New York City Board of Corrections votes to ban solitary confinement

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Advocates called for an end to solitary confinement during a procession on June 7.

One day after families mourned the loss of loved ones who perished in solitary confinement, the New York City Board of Correction—an independent oversight board for the City’s jail system—voted to end the controversial form of punishment within New York City jails.

The vote banning the practice of confining inmates to their cells for 20-24 hours each day passed unanimously Tuesday morning and comes as a big win for activists fighting for the rights of incarcerated individuals.

“New York City is going further than any jail system in America to ban solitary confinement once and for all,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said, commenting on the vote. “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.”

A disciplinary system will be implemented in place of solitary confinement named the “Risk Management Accountability System.” This will serve as an alternative two-level response model to violent behavior and ensure a minimum of 10 hours out of a cell, socializing with at least one other person, daily check-ins by physical health and mental health staff, individualized behavioral support plans, and much more.

“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.

Although an exact date of when the new system will be implemented is not currently known, it is expected to go into effect during the fall of 2021. This fundamental change to the New York City jails system comes after years of advocacy from family members, activists, and the formerly incarcerated who denounce solitary confinement for dehumanizing those behind bars, which leads to rampant abuse and suicide. It is hoped this new measure can help turn a corner on what will become a more ethical prison system.

Candie, a former incarcerated individual states that the proposed “Risk Management Accountability System” is solitary confinement by another name. Photo by Dean Moses

However, during a procession/rally on June 7 advocates called the “risk management accountability system” a shift in name and not procedure.  They are demanding a minimum of14-hours of meaningful socialization, educational programming, and other development opportunities.