(TheProudRepublic.com) – In a significant and polemic move, New York City’s Council voted to ban a common type of punishment for inmates who misbehave in city jails, citing its detrimental psychological effects and the link to increased deaths and violence within these institutions.
Speaker Adrienne Adams highlighted this decision as a major step towards advancing justice and safety.
The punishment is solitary confinement, and its current rules allow jail officials to isolate violent inmates for up to 23 hours a day for a maximum of 60 days for serious infractions. The new bill modifies this by allowing detainees who commit serious infractions to be placed in restrictive housing for up to 60 days annually but limits solitary confinement to no more than 10 hours a day.
The legislation has garnered support from public defender groups, prison reform advocates, and families of those who have died in custody on Rikers Island. Jumaane Williams, the city’s public advocate and the bill’s prime sponsor, has strongly criticized solitary confinement, describing it as akin to “torture,” particularly for inmates with mental health issues.
However, the bill faces opposition from Democratic Mayor Eric Adams, the New York City Police Department, and the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association. Mayor Adams, a former police captain, is concerned about the potential federal takeover of the troubled Rikers Island jail complex. The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association argues that the legislation will hinder the protection of jail workers from violence by detainees, citing over 6,000 incidents of detainees assaulting jail guards in the last three years, including 50 sexual assault cases.
Despite Mayor Adams’ vow to veto the bill, the City Council is prepared to override the veto, which requires a two-thirds majority vote. The bill was passed with 39 lawmakers voting in favor and seven against, indicating a strong possibility of overcoming any mayoral veto.
This development marks a pivotal moment in the city’s approach to criminal justice and the treatment of inmates within its jail system.