NYC jails gear up to limit use of solitary confinement

Correction Officers' Benevolent Association president Benny Boscio called the move "a recipe for disaster"


By Chelsia Rose Marcius
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — New York City inmates will get a minimum of 10 hours outside their cells — an increase of six hours — with five hours of daily programming, according to rules proposed by the city’s Board of Correction.

Those in solitary will also follow individualized behavioral support plans, and work with case managers to help better cope while behind bars.

“From closing Rikers Island, to ending solitary confinement for people under the age of 22, we have reoriented our correction system to value human life and rehabilitation,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio, who vowed to ban the practice last year. “Now we are making good on our commitment to ban solitary confinement altogether, creating jails that are fundamentally smaller, safer, and fairer.”

The new rules come two months after the City Council proposed legislation in December that would prohibit punitive segregation — commonly referred to as solitary confinement — in most cases , and two years after the death of Layleen Polanco, who died from an epileptic seizure while in solitary at Rikers in 2019.

Yet Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association President Benny Boscio called the move “a recipe for disaster.”

“Instead of doing everything possible to confront the unprecedented violence soaring in our jails, Mayor de Blasio has once again caved to political pressure exerted by the inmate advocacy movement by planning to end punitive segregation completely,” Boscio said in a statement Monday, citing a 284% increase in inmate on inmate violence and a 15% increase in assaults on correction officers detailed in last year’s Mayor’s Management Report.

“Eliminating our ability to physically separate violent offenders from non-violent offenders will not only push these staggering statistics higher, it will send a message to violent and assaultive inmates ... that City Hall condones these acts of terror against our officers and non violent inmates.”

The city first banned solitary confinement for 16- to 21-year-olds and those with serious mental illness in 2015, and curbed the use of the practice for everyone else in city custody.

Those reforms led to an 81% decrease in the use of solitary confinement, city officials said.

“Ending solitary confinement is essential to building a safer and more humane jail system for both people in custody and staff,” Board of Correction Chair Jennifer Jones Austin said Monday. “This proposal, developed with the input of experts from across the nation, will ... replace it with a system that aims to provide the care and support needed to address violent behavior and better ensure safety for all.”

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