MHASC is a coalition of more than sixty organizations and hundreds of concerned citizens, advocates, mental health and criminal justice professionals, formerly incarcerated people and their family members, working to end the cruel practice of placing people with psychiatric disabilities in solitary confinement.
Imprisoned people in solitary confinement (known also as disciplinary confinement, Special Housing Units (SHU), and Keeplock) spend twenty-three to twenty-four hours a day in barren concrete cells. Many of these individuals have mental health needs. Despite experiencing the ravages of psychiatric symptoms, such vulnerable prisoners are subjected to sensory deprivation, social isolation, and enforced idleness – conditions that are extremely harmful to anyone’s mental health but devastating, and even life threatening, for people with psychiatric disabilities.
MHASC successfully advocated for the enactment of the SHU Exclusion Law, which restricts the placement of prisoners with serious mental illness in disciplinary confinement. Although the law was enacted in 2008, it did not take effect until July 1, 2011. To learn more about the SHU Exclusion Law, check out our Fact Sheet.
The Mental Health Project coordinates MHASC’s advocacy efforts to ensure that the law is fully implemented and results in meaningful reform. Through legislative advocacy, we work to preserve and expand upon the law. We meet regularly with the NYS Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities, which, as a result of the SHU Exclusion Law, is responsible for oversight of prison mental health care. In addition, MHASC developed a family committee to improve the prison mental health system’s response to family members of imprisoned people with psychiatric disabilities. We also give presentations on the plight of people with mental illness in prison and on the SHU Exclusion Law.
To get involved in MHASC or schedule a presentation, contact Jennifer (JJ) Parish at 646-602-5644.