Soon New York City prisons will no longer be allowed to send juvenile inmates to solitary confinement. News of the policy change in the nation’s second largest prison system came from an internal memo from city correction commissioner Joseph Ponte to Mayor Bill de Blasio obtained the New York Times. The policy change will be implemented by the end of the year and will prohibit inmates under the age of 18 to be held in solitary.
The policy change comes as criticism of the New York City Correction Department mounted following a scathing report on the department’s handling of inmates, particularly juveniles, at Rikers Island prison. “Although experts have spoken for years about the devastating effects of solitary confinement on the mental health of adolescent prisoners, such seclusion has long been the primary form of punishment at the Rikers Island jail complex, where inmates as young as 16 can spend days, weeks and sometimes months locked in a cell for over 23 hours a day,” the Times reports.
“In one 21-month period, that review found, an average of 150 young inmates received solitary time each month, resulting in a total of 143,823 days in isolation,” the Associated Press reports. “About 300 of the 11,500 daily inmates in city jails are 16 and 17 years old, according to the Department of Correction. Of the roughly 530 inmates in solitary on any given day, around 50 of them are teens.”