Center on Sentencing and Corrections

The Walls are Closing in on Me: Suicide and Self-Harm in New York State’s Solitary Confinement Units, 2015-2019

The Walls are Closing in on Me: Suicide and Self-Harm in New York State’s Solitary Confinement Units, 2015-2019

#HALTsolitary Campaign. “The Walls are Closing in on Me: Suicide and Self-Harm in New York State’s Solitary Confinement Units, 2015-2019.” New York Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement, May 2020.

This report details the prevalence of suicide in the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) facilities. In 2019, 18 people died by suicide in New York state prisons, which is the highest rate of suicide in New York prisons since 2000 and 88 percent higher than the national average for all U.S. prisons. And at least one-third of these suicides occurred in restrictive housing. From 2015-2019, the rate of suicide by people in restrictive housing was five times the rate of the general prison population. Young people and people of color in restrictive housing also committed suicide at higher rates than youth and people of color in the general population.

Instances of self-harm, including suicide attempts and less severe self-inflicted injuries, were also associated with placement in restrictive housing. From January 2015 through April 2019, there were 688 suicide attempts in New York prison—or roughly one attempt every other day. Of these attempts, 43 percent occurred in a Special Housing Unit (SHU), a specific type of restrictive housing in New York state prison. The suicide attempt rate for people in SHU was 12 times higher than the rest of the prison population, excluding patients in disciplinary residential mental health units. There was also a higher rate of other self-inflicted injuries in restrictive housing than in the total prison population.

The report also includes support for enacting the HALT Solitary Confinement Act (A2500/S1623), which would significantly restrict the use of restrictive housing in New York.

Click here to view the report.

Keywords: suicidal ideation, mental health, medical, race, H.A.L.T., HALT Act, NYS.