New York City bill requires reports on solitary confinement

NEW YORK Thu Aug 21, 2014 3:21pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York City Council approved a bill on Thursday requiring corrections officials to publish regular reports on the use of solitary confinement in city jails and the notorious Rikers Island complex.

The reports will shed light on the practice of disciplining detainees by sending them to solitary confinement and end the secrecy that has allowed for abuses in the city's jail system, said Daniel Dromm, a member of the city council who sponsored the bill.

The bill will "push New York City to radically rethink about how we deal with individuals incarcerated in Rikers Island and other city jails," he told a press conference before the bill was approved.

Specifically, the measure calls for quarterly reports detailing everything from the age, race, gender and mental health status of inmates held in solitary confinement, to the number of recreation days and showers taken by segregated inmates.

The reports will include data about allegations and instances of the use of force and sexual assault in the city's jail system.

The 47-0 vote came just weeks after the release of a damning report by the U.S. Justice Department that described a “culture of violence” at Rikers, the routine violation of the constitutional rights of teen inmates at the jail complex and excessive use of solitary confinement.

On an average day, around 11,800 inmates are incarcerated in the city’s jails, most of them at the Rikers Island complex. Around 400 inmates, including teens, are confined in solitary cells on any given day, according to the New York City Board of Correction, an independent monitor of conditions in the city’s jails.

New York State has already restricted the use of solitary confinement for juveniles and adolescents in its prison system, and is now looking for ways to reduce the use of solitary among the adult prison population.

“New York City has really fallen behind on this issue,” Dromm told Reuters.

Dromm said he introduced the bill two years ago, under the Bloomberg administration, but it failed to get traction. It was reintroduced in April this year. Mayor Bill de Blasio took office in January.

“It reminded me of a dog pound. When I saw those conditions and saw youth also detained in similar conditions, I decided to introduce the bill,” said Dromm.

The bill now passes to the mayor. Marti Adams, a spokesperson for the mayor, said in a statement that de Blasio supports the measure.

(Reporting By Frank McGurty; Editing by Tom Brown)

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