Published 8/6/2020

PLS Immigration Team & NYCLU win BIG as the court orders protections for detainees at the Buffalo Federal Detention Center. Single rooms, in room meals, individual showers, masks, and disinfectant for everyone. The staff must wear masks. Read all about it.

Published 8/6/2020

Wow! You can double your PLS donation now. Thank you to Eddie and Martine Joyce and Books are Magic for matching PLS donations. The funds are limited so please make your donation soon. See the details at

Published 8/3/2020

By John Lewis

Mr. Lewis, the civil rights leader who died on July 17, wrote this essay shortly before his death, to be published upon the day of his funeral.
July 30, 2020

While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me. You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society. Millions of people motivated simply by human compassion laid down the burdens of division. Around the country and the world you set aside race, class, age, language and nationality to demand respect for human dignity.

That is why I had to visit Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, though I was admitted to the hospital the following day. I just had to see and feel it for myself that, after many years of silent witness, the truth is still marching on.

Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. He was 14 when he was killed, and I was only 15 years old at the time. I will never ever forget the moment when it became so clear that he could easily have been me. In those days, fear constrained us like an imaginary prison, and troubling thoughts of potential brutality committed for no understandable reason were the bars.

Though I was surrounded by two loving parents, plenty of brothers, sisters and cousins, their love could not protect me from the unholy oppression waiting just outside that family circle. Unchecked, unrestrained violence and government-sanctioned terror had the power to turn a simple stroll to the store for some Skittles or an innocent morning jog down a lonesome country road into a nightmare. If we are to survive as one unified nation, we must discover what so readily takes root in our hearts that could rob Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina of her brightest and best, shoot unwitting concertgoers in Las Vegas and choke to death the hopes and dreams of a gifted violinist like Elijah McClain.

Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out, or some might say a way in, and then I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence. He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.

Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.

You must also study and learn the lessons of history because humanity has been involved in this soul-wrenching, existential struggle for a very long time. People on every continent have stood in your shoes, through decades and centuries before you. The truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time. Continue to build union between movements stretching across the globe because we must put away our willingness to profit from the exploitation of others.

Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.

When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.


John Lewis, the civil rights leader and congressman who died on July 17, wrote this essay shortly before his death.

Mr. H’Shaka spent 24 years, locked in a 9 x 11foot cell, for 23 hours a day. PLS and Amini, LLC recently secured his release from solitary confinement, but he may never heal from the physical and psychological trauma of solitary.

Published 7/23/2020


Yesterday, our very own Karen Murtagh raised the call to action for reform that holds corrections officers accountable for violence and inhumane conditions with the Fortune Society’s panel on ending brutality in jails and prisons.

Published 7/21/20

Watch Panel Discussion:

Without a lawyer, Paul, who came to American to escape religious persecution, might have died in detention from COVID-19. #whywedoimmigrationlaw

Published 7/21/2020

Read More:

​​​​​​​New York Immigrant Family Unity Project joins with Upstate New York Advocates to Demand Release of Immigrants at Severe Risk of Coronavirus Exposure

Published 3/26/2020

​On Wednesday evening, Prisoners Legal Services of New York (PLS), a New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP) provider, joined with Journey’s End Refugee Services, the Law Office of Robert F. Graziano, Esq., and Muscato & Shatkin, LLP to file federal litigation seeking release of 23 immigrants in detention in Batavia, New York’s Buffalo Federal Detention Facility (BFDF). The Emergency Petition alleges that the petitioners have been endangered by the failure of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the federal agency that holds people at BFDF, to protect them against the risk of contracting COVID-19.   Read More...

Attorney General James Calls on U.S. Attorney General Barr, Immigration Judges to Halt In-Person Immigration Proceedings​:

PLS applauds NY Attorney General Letitia James' efforts to address the immigration court crisis at Batavia. Press Release:, Letter: 

Prisoners’ Legal Services (PLS) & Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) Urge Batavia Immigration Court To Cease Holding In-Person Deportation Hearings In Light Of Health Risks Posed by COVID-19 Pandemic

Dear Honorable Judge Philip J. Montante, Jr.:

We write on behalf of Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York (“PLSNY”) and the ECBA Volunteer Lawyers Project (“VLP”) – who collectively provide free legal representation to all indigent non-citizens in the Batavia Immigration Court – to urge Your Honor to immediately implement the following changes at the Batavia Immigration Court in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. . .    Read More . . .


Vera Institute of Justice: “We look forward to working with Governor Cuomo and lawmakers to ensure funding for lawyers representing immigrants facing deportation and family separation.”

New York: The Vera Institute of Justice has expressed deep concern with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed FY21 Executive Budget for its lack of funding for the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP) and the entire Liberty Defense Project . Absent these resources, low-income New York immigrants facing deportation will be left without access to lawyers, increasing the number of deportations and family separations.

Kica Matos, director of the Vera Institute’s Center on Immigration and Justice, said, “Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York’s support for immigrant legal services has inspired a national movement of communities advancing publicly funded legal representation for immigrants to counter the injustice and destabilization that federal immigration enforcement has brought to our country. The Governor’s leadership must continue at this pivotal moment when it is needed most. Although we are disappointed with the proposed budget’s exclusion of resources for the vital Liberty Defense Project, we will continue to engage with the Cuomo administration and lawmakers to restore critical protections for families at risk of separation and deportation.”

Since 2017, New York State’s support for NYIFUP—the nation’s first and only statewide public defender system for people in immigration detention (and a part of the Liberty Defense Project) —has ensured that no detained person in the state is forced to face the threat of deportation without a lawyer simply because they can’t afford one. The impact that a lawyer has on the outcome of these cases in New York is astounding: immigrants who are represented are 3.5 times more likely to be released from detention and up to 10 times more likely to establish a right to remain in the United States as compared to immigrants without a lawyer.

Vera Institute president Nick Turner said, “In light of continued federal attacks on immigrants, this program is the crucial last line of defense to protect immigrant families, stabilize our communities, and promote due process. We call on the Governor to continue his long-standing leadership on this issue by adding funding for the Liberty Defense Project to his budget during the 30-day amendment period, and we ask legislators to lend their strong support to this project.”

For the past two years, New York State has allocated $4.25 million annually for NYIFUP funding to serve detained people facing deportation at upstate immigration courts. In light of increasing need, New York City—which funds NYIFUP for detained people facing deportation in downstate immigration courts—increased its funding from $11 million to $16.6 million last year. To continue to meet the needs of all eligible people in this challenging environment, we will work to ensure that New York State continues to deliver on its promise to protect immigrant families and allocates $6.5 million for upstate NYIFUP in fiscal year 2021.

Lawsuit: Inmates Punished Unjustly​


​​​​Governor Cuomo and NYS Legislators Announce Budget Agreement That Includes A Commitment To A Fairer Criminal Justice System:

PLS Executive Director Karen Murtagh speaks out on solitary confinement in New York State.​

​PLS Executive Director Karen Murtagh speaks on the history of PLS and the work it does on behalf of incarcerated New Yorkers.

​​​​​​PLS Executive Director, Karen Murtagh and PLS staff attorney Sophia Heller,  joined by other advocates, speak with Assemblyman Weprin, Chair of Assembly Committee on Correction, regarding DOCCS' policies on packages and visitation. 

​PLS joins other advocates in support of the Protect Our Courts Act

​                                                                                                                 June 5, 2018: PLS Immigration Staff Halinka Zolcik speaks at press conference at

                                                                                                                 Legislative Office Building in Albany New York in support of the Protect Our Courts Act (A11013A),

                                                                                                                 sponsored by Assemblymember Solages. The proposed bill would exempt certain individuals from

                                                                                                            civil arrest while going to court.  The purpose of the bill is to facilitate continued access to the

                                                                                                           justice system and courts by all members of the community without fear of immigration-related

                                                                                                   consequences. To read Ms. Zolick's remarks click: Protect Our Courts Act Remarks.

​​Indefinite Solitary Confinement in Canadian Prisons Ruled Unconstitutional

Pronged and indefinite solitary confinement, or what is otherwise know as Administrative Segregation, was found unconstitutional by B.C. Supreme Court Judge Peter Leask. "I find as a fact that administrative segregation … is a form of solitary confinement that places all Canadian inmates subject to it at significant risk of serious psychological harm, including mental pain and suffering, and increased incidence of self-harm and suicide."  To read more see:

Governor Cuomo Proposes Sweeping Criminal Justice Reforms Including Major Improvement to the Re-Entry Process

On January 3, 2017, Governor Andrew Cuomo gave his State of the State Message unveiling 22 proposals. The Governor’s 22nd Proposal, entitled: Restoring Fairness in New York’s Criminal Justice System includes sweeping reforms to bail, discovery, speedy trial and asset forfeiture laws and procedures and improvements to the re-entry process to help individuals transition from incarceration to their communities. On the re-entry front, Governor Cuomo is proposing to lift statutory bans on certain occupational licenses, remove the mandatory suspension of driver’s licenses following a drug conviction, expand eligibility for merit release and limited credit time, implement “geriatric parole,” remove the parole supervision fee and allow for the adjustment of child support orders for those serving over six months in prison.  To read more see:

Governor Cuomo Proposes Expansion of Programs for Incarcerated Veterans

In his State of the State Message, the Governor proposed an expansion of programs for veterans behind bars (see full proposal below). PLS commends the Governor for including this reform in the 2018 Executive Budget.

In  November 2016, the van Ameringen Foundation generously awarded PLS a two-year grant to support PLS’ Mental Health Project (MHP), for  work on behalf of youth under 21 years of age and veterans who suffer from mental illness in New York State prisons. The goal of the project with respect to veterans is to assist them in obtaining mental health care, ensure that those with mental illness are not subjected to living conditions that will adversely impact their mental health issues and advocate for systemic changes with respect to mental health treatment, programming, education and housing.

In line with this goal, this past year PLS worked with incarcerated veterans and numerous other stakeholders to identify the current veterans programs available within DOCCS. We found that while DOCCS has Veteran Residential Therapeutic Programming (VRTP) available at some medium security prisons, the vast majority of DOCCS maximum security facilities do not have any veteran-based programs or support groups and none have dedicated housing units for veterans. PLS determined that the successes of the existing VRTP’s in medium security facilities indicated that replication of those programs would bring similar successes to incarcerated veterans serving long sentences and/or those currently housed in maximum security facilities.

As a result, in July 2017, PLS proposed to DOCCS the establishment of dedicated veteran-housing units with specialized programming for veterans, through a pilot program beginning in 2018 in three maximum security facilities.

We thank the van Ameringen Foundation for helping fund this project and DOCCS and the Executive for accepting our proposal and including funding in the budget to expand programming for veterans to maximum security facilities.  

Governor's Proposal to Expand Programs for Veterans Behind Bars

Governor Cuomo is dedicated to supporting the brave New Yorkers who have served our country. He recognizes that incarcerated veterans represent a unique segment of the imprisoned population that merit particular attention due to the unique circumstances they face returning home from war, which can often make the duration of incarceration and the transition back into the community upon release especially difficult.

Through the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), the Governor implemented three Veterans Residential Therapeutic Programs at Medium Security Correctional Facilities that identify each veteran’s individual needs and provide them with corresponding services.

This year, the Governor will provide resources to expand the programs available and offer the programs in to Maximum Security Facilities for the first time. DOCCS will hire additional Licensed Master Social Workers, as well as a coordinator, and purchase a new professionally designed veteran specific curriculum that will broaden the scope of issues addressed, including conflict reduction and post-traumatic stress disorder and other relevant topics. Expanding the program will increase veterans’ successful reintegration into society once they leave prison and reduce overall rates of recidivism, aiding our veterans and improving overall public safety.


  • Responded to over 10,000 requests for assistance;
  • Expanded our Telephone Project to include Bedford Hills as well as Albion Correctional Facilities;
  • Successfully advocated that the full range of feminine hygiene products are provided without charge to all incarcerated females; 
  • Published and distributed, free of charge, our bi-monthly educational newsletter, Pro Se, to over 8,000 incarcerated individuals;
  • Recouped over 29 years of jail time and sentence credit;
  • Saved over 53 years in solitary confinement;
  • Recouped over 22 years of good time;
  • Saved New York State over $4.6 million dollars by reducing solitary confinement time and obtaining sentencing and jail time credit;   
  • Successfully advocated for reinstatement of visitation for  clients whose visits with their children had been suspended;
  • Won  a parole denial challenge, via pro bono counsel,  where parole board failed to consider the age of the individual at the time of the crime;
  • Handled and referred to pro bono counsel numerous clemency cases from the Governor’s office; and
  • Received the Outstanding Contribution to Correctional Services Award from the NYS Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section.


PLS signs on to joint comments regarding American Correctional Association (ACA) proposed standards for the isolation of youth

See: FINAL2 Youth Justice Group Comments on ACA Proposed Standards - Separation for Youth .pdf You can find the joint Comment and the comparison chart on the dedicated page on the Stop Solitary for Kids website:

Correctional Association Releases Report on "Solitary at Southport." On December 13, 2017, the Correctional Association of New York released its executive summary on "Solitary at Southport" finding that, among other things, New York State "subjects people to solitary confinement and other forms of isolation at rates above the national average and in a racially disparate manner." You can read the executive summary here: Solitary-at-Southport-Executive-Summary12-6-FINAL-FOR-WEB.pdf . You can read the full report here: Solitary-at-Southport-Final-Web-12-10-17.pdf .

​​​​​Prisoners’ Legal Services Testifies at Joint Assembly Hearing on Healthcare in New York State Prisons

To read the testimony click: 2017 Testimony Medical Care Final October 27, 3 p.m..pdf  

PLS Executive Director Karen Murtagh Co-Chairs NYSBA Conference: 
Redeeming the Pledge . . . ‘And Justice For All.’  This full day conference focused on access to justice issues including issues that arise in family court, housing, civil Gideon, pre-arraignment, wrongful convictions, solitary confinement, re-entry and immigration. To view a video of this full-day program click:

PLS Speaks Out on New Solitary Confinement Policy for NY Jails

CBS, News Channel 6 interviewed Karen Murtagh on Governor Cuomo's plan to reduce solitary confinement in the local jails. See  link below for the entire interview:

Corrections Chair Weprin and Assemblymember Carmen De La RosaCall for 7-Day Visitation at NY Medium Security Prisons and Restoration of Free Transportation for Visiting 

​**PRESS RELEASE**Weprin De La Rosa Press Release on Visitation and Transportation.pdf

​​New York Bar Foundation Sponsors  Immigration Fellows at PLS. For a second year in a row the New York Bar Foundation (NYBF) has awarded PLS a grant to employ law students as NYBF Immigration Fellows working either full-time during the summer  or part-time during the school year, in PLS' Immigration Unit. Thanks to the NYBF for supporting the immigration work of PLS!

A Look Back Two Years After the Dannemora Prison Escape: Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York’s Executive Director, Karen Murtagh speaks on changes at Dannemora prison after the escape.


Assemblyman David Weprin and Major Advocacy Coalition Stand Together to Oppose Proposed Visitation Cuts at Maximum Security Prisons. To read complete press release click here

Assemblyman David Weprin, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Correction, joined his colleagues on the Correction Committee, as well as other elected officials and prison reform advocates to stand in opposition to the proposed reduction of visitation days at New York State’s maximum-security prisons. The plan, part of the 2017/2018 Executive Budget Proposal for New York State, would reduce visitation at New York’s maximum security prisons from seven days a week, as is now, to three days per week. The reduction in visitation would also allow the state to save $2.6 million by eliminating 39 Full Time Corrections Positions.

In a bipartisan effort to have this cut removed from the final enacted state budget, Weprin and members of the Assembly Committee on Correction have authored a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo listing the benefits of prison visitation. The letter has been signed by each member of the Committee, from both sides of the aisle. Weprin also noted that the cut would be removed in the Assembly one-house budget resolution.

Speaking in the Capitol, Weprin noted the already high demand for visits as a reason to oppose the cuts, as well as past research which has shown that visiting helps to decrease recidivism and reduce violence at corrections facilities. He also voiced concern that the reduction would unfairly penalize the families of the incarcerated by limiting the days when families would be allowed to visit.


PLS SAVED OVER 61 YEARS OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT TIME, 19 YEARS OF GOOD TIME  AND OVER 17 YEARS OF JAIL AND SENTENCING TIME FOR CLIENTS IN 2016 - Benefiting our clients, enhancing public safety and saving the state money.

PLS ensures that people's sentences are calculated accurately and that they receive all of the good time, sentencing credit and jail time to which they are entitled. PLS’ also represents incarcerated individuals on prison disciplinary hearings that can result in the imposition of solitary confinement. In 2016, PLS handled hundreds of cases where people were wrongfully placed in solitary confinement or had errors in their jail and sentencing computations. By doing so, PLS saved over 61 years of solitary confinement time, 19 years of good time and over 17 years of jail and sentencing time for our clients.

PLS' work in the area of solitary confinement not only benefits our clients, but helps enhance public safety and save the state money. A Washington State study found that people who were released directly from segregation had a much higher rate of recidivism than individuals who spent time in the normal prison setting before returning to the community: 64 percent compared with 41 percent. When people are released from solitary confinement they are able to participate in educational and other rehabilitative programs. Participation in such programs increases the likelihood of early release and, as demonstrated by the Washington State study, dramatically reduces the recidivism rate. In addition, if a person is in general population as opposed to solitary confinement when he/she appears before the parole board, release is much more likely. Finally, it costs over $60,000 a year to house a person in prison. By correcting jail time, good time and sentencing errors, and increasing the likelihood of release, PLS saves the state millions of dollars annually.  


Our client was charged with assault and given 270 days in solitary confinement. PLS filed a lawsuit asking the court to expunge the charges due to constitutional and procedural errors at the hearing.  On February 9, 2017, the Appellate Division, Third Department issued a decision holding that our client was prejudiced at his prison disciplinary hearing because his employee assistant failed to interview requested witnesses and because the Hearing Officer denied our client's request for a witness based on the hearing officer's own speculation regarding the probable content of  the witness’s testimony. The court ordered a reversal of the hearing disposition and expungement of the charges. Matter of Nance v. Annucci, #523293 (3d Dep’t Feb. 9, 2017)


On January 31, 2017, PLS Board Member, Tom Curran and PLS Executive Director, Karen Murtagh, testified at the NYS Senate and Assembly Joint Budget Hearing on Public Protection. To read the testimony, click here. To watch the hearing testimony click on this link: and go to the 10:43 mark.  


The New York State Bar Association Criminal Justice Section has chosen PLS Executive Director, Karen Murtagh, as the award recipient for the Section's Award for Outstanding Contribution in the Field of Correctional Services.  The award will be presented to Ms. Murtagh in May 2017 at the Criminal Justice Section's annual spring meeting in Seneca Falls, NY.  


On November 16, 2016, PLS Executive Director, Karen Murtagh and Jack Beck from the Correctional Association, co-chaired a full-day CLE on Prison Litigation. Panelists included Steven Wu, Assistant Attorney General, Dori Lewis, Legal Aid’s Prisoners’ Rights Project, Professors Phillip Genty from Columbia Law School and Brad Wendell from Cornell Law School and S.D.N.Y. Judge Sarah Netburn. Over 800 individuals participated between in-person attendees and those who watched via webcast.


PLS was recently awarded a grant from the New York Bar Foundation that will enable PLS to hire two law students as Immigration Fellows for the summer of 2017 or the 2017 fall semester. The fellows will gain experience analyzing the immigration consequences of criminal convictions and representing immigrants in removal proceedings. Thank you to the New York Bar Foundation for supporting this project!


​This case raised the issue of whether DOCCS' refusal to allow a disabled prisoner the use of a motorized wheelchair was discriminatory under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.  The district court initially granted summary judgment in favor of DOCCS’ universal ban on motorized wheelchairs in prison. On appeal to the Second Circuit, Disability Rights New York, PLS and numerous other legal services advocates filed an amicus brief arguing that such a ban violated the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act.

The Second Circuit held that the Department of Corrections’ blanket ban on motorized wheelchairs violated both the ADA and the RA and that there was a dispute of material fact as to whether DOCCS provided the plaintiff meaningful access to DOCCS’ services or would be unduly burdened by allowing the plaintiff the use of his motorized wheelchair. The court vacated the judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. Wright v. DOCCS, 831 F.3d 74 (2d Circuit 2016).

On March 10, 2017, Northern District Judge Mae D'Agostino issued a decision on the case after taking evidence at trial. She found that DOCCS failed to show that there were such safety risks in giving Nathaniel Wright the electric wheelchair that they outweighed his right to have the device. "The court holds that the preponderance of credible evidence at trial established that plaintiff was denied meaningful access to benefits and services and the use of his motorized wheelchair in the DOCCS facilities would not unduly burden DOCCS," she wrote.



PLS was recently awarded a 2-year grant from the Van Ameringen Foundation to open a Mental Health Project (MHP) specifically focusing on the needs of youth under 21 and veterans who suffer from mental illness because they are two of the largest segments of the prison population who are among the most vulnerable. Youth under 21 and veterans experience higher rates of mental illness than are experienced by other groups of prisoners. Through PLS’ MHP, eligible clients will be able to obtain the mental health care they need and PLS will works to ensure that they are not subjected to conditions, such as long-term solitary confinement, that will exacerbate their mental illness.


PLS recently won two merits hearings for non-citizen clients facing removal from the United States. In the first case, the judge granted Cancellation of Removal for a Lawful Permanent Resident from Jamaica whose family lives in Queens, New York.  Our client is the father of two young U.S. Citizen children, for whom he will now be able to provide care when he is released from prison later this year. In the second case, PLS represented a refugee from Burma who belongs to a persecuted ethnic minority, and was granted relief from deportation under the Convention Against Torture.  In both cases the clients were represented by Rosa Cohen Cruz, PLS' Senior Immigration Attorney.


​Elizabeth Banks joined Prisoner’s Legal Services on February 22, 2016 as a legal secretary. She comes to PLS from Heritage Park Apartments, in Elmira, NY, where she was the Assistant Youth Project Director for The Heritage Park Apartments Resource Center.  Prior to that position, she worked from 1991 to 2008, as a Legal Secretary for a New York City law firm specializing in construction law.


PLS recently entered into a partnership with the Governor's office to provide training to law students and pro bono attorneys on how to compile and file clemency applications.  For information about the upcoming training  click here. 


PLS recently began working with New York State's Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) to develop and present continuing legal education training  on the process for seeking Early Conditional Parole for Deportation Only (ECPDO) and Conditional Parole for Deportation Only (CPDO).  For information about the upcoming training click here


PLS is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1976 and is funded primarily by New York State. Every year PLS requests that the State continue funding PLS and, this year, in support of that request, the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) submitted a memorandum in support of PLS to Legislative leaders. To read the memo, click here.

PLS helps ensures that prisoners are not held in solitary confinement in violation of the law. We do this by challenging unlawful or illegal disciplinary hearings. In 2015, PLS’ work in this area resulted in a reduction of over 82 years of solitary confinement time for hundreds of prisoners.

PLS also ensures that sentences are calculated accurately and that prisoners receive all of the good time, sentencing credit and jail time to which they are entitled. In 2015, PLS’ work in this area resulted in over 63 years of jail time, good time and sentencing time being credited to prisoners’ sentences.

For every year of good time restored and jail time and sentence computations corrected, PLS saves the State at least $60,076.00, see: 


We would like to welcome our newest addition to the PLS staff, Kelly Anderson, immigration staff attorney who was recently hired under PLS’ Vera NYIFUP Immigration Grant. Ms. Anderson was recently admitted to the New York State Bar. Please join us in congratulating Ms. Anderson on her admission and welcoming her to PLS!  


Over the past several months, PLS’ Immigration Initiative, funded through a grant administered by the Vera Institute of Justice and funded by the New York Immigration Family Unity Project (NYIFUP) has accepted 40 cases. Our Senior Immigration Attorney, Rosa Cohen Cruz was recently won a bond hearing in New York City on an immigration case.  The client’s family was able to raise the $10,000 bond set by the Judge and the client is now home with his family.

PLS congratulates Governor Cuomo for signing Executive Order #150, which establishes correctional facilities within DOCCS exclusively for youth, requires that DOCCS consult with the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) regarding the treatment of youth, and mandates specialized training of DOCCS staff. In light of this Executive Order, PLS attorney, Maria Pagano negotiated an extension of the Cookhorne settlement (reported below) so that PLS will now be monitoring not only Coxsackie, Woodbourne and Green Correctional Facilities, but also the new youth facility at Hudson Correctional Facility scheduled to begin accepting youth this August. PLS’ monitoring has also been extended by three years.  

PLS Executive Director, Karen Murtagh, testified before the Joint Legislative Hearings on Public Protection. Watch the testimony 
here:  or read the testimony here: 


PLS Executive Director Karen Murtagh testified before the Assembly Hearing on Prison Oversight. Read More


Please note their new address: 

                                     PLS - Plattsburgh                                                                                PLS - Buffalo

              24 Margaret St., Suite 9, Plattsburgh, NY 12901                  14 Lafayette Square, Suite 510, Buffalo, NY 14203

In December, PLS, obtained the release of prisoner on medical parole so he was able to spend Christmas with his family. Thanks to the relentless efforts of PLS attorneys Samantha Howell and Lisa Weinstein our client was able to die at home with his loving family surrounding him. 


Read more  See also Andrea Mitchell ABC interview of Karen Murtagh, PLS Executive Director on aftermath of Clinton escape.   Andrea Mitchell Reports _ MSNBCW _ August 12, 2015 9_00am-10_01am PDT _ Free Streaming _ Internet Archive.html

Read more

Sam Ferrone, a 14-year old, made a video about incarcerated New Yorkers for a school project. He interviewed advocates and currently incarcerated individuals. This video highlights the humanity of incarcerated individuals. Thank you, Sam, for making this video. We, too, hope it will raise awareness about the injustice of the prison system​.​


In December 2014, the NY State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, issued a scathing indictment of New York’s use of solitary confinement (known as special housing units or SHUs). Noting that isolation has a “devastating effect on youth,” the committee urged the U.S. Department of Justice to use its power to force NYS to immediately stop the placement of persons 25 years old or younger in the special housing units and to develop alternatives to solitary confinement.

You can find the full report 
herethe recommendations begin on page 59.

Read More

IACHR Conducted a Visit to New York, United States
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) conducted a visit to New York, United States, from April 7 to 10, 2014. The visit aimed to gather information on the situation of persons under the age of 18 charged, tried, sentenced, and incarcerated as and with adults, and the detention conditions of youth in jails and prisons.  New York is one of the two states in the United States that automatically excludes adolescents from the juvenile system at age 16, and tries them as adults. The delegation was led by the IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of the Child, Commissioner Rosa Maria Ortiz, accompanied by staff attorneys of the Executive Secretary of the IACHR from the Office of the Rapporteurs on the Rights of the Child and Adolescents and on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty.

To read more of about the Rapporteur’s visit 
click here