bill. The bill has too many provisions which will not help reduce the violence in DC while infringing on civil liberties.
We also have an update on our legislation in MD. We will have more to say about our efforts to promote that legislation next week.  
Finally, please read the articles on NY City ending solitary at Rikers Island and the Prison Policy Initative's Report on how the criminal justice system impacts families.  

Action Alert: Support HB1244/SB719 to End Prolonged Isolation In VA

Action Alert: Oppose the Secure DC Omnibus Crime Bill

Update on the Maryland Solitary Legislation

NYC Ends Solitary Confinement at Rikers Island

PPI: How the Criminal and Legal Child Welfare Systems Cooperate to Punish Families

Action Alert: Support HB 1244/SB719 to End Prolonged Isolation in Virginia

IAHR urges all Virginia residents to support HB 1244 which ends prolonged isolation in Virginia State Prisons. It limits any isolation to no more than 15 consecutive days. HB 1244/SB719 passed the House of Delegates Committee today by a vote of 4-2! It will come before the House Appropriations Committee next week.  

Click on this link 
 to send a message of support to all the members of the committee. 

Now is a critical moment to push for the Virginia legislature and Governor to restrict the use of Restorative housing and isolated confinement. Please take one minute to urge Virginia lawmakers to enact HB1244/SB719 today. 

Photo from the New Yorker

Click Here to Urge lawmakers to end torture in VA State Prisons!

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Action Alert: Oppose the DC Omnibus Crime Bill

On Tuesday February 6, the DC Council will take its first vote on a bill called the Secure DC Omnibus. Unfortunately, despite multiple expert reports and significant advocacy in favor of proactive, evidence-based interventions, the Secure DC Omnibus bill is focused on short term, punitive tactics. Far too many parts of the bill are overly-broad and/or discredited approaches that are likely to do more harm than good. We urge you to take action against the worst of these measures, and join us in working towards equitable, sustainable public safety. Our task as religious people is not merely to reduce the presence of crime, it is to increase the presence of justice. 

The most important action right now is flooding Council offices with phone calls opposing the worst provisions of the bill. Every call you make matters! Most offices track the number of calls they get, and even share them with each other. 

Sample script:

Hi, My name is _____. I’m a resident of Ward __, and a [member of religious institution], OR [a resident of ______ neighborhood]. I’m calling to ask the Councilmember to support evidence-based measures to create sustainable public safety, not the punitive tactics in the Secure DC Omnibus. Specifically, I’m asking the Councilmember to oppose these provisions: the presumption in favor of pretrial detention; giving MPD authority to establish drug free zones; and reducing the accountability provided by Body-Worn Camera (BWC) footage. 

I believe that each of these measures will do more harm than good. Again, I urge the Councilmember to support effective, community-centered initiatives instead. Thank you.

Click Here for DC Council Members and their Contact Information. 

Click Here to read Paul Butler's Op-Ed criticizing the Omnibus Crime Bill 

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Update on Maryland Solitary Legislation

IAHR along with its coalition partners is readying solitary legislation to be introduced in the upcoming legislative sessions in Maryland and Virginia. Delegate N. Scott Phillips and Senator Mary Washington are the lead sponsors.  

Highlights of the Proposed Legislation

  • No one can be placed in isolation for longer than 15 consecutive days during a 60-day period and no more than a total of 18 days during the 60-day period.
  • Anyone in restrictive housing must receive a mental health assessment within 24 hours.
  • Anyone in restrictive housing must receive 4 hours of out of cell time.
  • Mentally ill people with a few exceptions cannot be placed in isolation.
  • Incarcerated people can ask to be placed in protective custody for a limited time.

End Long-Term Solitary Confinement in Maryland State Prisons--WHY? 

It’s inhumane. According to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, there should be an absolute ban on restrictive housing (solitary confinement) for longer than 15 days. Isolation longer than 15 days is considered an act of torture. (Interim Report of the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. A/66/268 (August 5, 2011), paragraph 78.)

It costs more money. States that have reduced solitary confinement have experienced significant savings. –
It doesn’t reduce violence; in fact, it may increase violence within and without the prison system.–
It is destructive to the goal of helping prisoners become contributing members of society when they get out.|

Some Facts about Restrictive Housing (Solitary) in Maryland

Nationally, 4-5% of those incarcerated are placed in restrictive housing. According to the 2022 report of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, 25.8% of incarcerated individuals were in restrictive housing (solitary) at least once, 7.5% more than the prior year. The average length of stay in restrictive housing (solitary) was 42.5 days.

In 2022, 135 people were released directly to the community, after spending an average of 59 days in restrictive housing.

As soon as Legislative Services completes the drafting of the bill and as soon as we know the bill number, we will send that to you. We will also send informaton about contacting the House Judiciary Committee.

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NYC Council Overrides Mayor Adams' Vetoes on Legislation to Support Police Transparency and Ban Solitary Confinement

City Hall, NY – Today, the New York City Council voted to override Mayor Adams’ vetoes on Introduction 586-A and Introduction 549-A, with a vote of 42-9.

“Today, the Council answered decades-long calls from communities most impacted by police stops and the harmful legacy of stop-and-frisk, to deliver much-needed transparency to policing and advance true public safety for New Yorkers,” said Speaker Adrienne Adams. “By collecting and disclosing data on investigative stops, the How Many Stops Act will bring forth a fuller picture of these encounters, fostering accountability and trust between the police and the communities they serve. The Council was also proud to override the Mayor’s veto to ban solitary confinement in city jails and advance a new approach to reduce violence and prioritize safety for both staff and those detained. As government, we have a responsibility to do right by New Yorkers who have been persistently harmed and failed by these unjust policies. We are proud to override the Mayor’s vetoes and hold our government accountable for delivering transparency and true safety to all New Yorkers.”

Click here to read the rest of the press release.  

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PPI: How the Criminal and Child Welfare Systems Cooperate to Punish Families

Child protective service agencies position themselves as providers of welfare, but their relationship to the criminal legal system demonstrates their shared role in punishing families and exacerbating the conditions that lead to system involvement in the first place.

by Emma Peyton Williams, January 8, 2024

The harmful effects of the criminal legal system on children are well-established. For years, evidence has shown that a parent’s involvement with the criminal legal system can harm kids, and incarcerating children has lifelong consequences. We’ve reported on efforts in several states to mitigate the negative impact of the criminal legal system on children but seldom discussed how the criminal legal and child welfare systems are deeply interwoven. A growing number of advocates and experts are bringing these connections to light and are organizing for momentous change. This briefing draws attention to their work to argue that, by expanding our view beyond jails and prisons to include these related systems, advocates and policymakers can safeguard against creating prisons by another name.

Click Here to read the rest of the Report.  

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