Center on Sentencing and Corrections

Hidden Prisons, Twenty-Three Hour Lockdown Units in New York State Correctional Facilities

Hidden Prisons, Twenty-Three Hour Lockdown Units in New York State Correctional Facilities

Jennifer R. Wynn and Alisa Szatrowski, “Hidden Prisons, Twenty-Three Hour Lockdown Units in New York State Correctional Facilities,” Pace Law Review 24, no. 2 (2004), 497-525, https://perma.cc/HU9R-3KG9. 

This article details the rise and prevalence of disciplinary lockdown in New York state and the United States, including “keeplock,” Special Housing Units, and High-Tech Lockdown Facilities. The construction of correctional facilities with these forms of disciplinary lockdown cells was incentivized by the need to free up space in maximum-security cells to accommodate incoming incarcerated people for general confinement. In addition, the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act is cited as a cause of increased construction of lockdown units, as the legislation incentivized states to build new prisons and end parole. This article critiques the process of placing incarcerated people in disciplinary lockdown, including the low-level and non-violent infractions that result in restrictive housing assignments. 

This article addresses areas of concern with the state of disciplinary lockdown in New York, including the high number of individuals in these restrictive settings, their long lengths of stay with no set limits, the prevalence of individuals in lockdown with a mental illness, and the detrimental impacts that isolation has on their health. It also examines the additional punishments and deprivations imposed on individuals, the high rates of suicide and self-harm (as more than half of suicides in prison in New York take place in lockdown units), and the impacts on correction officers. The article concludes that there is not enough oversight of the human rights violations that occur within New York state prisons, and that there is a desperate need for reform to address these issues. 

 Click here to read the article. 

 Keywords: solitary confinement, restrictive housing, lockdown, disciplinary lockdown, legislation, prison construction, mental health, New York