NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday new restrictions on the use of solitary confinement at New York City jails.
It is also known as “punitive segregation.”
Following the death by suicide of Kalief Browder, New York City banned the use of solitary confinement for young people. Browder was jailed at Rikers for three years for a crime he was never convicted of. He took his own life in 2015.
“We all remember the tragedy of Kalief Browder. We acted on the lesson of that tragedy. He did not die in vain,” the mayor said.
De Blasio also cited the death of Layleen Polanco, who he said “should not have been in Rikers to begin with. Layleen Polanco should not have been in solitary confinement.”
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The mayor said 17 correction officers have been disciplined and four suspended without pay following her death.
Polanco, a 27-year-old transgender woman, died of an epileptic seizure while in solitary confinement last June. She was awaiting trial and unable to pay her $500 bail, according to her lawyer.
The city’s Department of Investigation released a report earlier this month showing a 47-minute gap where officers failed to check on Polanco, violating a Department of Correction policy that requires staff to check on inmates who are in solitary confinement every 15 minutes. The investigation, however, found no evidence the officers’ actions contributed to her death.
Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark also declined to bring charges against the officers following a six-month investigation.
The mayor announced more changes to the use of solitary confinement Monday.
“Effective immediately, people with underlying medical conditions will not be subject to punitive segregation and solitary confinement,” he said.
Serious mental illness and pregnancy had already been considered underlying conditions that would prohibit solitary confinement.
The list is now expanded to include:
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
- Transplant status
- Treatment with blood thinner
- Disability (wheelchair, walker, blind or deaf)
“We have to go farther. So let’s take the next step. Let’s end solitary confinement altogether,” he said.
The mayor said he is appointing a four person working group to work on a plan to end solitary confinement altogether. He said he expects that group to report back in the fall with details about what it would take to end punitive segregation in jails.