The criminal justice and prison system uses several forms of punishment and correctional methods for different crimes. Prison systems also use disciplinary measures to punish undesired behavior or actions and discipline particular inmates. Solitary confinement is a disciplinary measure typically used in many prisons to punish inmates for violating rules, restricting dangerous prisoners from harming others or forming gangs. Solitary conferment refers to imprisoning an inmate in a jail cell with no or limited interaction with other prisoners or prison staff. Solitary confinement’s primary objective is to reprimand a disruptive prisoner or safeguard other prisoners by cutting off the social ties of the dangerous inmate. However, solitary confinement adversely affects inmates’ mental, physical, and social well-being by depriving them of their social inclusion and association needs.
Solitary confinement is detrimental for prisoners, and imprisoning juvenile offenders in solitary can have long-lasting effects on their mental and physical health. Solitary confinement also affects young adults’ social behavior by disconnecting them from social affiliations. Solitary confinement is typically used for disciplining or punishing adult inmates, where officers place inmates in cells with no social contact. Many juvenile offenders also spend significant time in solitary confinement despite the psychiatric, emotional, and social consequences, including depression, psychosis, anxiety, and antisocial behavior. Although the federal government banned solitary confinement for juveniles in 2016 due to activism and protests, many states still allow the practice for juvenile offenders. Many civil rights activists raised their voices for abolishing juvenile solitary confinement in federal and state prison systems. Alexandra Korry was among the most prominent people and civil rights activists pushing to end juvenile solitary confinement.
Alexandra D. Korry was pivotal in influencing the New York state government to abolish solitary confinement as the head of the New York State Advisory Committee to the United States Commission of Civil Rights. The committee released a comprehensive report indicating that solitary confinement of people under 25 was destructive and ineffective while disproportionately affecting mentally ill, Hispanic, and Black inmates. The report spurred activism to end juvenile solitary confinement in New York, compelling the city to prohibit solitary confinement for juvenile offenders under 17 years of age. The city subsequently extended the ban to inmates below 22 years. Korry’s testimony before the New York Board of Corrections and her committee’s report played a primary role in banning solitary for inmates under 22.
Ms. Korry started her career working as a reporter for Newsweek and the Washington Post while studying for her Juris Doctor (JD) degree from Duke Law School. After graduating from law school in 1986, she worked for prominent consumer advocate Ralph Nader and New York Democrat Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. She later joined Sullivan & Cromwell as an associate. Korry became the first female elected partner in the law firm’s Mergers & Acquisitions Group in 1993. Although she initially joined Sullivan & Cromwell to pay off her student debt, Korry became accustomed to corporate affairs and working with large corporations. She received recognition as a leading corporate lawyer in the country, contributing to significant merger and acquisition transactions on Wall Street. Ms. Korry advised and counseled several prominent companies for merger and acquisition transactions, including Microsoft, Kodak, Philips Electronics, China Investment Corporation, UBS, Wells Fargo, CITIC Capital, Boyu Capital, and Fifth Third Bank. The lawyer counseled Adelphia Communications during its acquisition by Time Warner and Comcast in 2006. Korry also advised InBev during its acquisition of Anheuser-Busch in 2008. She played a significant role in developing employee-friendly policies focusing on work-life balance. Alexandra Korry was also inducted into the Lawdragon 500 Hall of Fame in 2021 for her contributions to the legal profession.
Korry’s strong passion for philanthropic work compelled her to work with several government and non-government organizations and committees to promote and advocate human and civil rights issues. She was the chairperson of the New York State Advisory Committee to the United States Commission of Civil Rights and was a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Korry was also the chairperson of the Committee on Mergers, Acquisitions, and Corporate Control Contests of the New York City Bar Association. The lawyer was also a member of the Board of Visitors at Duke Law School and was chairperson of the Harlem Educational Activities Fund. Ms. Korry’s role as the chairperson of the New York State Advisory Committee to the United States Commission of Civil Rights was crucial in publishing reports on solitary confinement, educational equality, and police accountability. The lawyer and civil rights activist died on September 29, 2020, at 61 years while battling cancer. As an influential civil rights proponent, Alexandra D. Korry played a primary role in ending juvenile solitary confinement in New York.