Sarah Kerr On Panel Discusses The Over-Use of Solitary Confinement In New York

Sarah Kerr, a Staff Attorney in the Prisoners' Rights Project of The Legal Aid Society, will be part of a panel discussion on the over-use of solitary confinement in New York. State and local legislators, advocates and formerly incarcerated New Yorkers and their families will be part of the Town Hall tomorrow from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Adam Clayton Powell Building, 8th floor.

Each year, the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) sentences thousands upon thousands of prisoners to spend months, and even years, in Special Housing Units (SHU), where they are subject to extreme forms of isolation and deprivation. Each year, 25,000 people, many of whom will have spent significant amounts of time in a SHU cell, are released from New York prisons to return home. In New York City, the Department of Correction is expanding solitary confinement capacity in the jails – once completed, solitary cells will number 1,215, or approximately one for every ten incarcerated individuals.

Sarah was counsel in the state-wide case Disability Advocates, Inc. v. New York State Office of Mental Health, et al., which challenged the failure to provide adequate mental health care in the state prisons (and the resultant over-use of solitary confinement for prisoners with serious mental illness) Much of the settlement in that litigation became law when the 'SHU Exclusion Law' was passed.

Testimony opposing the expansion of solitary confinement