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Solitary Confinement in New York City Jails To Be Abolished

The New York City Board of Correction voted on Tuesday to end solitary confinement in city jails, according to a statement from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office.

The vote by the city’s independent monitoring board comes after a lengthy public engagement process. It expands on 2015 reforms that, among other things, banned solitary confinement for persons aged 16 to 21 and those with mental illnesses. According to the mayor’s office, these improvements resulted in an 81 percent reduction in the usage of solitary confinement.

“New York City is going further than any jail system in America to ban solitary confinement once and for all,” de Blasio said. “Through our work with our Board of Correction, we have found a plan that will provide a safe and humane environment for those who are incarcerated and officers alike.”

According to officials, the Risk Management Accountability System, a new disciplinary plan, will go into action this fall.  The statement will significantly alter how the Department of Correction “responds to violence committed by people in custody, ensuring accountability and safety in a more humane and effective manner.”

In addition to ending solitary confinement, the new system will allow for attorney representation at infraction hearings and throughout the process, a minimum of 10 hours outside of their cell per day, socialization with at least one other person, and individualized behavioral support plans for those in the program.

According to de Blasio’s administration, an extension of someone’s placement in the Risk Management Accountability System must be accompanied by documentation of a serious threat to their safety, and the person in custody has the right to appeal with legal assistance.

Officials stated that daily rounds by health and mental health personnel would be offered.

Board of Correction Vice Chair Stanley Richards said, “In approving this rule, the Board has created a system that ends the harms of solitary confinement while keeping officers, staff, and people detained safely.”

The new guideline eliminates routine restraint desks and restricts lockdowns to only those dwelling areas that must be secured.

The city’s decision to stop solitary confinement comes two months after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo approved a bill restricting the use of solitary confinement in state prisons and jails. Solitary confinement will be limited to 15 days under the new law, which takes effect next year.

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