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NYC Council Speaker pledges support for solitary confinement ban opposed by mayor

“New York City is better than solitary confinement,” Speaker Adams said


New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams (D-Queens) is pictured at the National Action Network’s headquarters on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 17, 2022.

Luiz C. Ribeiro

By Chris Sommerfeldt
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — Council Speaker Adrienne Adams is throwing her support behind a bill that would ban the use of solitary confinement in city jails — legislation vocally opposed by Mayor Adams, a fellow Democrat.

The measure, crafted by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, would prohibit the practice in city lockups like the ones on Rikers Island because it’s “counterproductive and harmful” and “causes immense damage to the health of those subjected to it,” the speaker said in a Monday statement.

“It disproportionately leads to suicide and worsens the mental health of those subject to it. This can exacerbate the safety challenges within the jail system and outside of it when individuals are released,” she added.

Speaker Adams said she’s scheduling a hearing on the bill for next week and voiced confidence that the Council will pass it.

“New York City is better than solitary confinement,” she declared.

Williams’ bill already has 36 co-sponsors, lending it a veto-proof majority. The speaker’s support makes it virtually certain to pass.

Mayor Adams, who last year won office on a tough-on-crime platform, has maintained that outlawing solitary confinement would make conditions in city jails less safe.

A mayoral spokeswoman declined to comment on the speaker’s announcement, but pointed to Hizzoner’s previous remarks on the matter.

“What do we do with people who commit crimes inside jails, violent crime inside jails: Slashing, stabbings, assault, rapes,” he said when asked about the legislation last month. “What do we do with them? ... No one has answered that question yet.”

The bill would not in fact ban restrictive housing, which separates inmates from the general jail population while offering limited social interactions and time out of their cells. The legislation from Williams, a Democrat, would give detainees “due process protections” before they can be placed in restrictive housing, though.

Criminal justice advocates have long called for the abolition of solitary confinement, arguing it’s inhumane and pointing to deaths of inmates like Elijah Muhammad, who died in July 2021 after being held in isolation for 32 hours on Rikers Island.

After Adams made her support of the ban bill official, Manhattan Councilmember Carlina Rivera, who chairs the Council’s Criminal Justice Committee, took to Twitter to laud the speaker’s plan.

“Let’s be the City Council that ends solitary confinement in New York City once and for all,” Rivera posted.

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