Union blames HALT Act for rise in inmate violence at Gouverneur prison

GOUVERNEUR, New York (WWNY) – A rise in inmate violence at the Gouverneur Correctional Facility has some local and state leaders frustrated over the HALT Act, which limits how long inmates spend in solitary confinement.

In a recent news release, officials with the union representing corrections officers say, “Over a span of a week, three weapons were seized and three inmates were slashed with make-shift weapons during inmate-on-inmate fights.”

It’s just not inmate-on-inmate violence, the union says the latest incidents come after corrections officers were hurt at Gouverneur too.

“May 4th, three officers were injured, one being diagnosed with a concussion from inmate assaults. And that’s the trend we’re seeing because of the HALT bill,” said NYSCOPBA Central Region Vice President Bryan Hluska.

The HALT Act limits the time an inmate can spend in segregated confinement, instead putting inmates in Residential Rehabilitation Units.

In RRUs, Hluska says, multiple resources are available for inmates such as computer tablets, therapy, and access to visitations – something not available in the general population portion of the facility.

“The problem with the HALT bill is they made it – they glamorize the RRU to where they would rather be in RRU than general population, so you do see an uptick in inmates purposefully misbehaving to get back into the RRU,” said Hluska.

Violence isn’t exclusive to Gouverneur Correctional Facility. Data provided by the union show in the month of April 2023, total assaults in prisons statewide tallied 266. Compare that to April of 2021, when 158 attacks happened.

“It’s so volatile right now that people do not want to keep working in this department because of the track that this department is on and it isn’t the department’s fault for HALT. For HALT, that’s strictly the legislation,” said Hluska.

There is an effort in Albany to repeal the HALT Act, led by Republican north country state Senator Dan Stec.

So far it hasn’t gotten gotten traction from Democrats. The bill needs 11 more senators to sign on to pass the Senate.

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