NYC scraps solitary confinement because it promises inmates out of their cells at least 10 hours a day
New York City has voted unanimously to abolish solitary confinement in its prisons, promising to allow inmates to spend at least 10 hours outside their cells each day under new reforms.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the decision Tuesday through the New York City Board of Correction, an independent oversight committee.
It stated that a proposed new disciplinary model will allow the city to “go beyond any major prison system in the country by banning solitary confinement.”
“Through our work with our Board of Corrections, we have identified a plan that will provide a safe and humane environment for both inmates and officers,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement on Twitter.
“The new disciplinary system fundamentally changes the way the Department of Corrections responds to violence committed by people in custody, ensuring accountability and safety in a more humane and effective manner.”
The new model, called the Risk Management Accountability System, is expected to go into effect this fall, replacing solitary confinement, which requires inmates to spend 20-24 hours alone in a cell, either for punishment or for their own safety.
In addition to ending solitary confinement, it will also implement rules to provide inmates with an attorney in violation hearings, at least 10 hours outside a cell per day to socialize with at least one other person, and access to personalized behavioral support plans.
New York City has voted unanimously to abolish solitary confinement in its prisons, promising to allow inmates to spend at least 10 hours outside their cells each day under new reforms. Pictured: Rikers Island Prison Complex with the Man
The placement of detainees in the Risk Management Accountability System for more than 15 days must be justified by documentation of “a clear threat to security” and detainees must be visited daily by health personnel, including mental health personnel.
The statement said the changes come after an “extensive process of public engagement” that involved speaking with people who had served time in New York City prisons, as well as family members, lawyers, investigators and prison staff.
The new rules build on the 2015 reforms that abolished solitary confinement for 16-21 year olds and people with severe mental health problems.
Those reforms contributed to an 81% decrease in the use of solitary confinement, the statement said.
The reforms of 2015 followed the death of Kalief Browder, a Bronx teen accused of stealing a backpack and who spent two of his three years in solitary confinement at the infamous Rikers Island prison complex.
Two years after his release, Browder hanged himself in 2015.
“Imagine the damage done by all those years of unfettered use of solitary confinement,” de Blasio said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio (pictured) announced the decision of the New York City Board of Correction, an independent oversight committee, in a statement on Tuesday. It stated that a proposed new disciplinary model will allow the city to “go beyond any major prison system in the country by banning solitary confinement.”
On Monday, protesters marched past Manhattan courthouses demanding an end to solitary confinement
Relatives of Layleen Polanco, who died in solitary confinement on Rikers Island, and Caliph Browder, who committed suicide shortly after his release from the same prison where he spent two years of his three-year sentence in solitary confinement, carried a coffin along Manhattan’s courthouses. Monday
The new changes also come nearly two months after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law imposing a 15-day limit on solitary confinement in state prisons and prisons. The law will come into effect next year.
The statement acknowledged that reforms in 2019 to limit solitary confinement were considered inadequate by “the vast majority of community members who testified and/or made written comments on the proposal.”
“The Council’s new rule recognizes that solitary confinement poses significant risks of psychological and physical harm to those in custody.”
The statement added that new rules also abolished the use of routine restraining counters and limited the closures to only the residential areas to be closed off.
The Council’s decision was met with frustration by campaigners against solitary confinement, who say NYC has simply replaced one form of solitary confinement with another.
“This is literally what political b****** looks and sounds like,” wrote one user, retweeted by NYC Jails Action Coalition, an advocacy group.
The JAC said in a tweet that the new system approved by the Council of Corrections “mimidates the torturous conditions that have led people to lifelong trauma and even death,” referring to solitary confinement.
Prior to the Council of Corrections’ approval of the new system, the Legal Aid Society, which defends the city’s needy criminal suspects, was also critical, calling it a “re-branding” that would “capture some of the most inhumane features of the current system’.
On Monday, protesters marched past Manhattan courthouses demanding an end to solitary confinement.
They held placards with slogans like “End Solitary Now” and “No More Solitary by Another Name.”
Relatives of Browder were in attendance, along with relatives of Layleen Polanco, a transgender woman with epilepsy who died in an isolated cell in the Rikers Island prison complex.
Browder’s brother Akeem Browder and Polanco’s sister Melania Brown carried a black coffin through the streets during the march.
“The mayor has promised my family that he would end solitary confinement,” Melania Brown said Monday after the demonstration. “But he broke that promise.”
Social media users were also enthusiastic about the reforms, although many comments focused more on New York City’s rising crime rate.
“So out of touch with reality,” one user wrote.
NYC is a dangerous mess!! That should be your focus! Not with those who have been convicted,’ another commented.