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The Honorable Andrew M.

Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

Hon. Andrea Stewart-Cousins


Majority Leader, New York State Senate
188 State Street Room 907
Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247

Hon. Carl E. Heastie


Speaker, New York State Assembly
188 State Street Room 932
Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248

Dear Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Heastie, and Governor
Cuomo:

As faith leaders across New York State, we - the undersigned - are writing to share our moral
outrage at the current torture of solitary confinement in NY and to respectfully urge you to
immediately enact the HALT Solitary Confinement Act, S.1623/A.2500. The current practices of
solitary confinement are barbaric, unconscionable, and counter to our faith traditions, and it is
critical that New York State end this torture by enacting HALT.

People from all faiths - including representatives of Catholic, evangelical Christian, mainline
Protestant, Unitarian Universalist, Quaker, Orthodox Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Baha’i,
Buddhist, and Sikh communities - have spoken out against solitary confinement in New York
and across the country.

All of these individuals have recognized that solitary confinement is both a moral and a religious
issue. There are scores of passages talking about people in prison in many faith traditions. What
is most clearly evident in most of these passages, and still applies today, is a position of
solidarity with those who are in prison, regardless of the reason. "Be with those who are in prison
as though you are in prison; those who are being tortured as though you yourselves were being
tortured." (Hebrews 13:3). The Holy Qur’an and hadith teach us that Allah created human beings
with great dignity and worth. In other passages of the Bible we are told to "heed the groans of
[people in prison]." Jesus tells us repeatedly to visit people in prison. In the Episcopal Church,
the Baptismal covenant calls upon people to "serve Christ in all persons, love thy neighbor as
thyself" and "strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every
human being"

Through all of these, and countless other examples, our faiths are telling us that people in prison
must not be treated as non-persons, invisible once locked away behind high walls; that their
suffering matters; and that we should be with them, visiting them so that in practice they are not
isolated and cut off from humanity. It's hard to square that perspective with the practice of
widespread and prolonged solitary confinement.

Our approach to prisons needs to reflect our religious values, not the retributive ethos that
prisons mostly embody. People in prison do not stop being fully human, or lose their most basic
human rights, when they lose their freedom.

Holding people in solitary confinement for years and decades until they become mentally broken
is immoral because it violates the inherent dignity and worth of every person. Community and
fellowship are essential to our faith traditions. Solitary confinement severely restricts the ability
to grow and develop spiritually and mentally through the company of others. Prolonged solitary
confinement can lead to paranoia, delusions, and other long-term mental effects. It severely
damages people's’ capacity to think critically and reform behavior. Solitary confinement does not
transform peoples' behavior in a positive way. We should not deny the opportunity for
rehabilitation by holding people in solitary confinement for months and years.

While we come at the issue from different faiths, we all agree that solitary confinement is torture
and it must end. Thousands of our fellow New Yorkers – our loved ones, our friends, our
congregants, and others – are in solitary confinement today, and tens of thousands of people each
year are subjected to the practice. They are disproportionately Black and Latinx people. Those in
solitary are held 22 to 24 hours a day, with no meaningful human contact or programs, isolated
even further from their families, communities, and the outside world than people in prison
generally. People in New York regularly spend months and years in solitary; some people have
been in solitary for decades and even more than 30 years.

Solitary confinement has long been shown to cause intense suffering and devastating physical,
mental, and behavioral harm. The risks of self-harm and suicide are dramatically increased for
people in solitary. As people of faith and conscience, we are morally outraged that New York
continues to allow the use of solitary confinement. Action is needed now.

The entire United Nations, including the US, passed rules prohibiting solitary beyond 15 days for
any person, because it otherwise would amount to torture. The HALT Solitary Confinement Act
would similarly include a 15-day limit on solitary, and would create more humane and effective
alternatives. The alternatives put forward in HALT would not only be more humane but would
also make prisons and jails safer for staff who work in these facilities, as well as for incarcerated
people. States that have reduced the use of solitary have seen a positive impact on safety for both
incarcerated people and correction officers.

Innumerable faith congregations and institutions in New York have endorsed the HALT Solitary
Confinement Act, including (in alphabetical order): Albany Friends Meeting, Amawalk Quaker
Meeting, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), AFSC New York, Black Lives Matter
Committee of the Unitarian Church on Staten Island, the Clergy Campaign for Social and
Economic Justice, Committee to Witness to Society and the World, Presbytery of New York
City, Episcopal Diocese of New York, Episcopal Diocese of Western NY, Episcopal Peace
Fellowship - WNY Chapter, First Corinthian Baptist Church, Interfaith Impact of New York
State, Judson Memorial Church, Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State, Long Island
Council of Churches, Metro New York Religious Campaign Against Torture, Metropolitan
Community United Methodist Church, The MICAH Institute at the Interfaith Center of New
York, Morningside Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, Muslim Defense
Project, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, New York Chapter of the Union of Black
Episcopalians (UBE), New York Interfaith Campaign Against Torture (NYICAT), New York
Province of the Society of Jesus, New York State Catholic Conference, New York State Council
of Churches, Peace and Justice Task Force of All Souls Unitarian Church, Presbyterian Peace
Fellowship, Reconstructionist Synagogue of the North Shore, Riverside Prison Ministry,
Riverside Salem UCC, Sisters of Saint Joseph of Brentwood, Social Justice Committee,
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Poughkeepsie, Social Responsibilities Council of Albany
Unitarian Universalist Society, Social Justice Committee of the Ithaca Monthly Meeting
Religious Society of Friends, The Social Justice Committee of the Oratory Church of St.
Boniface, Social Justice Committee of Saint Francis Xavier, Brooklyn, Social Justice Committee
of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock, Social Justice Ministry of Christ
Church Riverdale, Syracuse Jail Ministry, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights,
Unitarian Universalist Society of South Suffolk, and Uri L’Tzedek.

People of faith are called to bring justice, not vengeance. Vengeful punishment is beyond the
bounds of justice. We are called to speak for those in our community who have no voice – the
poor, orphaned, and imprisoned. As people of faith, we must be advocates for justice. We are
thus speaking out and calling upon you to end this torture in New York. Concerns for morality,
basic human rights and decency, as well as safety, all demand that New York end this torture.
The use of solitary confinement is a violation of personhood, and of our shared humanity, that
cannot continue.

HALT is the comprehensive bill to address this moral crisis at this time, and we urge the Senate
and Assembly to pass, and the Governor to sign, the HALT Solitary Confinement Act
immediately (in its current form without its provisions watered down). We also recognize that
solitary is just one component of an entire injustice and incarceration system that is harming
people, families, and communities, and so also urge you to support a whole slate of policy
changes, including related to parole release consideration, access to higher education and voting
rights for people in prison and who have come home, the closing of brutal prisons, and more.

Sincerely,

Rev. Ann Kansfield Pastor Greenpoint Reformed Church

Richard Gilbert President Interfaith Impact of NYS

Robb Smith Lay Community Minister & Executive Interfaith Impact of NYS
Director

Donna Schaper Judson Memorial Church Senior Minister Judson Memorial Church

Rev. John Sampson Pastor Keene Valley Congregational Church


Harry Grace Episcopal Priest VOICE-Buffalo

Barbara Baxter Ordained Minister The Episcopal Church USA

Rabbi Michael E Director Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition


Feinberg

Judith M Breny Episcopal Clergy CMH Counseling

Barry Nobel Trustee Unitarian Universalist Church at Shelter


Rock

Joseph Kozlowski Episcopal Priest Grace Church

Constance Tempel Co-chair Social Justice Action Oratory Church of St.


Boniface

Rev. Dr. Victoria Jeanne Community Chaplain, Ordained Interfaith Rise Again Ministries, L.O,V.E. Task Force
Rollins Minister, Co-Chair of Domestic Violence and on Non-violent Living, & Episcopal Diocese
Sexual Assault Task Force in Episcopal of New York Dome
Diocese of NY

Russell A. Newbert Pastor, St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Angola, Episcopal Diocese of Western New York
NY

Sister Rosalie Carven Social Justice Committee Member Sisters of St. Joseph Brentwood, NY

Diana Weaving Social Justice Ministry Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of


Huntington

Pat Enkyo O'Hara Rev. Roshi Village Zendo

Jone Johnson Lewis Clergy Leader Society for Ethical Culture

Daniel Atwood Rabbi

Rev.Posey Krakowsky Episcopal priest Church of the Ascension

Martha Gallahue Clergy Leader American Ethical Union

Cassi Kail Rabbi

James White Clergy Leader, American Ethical Union Retired Leader, Riverdale-Yonkers Society
for Ethical Culture
Helen Kearney President Sisters of St. Joseph

Eileen McCann, CSJ CSJ Non-Violence Community Congregration of St. Joseph

Rev. Adrian Dannhauser Associate Rector Church of the Incarnation

Kim Co-coordinator Micah Faith Organization

Betsy Roadman Episcopal Priest Christ Episcopal Church


and San Marcos
Tarrytown, NY

The Rev. Jennie Talley Rector St. John’s Wilmot Episcopal Church

The Rev. Cameron Priest Episcopal Diocese of New York


Hardy

Robert M Pierson OHC Priest-in-Charge Ascension Holy Trinity Episcopal Church

Martha Rollins Overall Priest-in-Charge St. Ann's Church of Morrisania

Joe Parrish Episcopal Priest Episcopal Church

Anne Sawyer Rector St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery

Susan Hill Episcopal Priest Church of the Holy Apostles

Timothy Coombs Pastor Trinity Presbyterian Church

The Rev. Canon K. Canon for Pastoral Care Episcopal Diocese of New York
Jeanne Person

Lev Meirowitz Nelson Rabbi T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

Sandy J Damhof Pastor Journey United Church of Christ

Rabbi Jill Jacobs Executive Director T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

The Rev. Susan Associate Rector St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church


Anderson-Smith

The Rev. Susan Copley Rector Christ Episcopal Church &San Marcos

Rev. Mark Tammen General Presbyter/Stated Clerk Presbytery of Long Island


Suzanne Bernstein Cantor T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

Cynthia Stravers Associate Rector Church of the Heavenly Rest

Rev. Emily McNeill Executive Director Labor-Religion Coaition of NYS

The Rev. Susan St. Gregory's Episcopal Church, Woodstock,


Auchincloss Priest Associate NY

Thomas Hawkins Priest, Rector St. Simon's Church

John W. McNeill Retired United Methodist Pastor

Linda Rousseau Co-Chair Peace and Justice Task Force All Souls Unitarian Church

Rev. Anne Dunlap Faith Coordinator, SURJ Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ)

Judith Lewis Rabbi Emerita

Joan Glazer Farber Rabbi & Executive Director Derekh: A Pathway into Adult Learning

Jeffrey Aaron Presiding Clerk New York Yearly Meeting (Quakers)

Howard Henry Elder University Presbyterian Church

Rev. Steven M. Smith Pastor Newtonville United Methodist Church

Most Rev. Edward B. Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of


Scharfenberger Albany Roman Catholic

Olivia McCheyne Christian Coach/Consultant ANCHORED

Fourth Universalist Society in the City of


Rev. Schuyler Vogel Senior Minister New York

The Rev'd Fr William L. The Episcopal Church of St Luke in the


Ogburn Priest (Senior Associate) Fields

Rosemarie Pace Director Pax Christi Metro New York

Helen Sam Episcopal Clergy Diocese of Western New York


CEO of Children's Haven: A Place of Healing
Rev. Dr. Patricia A. & Hope, and Pastor of Mott Haven Reformed Children's Haven:A Place of Healing &
Sealy Church Hope, Inc.

St Paul's Episcopal Church Poughkeepsie


Gloria Payne-Carter Priest Associate - Retired NY

Linda Sarsour Executive Director MPower Change

Rev. Dr. Alan Bentz-


Letts Retired Chaplain Rev. Dr.

Rev. Daiken Nelson Guiding Teacher (Sensei) Pamsula Zen Center

J.P. Ross Intercessory Prayer and Outreach Life Center NYC: Justice House Of Prayer

Rev. Dr. Karyn Carlo Theologian American Baptist Churches

Shane Phelan Episcopal priest, Companion Companions of Mary the Apostle

Martha H. Eddy Micah Institute Advisory Council Moving For Life

The Rev. Clyde


Kuemmerle, Ph.D. Executive Director Ecclesia Ministries of New York

Beth Hermelin Community Minister Judson Memorial Church

The Rev. Dr. Chloe


Breyer Executive Director The Interfaith Center of New York

Sarah McTyre Parish Associate Park Central Presbyterian Church

Patricia Scanlon Education Attorney The Long Island Advocacy Ctr

John Yonkovig Pastor St. Agnes

Peter Cook Executive Director New York State Council of Churches

Rev. John H. Vaughn Executive Vice President Auburn Seminary

Brent Chaim Spodek Rabbi Beacon Hebrew Alliance


Jonathan Slater Rabbi Institute for Jewish Spirituality

Rector, St. David's Episcopal Church, West


The Rev. Claudia Scheda Seneca Episcopal Diocese of Western New York

The Rev. Deborah Lee Episcopal Priest The Episcopal Diocese of New York

John Rose Pastor St Vincent de Paul

Rabbi Michael E
Feinberg Director Greater New York Labor Religion Coalition

Rev. Sam Joanna Executive Director MODI / Death Row


Ghiggeri Chaplain

Father Adam Spencer Priest Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue

Rev. Nancy Rosas Pastor Pilgrim-St. Luke's United Church of Christ

The Rev. Leigh Hall Priest The Episcopal Diocese of New York

Professor of Religious Education/World


Charles S. Chesnavage Religions Unification Theological Seminary

Simkha Y. Weintraub,
LCSW Rabbi & Human Rights Advocate

Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-


Rashid Imam The Mosque Of Islamic Brotherhood

Sister Faith Colligan NYS Social Justice Coordinator Daughters of Charity-St. Louise Province

Alex Zackrone Westchester Coalition Against Islamophobia

Lauren Grabelle
Herrmann Rabbi SAJ-Judaism that Stands for All

Alison Quin Pastor Christ the King Episcopal Church

ACTS (Alliance of Communities


Craig French Retired United Methodist Clergy Transforming Syracuse)

James Pastor (Associate) Micah Institute


Consultant/Western NY Peace Center
Victoria Ross Executive Director Interfaith Peace Network

Dr. James Fairbanks Editor Saving Justice

Unitarian Universalist Congregation of


Rev. Joe Cleveland Minister Saratoga Springs

Priscilla Read Secretary Westchester Coalition Against Islamophobia

Ayesha Mohammed Interfaith Community Activist

New York State Catholic


Conference