Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams spoke at a Friday City Council hearing of the Committee on Criminal Justice to repeat his call for an end to solitary confinement in New York City and specifically address Intro. 2173, a bill from Council Member Daniel Dromm that would ban the use of solitary confinement in city jails and of which the Public Advocate is a co-prime sponsor.
The Public Advocate applauded the ambition of the legislation and the Council for taking it up, particularly in contradistinction to inaction from Mayor de Blasio on his stated goal of ending the practice, but also highlighted several elements of the bill he hoped to amend.
“Instead of waiting on the Mayor to take definitive action in ending solitary confinement, I along with my colleagues in the City Council are confronting this task head on,” said the Public Advocate of the bill. “I want to take some time today to raise the concerns that I and many criminal justice advocates have about the bill in hopes that we can continue to work collaboratively to get this done the right way.”
He also discussed provisions related to restrictive housing, allotted time out of one’s cell, and emergency lock-ins as elements of the bill that he and many activists believe should be amended prior to passage.
“While the bill prohibits the use of solitary confinement, it states that the practice may be used to de-escalate immediate conflict.., I understand that escalatory incidents may arise where separation may be needed to mitigate the situation. However, there is a difference between separation and isolation… [Isolation] serves no purpose and has a severe negative effect on many people.” Public Advocate Williams explained, adding “Advocates have also raised to my office that the definition of each term in the bill is either too vague and/or too specific, such as the definition of restrictive housing… A person can remain in restrictive housing with a review every 15 days. This can basically mean solitary confinement, just by a different name.”
The Public Advocate’s full statement can be downloaded here.