Target: Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York City
Goal: Applaud progressive reform of solitary confinement policies
Solitary confinement will no longer be used to punish any prisoner under the age of 21, according to a recent agreement by New York City officials. The ruling will apply to New York’s Rikers Island complex, which houses around 14,000 inmates on any given day. Experts are calling the new policy a groundbreaking innovation, as most anti-isolation laws protect only those under the age of 18. The reform will include the creation of an “enhanced supervision housing” unit, where violent and troubled young adults will be kept under close watch instead of locked away in solitary.
While solitary confinement has negative effects on people of every age group, they are particularly pronounced on youth and young adults, whose brains are not yet fully developed. Research has shown that prolonged periods of isolation can exacerbate mental illnesses or even cause them. This seclusion can result in depression, loss of touch with reality, identity disorders, and suicidal thoughts.
In the past, Rikers Island has faced controversy over strip searches, abuse of prisoners, and prolonged solitary confinement. At the facility, prisoners held in solitary confinement are kept in their cells alone for 23 hours a day, and let outside for one hour of recreation in a cage by themselves. Prisoners that are particularly hard to deal with can be kept in these conditions for three, nine, and even 12 months at a time.
New York’s initiative is the first of its kind in the country, and will serve as a model for future prison reforms. The policy not only marks a shift in priorities from punishment to rehabilitation, but will spare thousands of young adults potentially harmful punishment. Sign the petition below to praise New York City’s efforts to improve prison standards.
Dear Mayor de Blasio,
Prisoners under 21 years of age will no longer be subjected to solitary confinement, according to a decision by New York City officials. The reform will protect thousands of young adults in the Rikers system from the possible negative effects of isolation, which include depression, loss of touch with reality, and suicidal thoughts.
The program, which includes the creation of housing units with increased supervision to house young adults that would otherwise be sent to isolation, is the first of its kind in the country. We, the undersigned, applaud New York City’s focus on prisoner rehabilitation rather than punishment.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Sfoskett via Creative Commons