NYC Council approves bill banning solitary confinement in city jails

Dec 20, 2023, 3:15 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — Over the objections of Mayor Eric Adams, New York City lawmakers passed legislation Wednesday meant to ban solitary confinement in the city’s jails.

The bill that was overwhelmingly approved allows jails to isolate inmates who pose an immediate risk of violence to others or themselves in “de-escalation” units for a maximum of four hours. Those placed in longer-term restrictive housing would need to be allowed out of their cells for 14 hours each day and get access to the same programming available to those in the general population.

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who introduced the legislation, said Wednesday ahead of the vote that solitary confinement amounts to torture for those subjected to lengthy hours in isolation in small jail cells.

He and other supporters, including prominent members of New York’s congressional delegation, have pointed to research showing solitary confinement, even only for a few days, increases the likelihood an inmate will die by suicide, violence or overdose. It also leads to acute anxiety, depression, psychosis and other impairments that may reduce an inmate’s ability to reintegrate into society when they are released, they said.

“This is about safety at Rikers,” Williams said, referring to New York’s infamous island jail complex. “If we want something different, we need to try something different.”

The city Board of Correction, which oversees city-run jails, recently limited de-escalation confinement to six hours, but inmate advocates argue that some people have been locked in such units for far longer.

A report released by the Columbia University Center for Justice on Wednesday said inmates in restrictive housing can be locked up for 23 to 24 hours a day.

Kayla Mamelak, a spokesperson for Adams, said the legislation would “foster an environment of fear and instability” in the city’s jails.

“It would make it harder to protect people in custody, and the predominantly Black and brown workers charged with their safety, from violent individuals,” she wrote in an emailed statement.

The mayor, a former NYPD captain, in a televised interview ahead of the vote, took specific aim at a provision of the bill that requires an inmate be granted a hearing before being placed in solitary confinement. But he stopped short of saying he would veto it. Council leaders have said they have the votes to override a veto if necessary.

“What City Council is saying is while they’re in jail if they commit an assault on someone, an inmate or a correction officer, before we place them into punitive segregation, we need to allow them to have a trial of due process,” he told WNYW. “That is saying, if someone assaults me on the street, before I could place them in jail, they must have a trial to determine if I’m going to arrest them and place them in the jail. That makes no sense.”

The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, the union representing staff in the city’s jails, has also railed against the bill, as has the conservative “Common Sense Caucus” of the council.

Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli, who co-chairs the caucus, said the proposal would “essentially take away a vital tool our correction officers have to keep everyone safe.”


Follow Philip Marcelo at twitter.com/philmarcelo.

United States News

Associated Press

What to know about the latest court rulings, data and legislation on abortion in the US

A judge in Montana rejected abortion restrictions, the attorney general in Missouri is accusing Planned Parenthood of illegally transporting minors for abortions and new data shows how the way abortions they’re provided continues to shift in a nation where some states have bans and others are protecting access. More than a year and a half […]

45 minutes ago

FILE - National Urban League president and CEO Marc Morial speaks at the National Urban League Annu...

Associated Press

Black Americans’ significant economic and civil rights progress threatened, report says

WASHINGTON (AP) — Black Americans have endured considerable injustices and barriers to prosperity and equality throughout U.S. history. But their social, economic and political advances in the 60 years since the enactment of major civil rights legislation have been unsatisfactory, according to a new annual study on racial progress. The “ State of Black America […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

With trash bins now required in NYC, only the rats are sorry to see the garbage piles go

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City’s tradition of piling garbage bags on the sidewalk for pickup is going the way of the dinosaur. As of Friday, all 200,000 businesses in the Big Apple are required to put out their bags of trash in garbage bins, as communities across the county and world have long […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Authorities search for father and 2 young children in New Hampshire after mother found dead

MEREDITH, N.H. (AP) — Authorities were searching Friday for a father and his two young children after the children’s mother was found dead in a New Hampshire apartment. Authorities issed an Amber Alert just after 4 a.m. for the abduction of 4-year-old Elowyn Duren and 1-year-old Vaelyn Duren from the city of Berlin. Authorities said […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Gaza doctor says gunfire accounted for 80% of the wounds at his hospital from aid convoy bloodshed

RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — The head of a Gaza City hospital that treated some of those wounded in the bloodshed surrounding an aid convoy said Friday that more than 80% had been struck by gunfire, suggesting there had been heavy shooting by Israeli troops. At least 112 Palestinians were killed and more than 750 […]

3 hours ago

A "vote here" sign sits outside a Phoenix polling place in 2022....

Associated Press

Judge rules Arizona’s new voting laws requiring proof of citizenship aren’t discriminatory

An Arizona district judge has ruled state legislators didn't discriminate when passing new voting laws that require proof of citizenship.

5 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.


Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.


Sanderson Ford

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.

NYC Council approves bill banning solitary confinement in city jails