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I've been to Rikers once...to cover a story. So from an outsiders view, it seems reasonable for the Department of Correction to have a plan to deal with violent inmates. Unfortunately, solitary confinement doesn't appear to help the anger issues. In fact, it may make them worse. Here's to hoping someone presents a solution that satisfies all interested parties.
A protest was held today over the Department of Correction's use of solitary confinement at New York City jails. Following the death of a man last month at Rikers Island, the New York City Jails Actions Coalition is calling for an end to the practice. The organization says juveniles and people with mental illness are held in conditions that can lead to extreme emotional distress.
The DOC says it's increased the "punitive segregation capacity" from 752 to 1035 beds the past three years. It calls solitary confinement "one tool within a much larger population management strategy...aimed at reducing conflict and improving safety and security." What do you say?
What reforms would you make to the New York City jail system? Do you support or oppose the use of solitary confinement? If you have a personal experience spending time behind bars in the five boroughs, what was it like?
Send your thoughts using the link above.
I have been working at the Legal Aid Society Prisoners’ Rights Project for over 5 years as a paralegal and I am active member of the Jails Action Coalition. During this time I have visited the jails on Rikers Island and the other borough facilities operated by the NYC Department of Corrections. I have personally interviewed and facilitated interviews with hundreds of people in DOC custody. I have heard deeply disturbing descriptions of brutal assaults and harrowing tales of the torture of being confined in solitary confinement; very often these two go hand in hand. A large population of people who are victims of guard brutality and confined in punitive segregation are suffering from mental illness. The concept of 23 hour confinement is unbearable even to those of us who have not had the experience. I recently spoke to an individual who explained that he is living with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. He has been in and out of the solitary confinement housing for several months now. He fears being in confinement and described the constant sound of people banging and screaming; which he believes are cries for help. When I asked him what he wanted me to tell people about what it's like to be in solitary confinement in a New York City jail he, without hesitation, made reference to Mr. Ecchevarria’s son, whom he referred to as his friend. He said "he won't be the first and he won't be last if things don't change."
Thank you for featuring this important topic on tonight’s show and for providing a platform to promote this change. Solitary is torture.
Brooklyn, New York
I must admit that I have never been in jail and I have not visited anyone residing in a jail, but, I do know of some people who reside in jail. One person needs to be in solitary confinement 24/7 because he lashes out at unsuspecting people at any time. I guess that is why they call it J-A-I-L and not a DAY SPA?
kathy from Throggs Neck da bronx
IF WE DID NOT CUT REHAB UNITS AND 12 STEP PROGRAMS THERE WOULD NOT BE A NEED FOR SOLITAIRE CONFINEMENTS. IF YOU CAN IDENTIFY IN A TRIAGE SORT OF WAY WHAT THE INMATE IS HARBORING, IE: ADDICTIONS AND OR MENTAL ILLNESS, YOU CAN BETTER PROVIDE A SAFER ENVIRONMENT IN JAIL. TREATING A PATIENT WITH DRUG PROBLEMS OR MENTAL ILLNESS IS DIFFERENT THAN TREATING A CRIMINAL REOPEN ARTHUR KILL CORRECTIONS AS A TREATMENT UNIT FOR THOSE WITH DRUG AND MENTAL ILLNESS.
JOE, BAY TERRACE
It's unconscionable that we are jailing 16 and 17 year olds with adults at Rikers Island. The practice at best teaches these juvenile offenders to become better criminals and at worst puts them at risk and often as targets for violence and sexual assault. These young people do not belong in the criminal system, they are juveniles and belong in the juvenile corrections system where - even amongst its failings - at least recognizes them as young people who need direction and rehabilitation. Let's not give up on these kids, they are teenagers who have done wrong, but do not deserve the harsh, cruel and inhumane consequences that add to their sentences and debt to society.
- Patrick, Brooklyn
Two things need to be done. One, legalize drugs. The sale and use of drugs results in many crimes and much violence. Drug laws should be repealed. All of them. It is only because drugs are illegal that there is drug crime. Nothing inherent in the use of drugs leads to violence or violation of rights. Prohibition of drugs is the cause of crime just as prohibition of alcohol resulted in crime, violence and death. In a very real way, it is government that causes drug crime and many other crimes. It is none of the governments business what we ingest, inhale, imbibe or shoot up. As long as no one's rights are violated by these activities, there is no crime.
Two, the prison industry must be busted up. And the thuggish guards that police them fired.
Port Richmond, SI
We seem to be painting a broad brush here on the topic. Who is the responsible one for being incarcerated in the first place. What about the harm the juveniles and the ones with mental illness' could infringe upon the other inmates and or guards. To ask anyone what it was like being incarcerated, the answer can't be a pleasant one at all. To say the least.
We don't know the situation or the cause of death of the man at Rikers. So now this New York City Jails Actions Coalition sees fit to end the practice of solitary confinement. I ask why do they now see fit to lift these practices at this time. The families, parents or guardians of these people must get involved and take responsibility for the actions of these people. I am sure that they can head many of these problems of at the pass before things get out of control. Kids are still going to school with weapons.
Thank you John,
Solitary confinement is a needs Tool in our jails. The breakdown on our society is due to all the Bleeding Hearts who make it OK or justify bad behavior. Anti-social behavior has to be dealt with swiftly and a show of stern punitive actions. When will people learn, making it easier for criminals only brings on an attitude that they can do whatever they want.
Mentally ill people make up far too much of the imprisoned population, and the Dept. of correction's response to this is typical - lock them away in solitary and throw away the key. I personally know of one case where a prisoner with mental illness was kept in the "hole" for 5 years!!! a mentally ill person's disease will just get worse in solitary, and what happens when they get out? the mental illness has become more severe and they become a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. even inmates without mental illness going in may become mentally ill from the extreme emotion distress of being in solitary. and juveniles shouldn't be in the same prison as adult offenders, let alone be placed in solitary. prisoners come out more damaged than when they went in, which is horrible for them and bad for society. this country is not civilized when it comes to prisons. it's all about punishment with no chance of rehabilitation. shame on us.
meryl from manhattan
YOU DO THE CRIME YOU PAY THE TIME AND WHATEVER PUNISHMENT COMES WITH IT. KEEP SOLITARY CONFINEMENT FOR THOSE DANGEROUS CRIMINALS. THEY LOST THEIR PRIVILEGE TO BE IN SOCIETY!!!
I was unfortunate enough to have spent time on Rikers Island. Most inmates are in solitary confinement for “Dirty urine” and possession of tobacco products! Also, the one hour out is not mandatory. If they don’t like you they wont let you out at all. Refusing a direct order is a catch all charge that usually is not violent. Also, most tobacco products are smuggled in (weapons also, even guns!) by the officers!!
The blame is on the DOC Commissioner. The use of punitive segregation has increased under her watch, despite no evidence showing why it's needed. If it's necessary, prove it - show the data that supports your argument, not just anecdotes.
Frank - Sunset Park, Brooklyn
Solitary confinement should be used for extremely violent offenders & any offender who incites or tries to incite a riot within the jail or attacks a correction officer. I don't believe it should be used routinely against an inmate for minor offenses committed by an inmate. But let's remember, it's jail it shouldn't be comfortable to be there!!
Solitary confiment in rikers island is so messed that if you are the victim gettin a beatin they punish both the victim and ythe aggresor to the same 3 to 4 days solitary...
The bigger issue above solitary confinement is the growing culture of treating people as subhuman. Of course the safety of all inmates and personnel must be the main concern. But before the jail system can be reformed, it must be first viewed for what it is- a money maker. New York's system of justice is a multi-billion dollar machine. We have sadly lost the focus of punishment and reform. Maybe Governor Cuomo should step up and appoint a panel to publicly air all the issues of just not solitary confinement, but of the entire process of NY's system of justice.
they should do away with such cruel treatment of inmates in NYC Jails.
Will from Williamsburg
rikers...is only supposed to be a tempoary holding place.....people...inmates...should not have to wait months....to be sent to the state facility for their sentencing jail....they also need to send parole violators back to the jail they were released from.....by this prisisent violators wont have rule in these places where sometime innoence children n people r killed by idiots that will never amount to nothing unless the choose to in life....many imates feel...jail is all they know.
Nope, as punishment the prisoner should be given lots of extra work to do, find out what he/she dislikes the most, and make them do that, now that's what I call " punishment" !!!!!
Carmen from beautiful Bay Ridge
Give all inmates one meal a day and make solitary confinement the norm. That way criminals can think and repent for their crimes.
I have no sympathy for inmates other than solitary confinement is better than the death penalty. Why did they go to jail in the 1st place?
Solitary confinement does irreversible harm. We must keep upfront that this is pure torture and no good can possible come from this. This form of punishment does not correct any so called “bad behavior” it is inhumane . This is a form of torture and it is being use blatantly by the hands of an oppressive system. Suicides are brushed under the carpet at Rikers…my son was on suicide watch several times while in the box at Rikers Island..at the time he was only 16. He did not kill , rob any one, steal, rape or sell drugs…he had not even been convicted of his “alleged crime” yet..and still he was put in Solitary confiment time and time again for simple infractions such as talking back to a CO officer.
As a society we turn against ourselves and stereotype who we believe are criminals …we hate and fear our youth rather than fight against the system that continues to breathe violence into our very lungs by destroying our whole infrastructure..then blaming us when we end up homeless, jobless and in jail etc. STOP THE USE OF THE BING , THE BOX..SOLITARY CONFINMENT IN RIKERS AND EVERYWHERE!
Rights for Imprisoned People with Psychiatric Disabilities
"Solitary Confinement" in my view is a cruel and inhuman treatment of anyone clinically diagnosed with "mental illness." Mental illness should be treated in controlled "mental illness institutions" not in "city jails." Since 1994, I've repeatedly said that the jails and other correctional facilities are filled beyond capacity with those with "mental illness" and this issue should have been addressed decades ago.
Mentally disturbed individuals placed in "solitary confinement" only increases their "emotional distress", it does not decrease it! They are alone, medicated and "unaware" of their surroundings - without the proper "guidance, medication and counseling of professionals" they need to survive in the "real world."
The incarceration of people with mental illnesses has long been a concerning issue for mental health care and criminal justice professionals alike. Prisons are ill equipped to meet the needs of offenders with mental illnesses. Furthermore, the criminalization of this population does not result in care, but adds to the cycle of prison violence and lack of treatment during incarceration and upon release. In recent years, mental health courts have been developed in order to combat the criminalization of the mentally ill by offering treatment instead of prison sentences.
I've need on rikers for 2 wks. And I never want to go back. being locked up in a cage 23 hrs is the issue, but I think reforms are needed. Some correction officers actually let these inmates get into fights as they watch until it gets seviour, which can sometimes cause deaths.
(Chris upper west)
I feel that the co's treat the inmate like they are animals and they treat the visitors like their convicts I feel the punishment should fit the crime every prisoners aren't there for the same thing
Ana from manhattan
Give us a break. These criminals are in jail for Rape,Murder,Shooting People. And we are wrong for making them follow the rules while in prison? What a joke.
I was an inmate on rikers island for 8 months . The punishment in punitive segregation is in humane the officers sometime don't feed inmates they come into an inmate's Cell and you over excessive force and break bones in people bodies.
SOMETIME SOLITARY CONFINEMENT COMES IN HANDY, WHEN THERE IS A NEW CELL-MATE, THAT WILL BE CHALLENGED JUST FOR THE HELL OF IT. SO IF NECESSARY, DO NOT FEAR BEING IN SOLITARY AS A PUNISHMENT, THERE ARE TIMES WHEN THE NEW CELL-MATE HAS TO MAKE THE TOUGH CHOICE OF REQUESTING TO BE PUT IN SOLITARY, TO KEEP YOURSELF SAFE UNTIL YOUR RELEASE. THIS HAPPENS MORE OFTEN THAN YOU MAY EXPECT. THE CLEANING AND MAINTENANCE OF THE CELL SHOULD BE PART OF THE DAILY MAINTENANCE ROUTINE. IF REQUESTED BY CELL-MATE, THERE SHOULD NOT BE A REASON TO GRANT THEIR REQUEST FOR SOLITARY CONFINEMENT. AND NO, THE CORRECTION STAFF DOES NOT INTERFERE WITH THE FIGHT CHALLENGE, AND IN SOME CASES, THEY ASK THE CURRENT CELL-MATES IF THERE IS ANY PROBLEM WITH THEM STARTING THE CONFLICT? TRUST ME, DEFENDING YOURSELF WHILE INCARCERATED IS A DAILY ROUTINE. AND OF COURSE, YOU HAVE TO MAKE THE HARD DECISIONS AND GO WITH IT. ONCE YOU SIZE UP YOUR CHALLENGER, SO THAT THEY KNOW, THAT THE NEW CELL-MATE WILL NOT BACK DOWN. DO THE RIGHT THING FOR BOTH YOU AND THE CHALLENGER.
I agree that the DOC should not use solitary confinement because the problems start with the correction officers like that guy said they bring in contraband..how does stuff get in?
The NYSDOC should reform itself..They r part of the problem..letting inmates take over..They do nothing..
I AS A PARENT DON'T FEEL THAT SOLIDARITY CONFINEMENT IS RIGHT.THE CORRECTIONS OFFICERS NEED TO BE MORE EDUCATED AND NEED MORE TRAINING JUST PUT ONE OF THE CORRECTIONS IN THEIR LETS SEE HOW THEY FEEL.tHEY ARE VERY RUDE AND DISRESPECTFUL TO VISITORS.ALL THEY DO IS EAT AND IGNORE YOU.
Watch the movie "The Green Mile." It's about "mutual respect". You can't get rid of this. Currently, this is the best way we have of protecting society, and the criminals from each other.
Its tony from harlem: the ones we used to give wedges to become cops c.o.,s and mayors queens criminal court inniocent people to cop out by remanding for no reason and raising the bail they are a bunch of bottymen
I am an nurse who went to visit my nephew on rikers island and I was treated like crap. I don't know the prison system, never been in a precinct let alone a jail or prison, I don't know the procedures. I was yelled at and treated as if I committed a crime so I can only imagine how badly the inmates are treated. Guilty or not, no one needs to be treated that way. Especially if they have not been convicted yet.
maybe they should keep inmates that committed the same type of crime together so everyone isn't treated the same way
Terry from manhattan
It is Jail...
Send the jail persons to live with the complainers. This way they will not be alone in solitary confinement.
Some of the persons in jail commit the most egregious offenses only to commit more offenses against others when in jail.
Yes some are mentally ill but it is jail.
Reforms may be needed but not like this.