NY City Council Overrides Mayor’s Veto of Bill Banning Solitary…and Other News on Solitary Confinement This Week

Seven Days in Solitary for the Week Ending 2/7/24

by | February 7, 2024

This week’s pick of news and commentary about solitary confinement:

In a 42-9 vote, the New York City Council voted to override Mayor Eric Adam’s vetoes of legislation banning solitary confinement. The new legislation requires all people incarcerated in New York City jails to have a minimum of 14-hours out if cell time in a communal setting and limits confinement to 4 hours immediately following an incident or confrontation. In response to Adams’ veto City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams stated “we cannot allow the human rights and safety crisis on Rikers to continue by maintaining the status quo of failed policies and practices.” ABC News | Although Mayor Adams continues to claim that solitary does not exist in New York City, incarcerated people and advocates state that this isn’t true. According to Jennifer Parish of the Urban Justice Center, “there are units where people are locked down 23 or 24 hours a day.” One attorney described the conditions of these units as filthy and infested with insects and rodents. Spectrum News NY1 

A new report titled “Mapping Solitary Confinement”  summarizes key findings from 57 “country reports” across 42 jurisdictions regarding their policies and practices around solitary confinement. The report examines why people are placed in solitary confinement and what their daily lives are like. Defining solitary confinement as being isolated in a cell for 22 hour or more per day, the report collected data through an extensive questionnaire sent to individuals and organizations across the world. Mapping Solitary Confinement 

Throughout the summer of 2020, a 17-year-old girl with mental health issues spent 27 days  locked naked in solitary confinement at a Kentucky Juvenile Detention Center. According to reports the cell “reeked so badly that it was described as unbearable” while staff mocked the girl for her smell and ignored her cries for help. During her time in solitary, the girl’s mental health continued to deteriorate and she became increasingly confused and paranoid, calling out through the slot in her door that, “They are going to kill me.” This is only the most recent in a series of lawsuits against the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice for the treatment of children held in its facilities. Lexington Herald Leader 

By connecting their efforts for reform to the disability rights movement, California advocates have made more progress in their efforts to end solitary confinement. Following the suicide of seventy-four-year-old Korean immigrant Choung Woong Ahn in 2020, advocates from Disability Rights California joined the fight to end solitary confinement in California. Solitary confinement interacts with disability justice in two ways. First, the effects of placement in solitary can be especially dangerous for people with disabilities, and, second, incarcerated people often develop new disabilities from time spent in solitary confinement. Inquest | The impact of solitary confinement on people with disabilities matters now more than ever as California lawmakers struggle to come to a consensus with Governor Gavin Newsome over proposed legislation aimed at limiting solitary confinement and increasing oversight and transparency. The Sacramento Bee

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