Hauppauge Rally to End Solitary for Mentally Ill 6/18/07

Rally to Boot the SHU

(Special Housing Unit)

End solitary confinement for mentally ill prisoners!

Where: State Office Building , Veterans Hwy. , Hauppauge,

From the east) Take Long Island Expressway and get off at Exit 57, Veterans Highway , going west. Stay on Veterans Highway for about two miles and you will see a sign that says State Office Building on your left.

(From the west) Take Northern State Parkway to the end and it will become Veterans Highway . Continue on Veterans Highway for about a mile and you will see a sign on the right that says State Office Building .

When: Monday, June 18, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

Wear & Bring:  Dress in black and bring a candle.  Make and bring signs.  Suggested wording: Boot the SHU, Mental illness is a disease, not a crime, End solitary for people with mental illness, Treatment not torture; Governor Spitzer: Don’t pull a Pataki. Sign S-333/A.4870; SHU = self mutilation and suicide; New York ’s shame – SHU for mentally ill prisoners.


·         Approximately 8,000 New York inmates – 12% of the prison population – suffer from serious and persistent mental illness – illness that reduces the likelihood that they will conform to prison rules and adapt to prison life. 

·         And yet at any given time, according to the state, 25% of persons in SHUS suffer from serious mental illness.  NAMI-NYS believes that figure is low, and that the rate of inmates with mental illness in SHUS is 3 times that of the general prison population.

·         Inmates in SHUs spend at least several months – and often many years – in this confinement.  Inmates suffering from psychiatric deterioration while in the box often become so ill they engage in further “misconduct” leading to further SHU confinement.  And studies show that these persons engage in acts of self-mutilation and commit suicide 3 times as often as other inmates.

·         Last year the SHU bill passed the legislature overwhelmingly and was vetoed by Governor Pataki.  This year the NYS Senate passed it unanimously and it is on track to be passed by the Assembly.  Governor Spitzer is threatening a veto because of the expense of providing treatment and a court settlement that would cut hours in the SHU from 23 hours to 21. 


Tuesday, June 12 – Governor Spitzer (518) 474-8390

Tuesday, June 12 – Write letters to the editor in response to Sol Wachtler’s Op-Ed on the SHU that is in today’s Newsday. Also write letters to the editor in response to yesterday’s New York Times editorial. (Both reprinted below) 

Thursday, June 14 – Rally at the Governor’s Office in NYC, 3rd Avenue & 41st Ave. , 12:00-1:00 PM.

Monday, June 18 – Rally at state office building in Hauppauge.  12:00-1:00 PM. See above.

Monday, June 18 – Send a memo of support to deliver to the legislature and Governor (Template and more details to follow from NYC Advocates)

Tuesday, June 19 – Call-In to the Assembly Speaker, Senate Majority Leader, and Governor (numbers above)

June 12, 2007
Letters, Newsday

“Ban the Box for the Mentally Ill”

“I don’t believe it. Not in America!” That is how an acquaintance responded when I told him about New York’s barbaric practice of throwing symptomatic mentally ill prisoners into solitary for “misbehaving”, and keeping them there for months, even years, where they deteriorate even further and frequently commit suicide. But as Sol Wachtler confirms (“Ban the Box for the Mentally Ill) it is happening in our country and though the New York State legislature has voted overwhelmingly again this year to end this medieval practice, Governor Spitzer, like his predecessor Governor Pataki, seems poised to veto this desperately needed legislation.

It’s time for New York to regain the moral high ground and join other states like New Jersey, California, and Florida who have banned this abhorrent practice. Governor Spitzer believes in putting patients first. That dictum should apply to mentally ill individuals who, because of their illness, have been caught up in the criminal justice system and need treatment to get out and stay out of prison.


Janet Susin
National Association on Mental Illness

Statement on Special Housing Units from National Alliance on Mental Health

Ban ‘the box’ for the mentally ill
Sick inmates should never be isolated and mistreated. From one who knows: ‘Cold mercy’ serves no one.

Sol Wachtler is a former chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals and teaches constitutional law at the Touro Law School

Mental Health in Prisons
NY Times editorial

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