New York City to End Solitary Confinement in City Jails

The New York City Board of Correction voted unanimously on Tuesday to end solitary confinements in the city jails, effective in the fall of 2021.

A press release from Mayor Bill de Blasio's office said that "The new disciplinary system fundamentally changes the way the Department of Correction responds to violence committed by people in custody, ensuring accountability and safety in a more humane and effective manner."

The disciplinary practice of locking people in their cells for 20-24 hours a day will now be replaced with a new model that the New York City Board of Correction called "the Risk Management Accountability System (RMAS)."

The press release detailed that RMAS is a two-level progression model that includes a minimum of 10 hours out of the cell, socializing with at least one other person, daily rounds by health and mental health staff, and Attorney Representation at the infraction hearing and throughout the process, among a few other implemented plans of reform.

It added: "The new disciplinary model is the product of an extensive public engagement process that included extensive discussions with and feedback from people with lived experience, families, staff, advocates, researchers, practitioners, and other experts locally and around the country."

Jeffrey Metzner, MD, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, told the American Psychological Association that "It's hard to give a reasonable argument that you can provide adequate treatment to someone with serious mental illness who's locked up in a cell for 23 hours a day. Our correctional system has become our mental health system for too many people."

The press release states the New York City rule builds upon "groundbreaking reforms from 2015, which ended solitary confinement for 16- to 21-year-olds and people with serious mental illness—and set strict limits on its use for everyone else."

"The Board's new rule recognizes that solitary confinement creates significant risks of psychological and physical harm to people in custody," it said.

"The RMAS model is all about increasing safety without sacrificing accountability, and aimed at returning people to as normalized an environment as quickly as safely possible," said Department of Correction Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi. "Through this new approach, we intend to provide the tools people need to return to [the] general population, and this model will only improve as we move toward more program-rich and humane facilities."

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said, "New York City is going further than any jail system in America to ban solitary confinement once and for all. 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."

The rule comes a day after a march was held in New York City, led by the families of Layleen Polanco, a woman with epilepsy who had died while in confinement two years ago, and Kalief Browder, a boy who committed suicide after spending two years in solitary confinement.

Newsweek reached out to the New York City Board of Correction for additional comment.

Activists In New York City March To
People participate in a protest in front of a New York City courthouse to demand that Mayor Bill de Blasio put an end to solitary confinement in New York’s prisons on June 7 in New York City. On Tuesday, the NYC Board of Correction voted unanimously on a new rule that will end solitary confinement in city jails, effective in the fall of 2021. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)