New York City votes to end solitary confinement in jails

Published: Jun. 9, 2021 at 9:52 PM EDT
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NEW YORK (WBTV) - The New York City Board of Correction voted unanimously to end solitary confinement in the city’s jails.

“New York City is going further than any jail system in America to ban solitary confinement once and for all,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “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 new disciplinary system fundamentally changes the way the Department of Correction responds to violence committed by people in custody.

“This rule ends solitary confinement in the New York City jail system once and for all, replacing it with a system that balances the need for safety in the jail and the need to provide the care and support to address behaviors for all concerned. These reforms are necessary for a safer and more humane jail system, for people in custody and staff,” said Board of Correction Chair and CEO and Executive Director of FPWA, Jennifer Jones Austin. 

The new rule ends solitary confinement - a long-practiced form of restrictive housing where people are locked in their cells for 20-24 hours each day.

Solitary confinement will be replaced it with the Risk Management Accountability System (RMAS), a two-level progression model that includes:

  • Attorney Representation at the infraction hearing and throughout the process
  • Minimum 10 hours out of cell, socializing with at least one other person
  • A strong presumption of progression from Level 1 to Level 2 in 15 days, and out of Level 2 in 15 days
  • The ability for the Department to extend placement in RMA only when necessary; extension must be documented with a clear threat to safety; person in custody has ability to appeal with attorney representation
  • Individualized behavioral support plans
  • Steady, experienced case managers
  • Hours of daily programming, including required therapeutic programming in space outside the dayroom space; and
  • Daily rounding by health and mental health staff
  • Post-RMAS, step-down Restorative Rehabilitation Unit with 14 hours of lock out, full access to Minimum Standards, and intensive programming.

In addition to ending solitary confinement, the rule:

  • Fully ends the use of routine restraint desks.
  • Requires the Department to use cells for de-escalation confinement after incidents, rather than intake areas.
  • Limits scope of lockdowns to only housing areas that must be locked down.
  • Requires regular and public reporting by the Department.
  • Maintains the prohibition on placing people with serious mental illness in restrictive housing (including RMAS)

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