[New York News\Criminal Justice]
Despite the growing call to end solitary from community members, the Public Advocate, City Council Members, the Council Speaker, leading presidential candidates, and countless others across the city, state, and country, Mayor de Blasio has said he is “not there yet.” Instead, the Mayor has actively worked to undermine even minimal efforts to reduce solitary.
Kalief Browder who suffered in solitary confinement during his period of unjust incarceration at Rikers Island eventually committed suicide.
On Tuesday, November 19 at 7:30 am, outside Gracie Mansion, survivors of solitary confinement, family members of people in solitary, and other advocates will hold a rally outside of Gracie Mansion to demand that Mayor De Blasio immediately and fully end solitary confinement in New York City.
Enough is enough; the community can wait no longer. In the wake of Layleen Polanco’s tragic and preventable death, and in recognition of the countless other people who have lost their lives because of solitary in New York City – including Kalief Browder, Jason Echevarria, and Bradley Ballard – or suffered devastating psychological and physical harm, community members have been calling for a complete end to solitary confinement in New York City. Last month, advocates released a Blueprint for Ending Solitary Confinement detailing how New York City can actually fully eliminate solitary in a real and meaningful way, along with language for Minimum Standards to enact these steps.
Despite the growing call to end solitary from community members, the Public Advocate, City Council Members, the Council Speaker, leading presidential candidates, and countless others across the city, state, and country, Mayor de Blasio has said he is “not there yet.” Instead, the Mayor has actively worked to undermine even minimal efforts to reduce solitary, including repeatedly delaying action by the city jail oversight board, the Board of Correction, to limit solitary for months and ousting one of the members of the Board who has been a proponent of restricting solitary.
Advocates will go directly to the Mayor to demand that he immediately implement the Blueprint for Ending Solitary Confinement to stop this torture in New York City. These advocates include: survivors of solitary confinement, family members of people currently inside, and other experts and advocates with the Jails Action Coalition, #HALTsolitary Campaign, and JustLeadership USA.
There have been growing calls in New York City, New York State, and around the country to end solitary confinement. Policy-makers and public officials have been joining in that call, including the New York City Council Progressive and Women’s Caucuses, and leading U.S. Presidential candidates, including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Corey Booker. For example, Bernie Sanders has called for “ending solitary confinement,” stating that “solitary confinement is a form of torture and unconstitutional, plain and simple.”
As early as 2011, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture called for the complete abolition of solitary, among other reasons, for purposes of punishment or discipline and for all people in pretrial detention (as the vast majority of people in New York City’s jails are held) because it amounts to torture. The blueprint released last month provides key mechanisms for New York City to effectuate a complete end to solitary and adopt proven, evidence-based alternatives that actually promote safety and reduce violence.
New York City continues to hold over 110 people in solitary confinement in punitive segregation on any given day and around 450 people in a variety of other forms of restrictive housing that amount to solitary by another name because of the extreme isolation people endure in them. The Mayor has the power to end this torture and must take action to finally and fully eliminate solitary confinement in all its forms before any other lives are taken or minds destroyed. Advocates are calling for New York City to implement the Blueprint to completely end solitary in its jails, while continuing to call on state lawmakers to enact the Humane Alternatives to Long Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act, S.1623/A.2500. HALT currently has more than enough votes in the state legislature to pass, and advocates are calling on the state legislature and Governor Cuomo to enact HALT when the legislative session resumes in January.
While the details of the Blueprint are written specifically for New York City, its overall framework and concepts can apply anywhere. No person should be in solitary in pretrial detention, in jails anywhere, or for that matter in prisons anywhere in New York or across the country. We hope that survivors of solitary, impacted family members, and advocates across the country can use the blueprint to end this torture everywhere.
The Mayor of NYC can end the barbaric torture of solitary confinement today if he wanted. At a time when he is tweeting about humanity and ending the era of mass incarceration, he needs to be held accountable for those individuals detained and tortured in his jails. As a city that aspires to be one of the most progressive in the country, New York City must lead the way in ending this cruel, inhumane, and counterproductive practice. At the same time, we recognize that ending solitary confinement is only one step. Fundamentally shifting away from isolation and deprivation — and from the entire racist and destructive punishment paradigm — is necessary to achieve safety and justice. We also believe that abolishing solitary confinement — often called a jail within a jail, or a prison within a prison — and replacing it with positive human engagement and supportive programming can light a path toward ending incarceration. Now is the time to act.