NYC to end use of solitary confinement in jails
The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association calls the move "reckless"
By Michael Gartland
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — Making his announcement on national television Wednesday, Mayor de Blasio will end solitary confinement at Rikers Island this fall — as part of a broader plan to change the way discipline is meted out in city jails.
“Solitary confinement corrodes the human soul and creates immense mental health challenges,” de Blasio said on CNN. “It literally is counterproductive. It makes us less safe, not more safe.”
The city’s efforts to end punitive segregation — solitary confinement as it’s more commonly known — began after the death of Kalief Browder, who committed suicide at Rikers Island in 2015 after being isolated from other prisoners. At the time, he was in jail awaiting trial on charges that he allegedly stole a backpack.
“A few years ago, this city was gripped by the tragedy of Kalief Browder, a young man who committed a very small crime,” de Blasio said. “He later took his own life.”
De Blasio’s remarks Wednesday came a day after the city’s Board of Corrections voted to end solitary confinement and replace it with a model that gives inmates accused of committing infractions legal representation at internal hearings and a minimum of at least 10 hours outside of their cell each day.
The new policy, dubbed the Risk Management Accountability System, also includes “individualized behavioral support plans” and “required therapeutic programming.”
The city’s Board of Correction is the rule-making authority for city jails, but is separate from the city’s Department of Correction, which oversees jails like those on Rikers Island.
The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, the union that represents corrections officers, has opposed moving away from solitary confinement for years and has cited an increase in violence both inside jails and a recent surge of violent street crime as a reason to continue to use it.
“This reckless decision comes at a time when assaults on officers are at a record high and while just this past year, our jail population has seen a 23% increase in inmates facing serious violent felonies,” COBA President Benny Boscio said Wednesday. “These are not backpack thieves, truants, or turnstile jumpers. They are the subway slashers, shooters of innocent kids, rapists, and murderers you read about every day.”
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