Jail punishment curb
No solitary for those with health woes: city
New York City ordered Monday its jails to end the use of solitary confinement to punish some inmates as part of a broader push to end the practice altogether.
Solitary confinement — known in jails as punitive segregation — will no longer be used when an inmate has underlying health conditions, like asthma, heart disease and lung disease, among other ailments. That order will go into effect immediately.
Mayor de Blasio said ultimately the goal is to end all solitary confinement and announced he is creating a panel to oversee that process.
“We need to make changes immediately in how people who are incarcerated in our jail system are handled, and we need to make sure they are safe,” de Blasio said.
Board of Correction Vice Chairman Stanley Richards will lead the panel, which will also include Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann and JustLeadershipUSA President and CEO DeAnna Hoskins.
“Our charge is to come back with a plan to end solitary confinement. … Our conversations will not be should we [end it] but how do we end it,” Richards told the Daily News.
City Hall also invited Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association President Benny Boscio to join the panel. Boscio was elected Saturday to become the new union boss. He has not said whether he will accept the offer, sources said.
The initiative comes just days after the city announced it would discipline 17 uniformed staffers in the death of Layleen
Polanco (inset) — a transgeng der woman who died in June 2019 after having an epileptic seizure while in solitary confinement at Rikers Island.
The city first eliminated solitary confinement for inmates between ages 16 and 21 after the death of Kalief Bowder, who committed suicide in 2015 after spending nearly two years in an isolated cell while jailed at Rikers.
But Polanco’s death brought renewed calls from criminal justice advocates to end the incarceration practice used in the city jails for years — and pressure from City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (DManhattan) and Councilman Keith Powers (D-Manhattan) to end the practice.
“Today’s task force formation is a welcome step forward for those who have long fought to end a practice that is inhumane, abusive and condemned by the international community,” said Powers, chairman of the Council’s Criminal Justice Committee.
While some criminal justice reform advocates praised de Blasio’s move, others described it as “too little, too late.”
“The medical conditions that make solitary confinement exceptionally dangerous were known long before Layleen Polanco’s death, and she might still be with her family and chosen family today had the city acted on that knowledge earlier,” the Legal Aid Society said.