The number of people in solitary confinement at Rikers Island has fallen significantly to 1.7 percent of the jail population at the beginning of April, or 167 people, according to data released by the city’s Department of Correction this week. In 2012, as much as 7.3 percent of the population at Rikers Island was in punitive segregation. The New York Civil Liberties Union has been advocating for years to end the use of solitary on people 21 and younger and reduce the use of the inhumane punishment on all detained and incarcerated people.
The following statement is attributable to Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU:
“Commissioner Ponte and his team deserve credit for persisting against enormous odds and strident opposition from the correction officers’ union and sharply reducing solitary confinement at Rikers Island.
“Rikers Island cannot be fixed. The city should continue its work to sharply reduce the jail’s population through criminal justice reforms including bail reform and reduction of case processing times. The city must ultimately close the failing jail complex and shift toward community-based settings that offer rehabilitation, reentry services and mental health services. And it is critical to establish real accountability for the corrections officers who brutalize New Yorkers held at Rikers.”
There is much more work to do, but it is good news that significantly fewer people at Rikers today are in solitary confinement. Kalief Browder spent two years as a teenager in solitary at Rikers despite never being convicted of a crime, and following that abuse, took his own life. While it's too late for Kalief, the commissioner’s efforts will likely reduce the risk of other people being subjected to the same torture that stole Kalief’s life.”