SENATE BUDGET AND APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE
SENATE, No. 51
with committee amendments
STATE OF NEW JERSEY
DATED: JUNE 23, 2016
The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee reports favorably Senate Bill No. 51 (1R), with committee amendments.
As amended, this bill restricts the use of isolated confinement in correctional facilities in this State. Under the bill, correctional facilities include any State or county correctional facility and any State, county, or private facility detaining persons pursuant to an intergovernmental service agreement or other contract with any federal, State, or county.
The bill specifically prohibits inmates incarcerated or detained in correctional facilities from being placed in isolated confinement unless there is reasonable cause to believe that the inmate or others would be at risk of serious harm as evidenced by recent threats or conduct, and any less restrictive intervention would be insufficient to reduce that risk.
The correctional facility is responsible for establishing by clear and convincing evidence the justification for isolated confinement. Inmates are not be placed in isolated confinement for non-disciplinary reasons. Inmates in correctional facilities are required to receive a personal and comprehensive medical and mental health examination conducted by a clinician before being placed in isolated confinement. However, in county correctional facilities, a preliminary examination is to be conducted within 12 hours of confinement and a clinical examination is to be conducted within 48 hours of confinement.
Under the bill, initial procedures and reviews providing timely, fair, and meaningful opportunities for an inmate to contest the confinement are to be made available. The procedures are to include the right to an initial hearing within 72 hours of placement and reviews every 15 days thereafter, in the absence of exceptional circumstances, unavoidable delays, or reasonable postponements; the right to appear at the hearing; the right to be represented at the hearing; an independent hearing officer; and a written statement of reasons for the decision made at the hearing.
Except in cases involving medical isolation, the final decision to place an inmate in isolated confinement is to be made by the facility administrator. An inmate is to be removed from isolated confinement if the administrator determines that the inmate no longer meets the standard for isolated confinement.
A clinician is required to evaluate each inmate placed in isolated confinement in a correctional facility on a daily basis, in a confidential setting outside of the cell whenever possible, to determine whether the inmate is a member of a vulnerable population. However, in county correctional facilities, inmates in isolated confinement are to be evaluated by medical staff as frequently as clinically indicated, but in no event less than weekly. An inmate determined to be a member of a vulnerable population is to be immediately removed from isolated confinement to an appropriate placement.
Under the bill, an inmate is a member of a vulnerable population if he or she is 21 years of age or younger; is 65 years of age or older; has a disability based on a mental illness, a history of psychiatric hospitalization, or has recently exhibited conduct, including but not limited to serious self-mutilation, indicating the need for further observation or evaluation to determine the presence of mental illness; has a developmental disability; has a serious medical condition which cannot effectively be treated in isolated confinement; is pregnant, is in the postpartum period, or has recently suffered a miscarriage or terminated a pregnancy; has a significant visual or auditory impairment; or is perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex.
An inmate is not to be placed in isolated confinement for more than 15 consecutive days, or for more than 20 days during any 60-day period under the bill. Cells or other holding or living spaces used for isolated confinement are to be properly ventilated, lit, temperature-controlled, clean, and equipped with properly functioning sanitary fixtures. A correctional facility is to maximize the amount of time that an inmate in isolated confinement spends outside of the cell by providing, as appropriate, access to recreation, education, clinically appropriate treatment therapies, skill-building activities, and social interaction with staff and other inmates. The bill provides that an inmate in isolated confinement is not to be denied access to food, water, or any other basic necessity and is not to be denied access to appropriate medical care, including emergency medical care. In addition, an inmate is not to be directly released from isolated confinement into the community during the final 180 days of the inmate’s term of incarceration, unless it is necessary for the safety of the inmate, other inmates, or the public.
Under the bill, an inmate is not to be placed in isolated confinement pending investigation of a disciplinary offense unless the inmate poses a danger to the inmate, staff, other inmates, or the public or the facility administrator has granted approval in an emergency situation. An inmate’s placement is to be reviewed within 24 hours by a supervisory employee who was not involved in the initial placement decision. If the inmate demonstrates good behavior while in isolated confinement, the inmate is to be considered for release to the general population. If the inmate is found guilty of the disciplinary offense, the inmate’s good behavior is to be considered in determining the appropriate penalty.
The bill defines isolated confinement as “confinement of an inmate in a correctional facility, pursuant to disciplinary, administrative, protective, investigative, medical, or other classification, in a cell or similarly confined holding or living space, alone or with other inmates, for approximately 20 hours or more per day with severely restricted activity, movement, and social interaction.”
The bill provides for certain exceptions to the restrictions on isolated confinement for facility-wide lock downs, emergency confinement, medical isolation, and protective custody.
The bill requires the Commissioner of Corrections, at least 90 days before the bill’s effective date, to: develop policies and implement procedures for the review of inmates placed in isolated confinement and submit proposed regulations for promulgation; initiate a review of each inmate placed in isolated confinement; and develop a plan for providing step-down and transitional units, programs, and staffing patterns to accommodate inmates currently placed in isolated confinement. The bill provides that the plan to be developed by the commissioner is to apply to not only inmates currently in isolated confinement, but also to inmates who will be placed in isolated confinement, and to inmates who receive an intermediate sanction in lieu of being placed in isolated confinement. The bill further require staffing patterns for correctional and program staff to be at levels necessary to ensure the safety of staff and inmates in recognition of the increased needs of inmates who have been placed in isolated confinement and the increased safety concerns for staff responsible for these inmates.
The bill takes effect on the first day of the 13th month next following enactment, but permits the commissioner to take anticipatory administrative actions as are necessary for implementation.
The amendments make changes to section 6 of the bill to:
-- require the Commissioner of Corrections to develop certain policies, implement procedures, and propose regulations, initiate reviews, and develop plans concerning inmates and isolated confinement not less than 90 days before the bill’s effective date; the bill as introduced provides this is to be done within 90 days of the bill’s effective date;
-- clarify that the plan to be developed by the commissioner concerning step-down and transitional units, programs and staffing patterns is to apply to not only inmates currently in isolated confinement, but also to inmates who will be placed in isolated confinement, and to inmates who receive an intermediate sanction in lieu of being placed in isolated confinement; and
-- require staffing patterns for correctional and program staff to be at levels necessary to ensure the safety of staff and inmates in recognition of the increased needs of inmates who have been placed in isolated confinement and the increased safety concerns for staff responsible for these inmates.
The Office of Legislative Services lacks sufficient information to determine the fiscal impact of this bill, but expects certain provisions of the bill may generate additional indeterminate costs for the State and county jails.