While there is every reason to maintain strict observation and limitations on a practice designed for an inmate in the midst of a psychotic episode, i.e, seclusion, such requirements do not apply to the use of punitive segregation as a form of discipline on an inmate with a history of mental illness. The current Mental Health Standards, Section 2-08(b), under the heading
“Discipline” provide that “… mental health services shall be informed whenever an inmate in a
special housing area for mental observation is charged with an infraction, and to be permitted
to participate in the infraction hearing and to review any punitive measures to be undertaken,”
and further clearly provides that,
Any inmate to be placed in punitive segregation who has a history of mental or emotional disorders
shall be seen by mental health services before being
moved to punitive segregation….” The Mental Health Standards thus clearly
provide for the process by which some inmates with degrees of mental illness may be placed into punitive segregation.
The BOC’s Health Standard 3
02 (j) similarly requires that a physician approve any inmate’s placement into punitive segregation and may order the inmate’s removal at an
y time. By long practice and written procedures (codified in Departmental Directive 4501), these requirements have been interpreted by DOC to give physicians an absolute veto power over any placement of any inmate into punitive segregation. Again however, they do not prohibit such placements for any inmate with any history of any kind of mental disorder. These practices have long been known to and recognized by the Board of Correction.
The Report's legal analysis also fails to consider the relevance of New York State law, which expressly authorizes both the punitive and administrative segregation of inmates. Specifically, section 137(6) of the Correction Law, made applicable to localities by Section 500-k, provides that,
The superintendent of a correctional facility may keep any inmate confined in a cell or room, apart from the accommodations provided for inmates who are participating in programs
of the facility, for such period as may be necessary for maintenance of order or discipline…”
subject to certain procedures designed to ensure the health and mental health of inmates. Among these conditions is a requirement that regular reports be made regarding
“any recommendation relative to mental health treatment or confinement of an inmate with a
mental illness made by the mental health clinician” who is required to daily visit each
inmate in segregation.
Correction Law Section 136(7)(f). State law thus clearly dictates that segregation is necessary for the safe administration of jails and expressly contemplates that, subject to appropriate safeguards; such segregation may include inmates with some degree of mental illness. As no Standard adopted by the Board may be effective in violation of State Law, the Board should seek legal advice and fully consider the impact of this statute in all of its deliberations.
As noted earlier, all inmates in punitive segregation in New York City must be seen daily by clinicians, and all recommendations with regard to their treatment
including, if indicated, an order that the inmate be removed from segregation
are followed automatically as a matter of policy. See Departmental Directive 4501.