New York City Plans On Banning Solitary Confinement

On Wednesday, The New York City Council is expected to approve a bill that could make New York the biggest city in the nation to ban solitary confinement in city jails. The inhumane practice may continue as Mayor Eric Adams continues to be vocal about his support of it.

The move to ban solitary confinement has been delayed for years due to worries about violence against jail workers as well as staffing shortage. In addition, Adams believes that keeping detainees in isolation is a vital tool to protect those workers.

Though Adams may object the bill, its sponsors and supporters believe there are enough votes to pass it—regardless if Adams vetoes it.

Last week, 11 Congress members wrote a letter supporting the bill, including Representative Adriano Espaillat (ally to Mayor Adams) and Hakeem Jeffries (House minority leader). Additionally, the bill has 38 sponsors.

The bill hopes to ban solitary confinement beyond a four-hour “de-escalation” period during an emergency. It would also mandate correction officers to check on detainees every 15 minutes during that time and share health issues to medical personnel.

Brandon Rodriguez died by suicide at Rikers island in 2021. Last year, his mother, Tamara Carter, testified in support of the ban at a City Council hearing last year.

“I honestly think that if he was not put in solitary confinement, he would be alive today,” she said. “He was already suffering from a mental health crisis — he should have been put in a hospital setting, not where his mind could eat at him.”

In 2015, the practice was banned for all inmates 21 and younger in New York City after the death of Kalief Browder. New York State lawmakers limited solitary confinement to no more than 15 consecutive days in 2021.

In a statement, Charles Lutvak—a spokesman for Adams—explained that the mayor encourages Council members to oppose the bill. “Instead of promoting a humane environment within our jails, the Council’s bill would foster an environment of fear and instability,” he said.

“It would make it harder to protect people in custody, and the predominantly Black and brown workers charged with their safety, from violent individuals.” However, solitary confinement is known to have physical and psychological effects on detainees that impede their rehabilitation, according to the Vera Institute of Justice.

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