On July 10, 2014, Professor Alex Reinert of Cardozo School of Law testified before the New York State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Hearing on Youth Solitary Confinement in New York. The Commission sought Reinert’s expertise on the issue of whether the practice of putting young detainees and prisoners into solitary confinement has a disproportionate impact on youth of color and mentally ill youth that violates federal civil rights laws. He argued that it does.
Professor Reinert has been involved in prisoners’ rights advocacy for over 14 years. This spring, along with the New York Civil Liberties Union, he reached a settlement with New York State under which the use of solitary confinement for youth and mentally ill inmates in state prisons will be discontinued.
In his detailed analysis Professor Reinert stressed that in New York State the use of solitary confinement is subject to no statutory restraint. He noted that the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision has granted individual hearing officers broad powers to confine prisoners in SHU for long periods of time, with some prisoners spending year after year in isolation.
Professor Reinert’s argument is based on the Eighth Amendment protections for prisoners against cruel and unusual punishment, and the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause, which provides certain procedural protections as well as substantive limitations on the use of punishment for pretrial detainees.
In this video interview Professor Reinert makes the case against solitary confinement.