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Corrections officers union seeks repeal of HALT Act amid rising violence rates

Posted 11/9/22

The New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association, Inc. is calling on the State Legislature to repeal the HALT Ac.

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Corrections officers union seeks repeal of HALT Act amid rising violence rates

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ALBANY — The New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association, Inc. is calling on the State Legislature to repeal the HALT Act, after state data revealed a continued rise in violence rates in the state’s correctional facilities.

Recently published statistics maintained by the New York State Department of Correction and Community Supervision (DOCCS) show not only the continued rise in violence rates inside New York’s correctional facilities since the enactment of HALT, but also the single year record for assaults on staff by incarcerated individuals was set in mid-October, with nearly 10 weeks remaining in the calendar year, said NYSCOPBA President Michael Powers.

The Humane Alternatives for Long Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act, which limits, or in some cases eliminates, the ability to place incarcerated individuals in Special Housing Units separated from the general population, was implemented in all state-run correctional facilities on April 1.

“This is a sad day for New York. Not only are the members of NYSCOPBA, who continue to work in the harshest of working conditions being assaulted at never-before seen rates, but their health and safety is being ignored by those who are charged with protecting the state workforce, the elected leaders of the New York State Legislature.” Powers said. “Through their continued ignorance and refusal to acknowledge months of the data that disproves the belief that the HALT Act would ‘improve safety in our prisons,’ more and more New Yorker’s lives are forever changed and altered due to needless suffering and violence.”

He said, “What is it going to take for someone in state government to step up, see the skyrocketing rise of assaults in prisons reflected in the data, admit HALT isn’t working, and do something about it? Stop being fearful of the advocate community who rely on trigger words to distort reality and stand up for the men and women who keep New York safe.”

According to state data, the single-year record of assaults on staff by incarcerated individuals was eclipsed in the month of October and stands at 1,231 as of Oct. 31. The previous record of 1,177 assaults on staff was set in 2021. Over the past decade, assaults on staff have doubled from 1.5 assaults per day in 2012 to more than 3.2 assaults per day in 2021.

Since the enactment of HALT, Powers said assaults on staff rose to over 4 assaults per day and peaked at nearly 5 assaults per day in August, levels never before seen in the state’s history. Overall violence in prisons, both inmate on staff assaults and inmate on inmate assaults have risen nearly 30% since April 1, said Powers.

“The single year record for assaults on staff was set in mid-October with an entire 2 ½ months remaining in the year,” the NYSCOPBA president said. “HALT advocates call NYSCOPBA liars, accuse us of spreading ‘anti-HALT propaganda’ and hand wave away the data by claiming assaults against staff were already rising prior to HALT.”

He said, “While the number of assaults on staff incidents has gradually increased over the past decade, it doesn’t explain why there was a significant spike in violence beginning April 1. Simply put, the rate of assaults on staff is 30% higher during HALT than the months just prior to its implementation. This isn’t propaganda, it’s fact. It’s readily available data that can be found on the state’s website.”

Recently, NYSCOPBA held a series of “Restore Safety in our Facilities” rallies across New York. Over the course of a week, hundreds of officers, community members and families gathered to raise awareness of the violence crisis occurring inside New York’s correctional facilities since the enactment of the HALT Act.

As part of their continued Repeal HALT Public Awareness Campaign over social media platforms, NYSCOPBA additionally has utilized more traditional media like newspaper advertisements and billboards, both digital and mobile, to educate the public on the realities its members face daily working inside a correctional facility, Powers said. These efforts have appeared in the New York Post, and throughout  New York in Brooklyn, Albany and the Bronx.

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