Sources: Young Rikers Inmates Chained to Desks When Supposed to be Out of Solitary Confinement
The city's department of correction has been trying new ways to combat violence on Rikers Island. But one new practice is raising serious questions from the board that oversees it. NY1's Courtney Gross has the story.
Last year, the de Blasio administration said it was ending solitary confinement for young adults on Rikers Island.
But as an alternative, for 17 hours a day young, violent inmates are locked in their cells.
The other seven hours when they are supposed to be let out, sources tell NY1 the inmates are chained to desks, as seen in the video above. Irons are wrapped around their ankles.
The images were exposed by one member of the city's jail oversight board.
"The young adults, at this point, would prefer to be in solitary confinement than in this protracted restraint, which is harmful, harsh, and humiliating," said Bryanne Hamill of the board of corrections.
Hamill plastered them on screen during a board of correction meeting earlier this week, slamming the administration for the practice.
As she was giving this presentation, the commissioner of the department of correction, Joseph Ponte, put on his scarf, his coat, and then walked out.
Shortly thereafter, the other Rikers staffers there left too.
"I did not think the department of correction would cease this practice, and I thought the public had a right to know," Hamill said.
This has set up an unprecedented fight between the city's department of correction and its oversight board.
It was the board that gave the department approval to set up the unit — that was before the restraint desks came into play.
The board has to sign off on the unit for it to continue.
For now, potentially to avoid that vote, the city's correction department issued an emergency variance, a technical maneuver which allows it to keep operating at least temporarily.
Officials argued that the unit provides a "level of security, separation, and control that does not exist elsewhere," which is necessary for the safety of young adults.
That process has also raised some questions from advocates.
"People are actually chained to a desk. They can't get up, they can't walk around," said Zachary Katznelson of the Legal Aid Society. "You are either in your cell or you are chained to a desk, and that certainly sounds punitive to me."