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Update 8:07, 1/14/15:
Here is a copy of the final rules approved by the BOC yesterday.
I’ll have more to say on this in the next day or two when I have time to put together a full post, but I would be very cautious of reports and official statements touting Rikers as a new ‘model for reform’ given its proposed restrictions on solitary for juvenile offenders. Not only because there are so many questions that have yet to be answered concerning alternative programming and its funding, but also because of the ways in which mentally and physically ill inmates have been left exposed to Rikers’ new super solitary unit, aka the ESHU, at the discretion of one of the most untrustworthy prison contractors in the nation.
Update 10:26, 1/13/15:
According to Raven, the protection gap for 18-21 year olds will, in fact, be closed — but there’s a hitch:
— Raven Rakia (@aintacrow) January 13, 2015
That means juvenile prisoners may still be subject to isolation for the remainder of this year at least. Solitary confinement for this age group will end in 2016 provided there is “adequate funding” for alternative programs to take its place (although it’s unclear what exactly those programs would look like).
So I guess we’ll have to wait until next year to see if NYC has enough money to stop torturing young prisoners with isolation.
Raven Rakia was at the NYC BOC hearing this morning live-tweeting the vote on the new isolation policy and ESHU unit in city jails. I put together a Storify timeline of Raven’s tweets that you can see here.
New York City officials agreed on Tuesday to a plan that would eliminate the use of solitary confinement for all inmates age 21 and under, a move that would place Rikers Island at the forefront of national jail reform efforts.
Even the most innovative jails in the country use solitary confinement as a punishment for inmates over 18, said Christine Herrman, director of the Segregation Reduction Project at the Vera Institute of Justice.
This is different than what was originally in the BOC plan, which opened 18-21 year olds to the possibility of isolation for Grade I offenses. If the NY BOC decided to remove those protection gaps and afford safety from isolation to ALL inmates under 21, we have a much different (and better) situation on our hands.
The other thing I’d like to note (based on what we can tell so far) is that Corizon has, in fact, been given the power to determine who is and is not too mentally / physically ill for isolation — an extremely dangerous move that I think the city will come to regret. Just a few months ago, there were rumors that Corizon would lose its contract in NYC after a spate of deaths and horrific stories of inmate abuse. But rather than hold them accountable in SOME fashion, the NYC BOC seems to have further-entrenched their role and presence in city jails.
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