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New York City’s New Corrections Chief, Known for Solitary Confinement Reforms, Faces Steep Challenges on Rikers Island

New York City's new Commissioner of Correction, Joseph Ponte, with NYPD chief Bill Bratton and Mayor Bill DeBlasio.

In March, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed reformer Joseph Ponte as the Commissioner of the Department of Correction. In his last post, overseeing Maine’s Department of Corrections, Ponte gained particular renown for reducing the use of solitary confinement by over 60 percent. In fact, the changes he helped bring about in Maine […]

Doing “Bing Time”: Memories of a Mental Health Worker in Rikers Island’s Solitary Confinement Unit

A cell in Rikers Island's Central Punitive Segregation Unit.

The following post is a chapter from an unpublished book by Mary Buser, who worked in various capacities in the mental health system on Rikers Island. In Buser’s own words: “I worked in the Rikers Mental Health Department as a psychiatric social worker for five and a half years, leaving Rikers in 2000. I started off as a student intern […]

Seven Days in Solitary [2/23/14]

Solitary confinement news roundup

The following roundup features noteworthy news, reports and opinions on solitary confinement from the past week that have not been covered in other Solitary Watch posts. • A high-profile hearing on solitary confinement will be held on Tuesday, February 25, by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, chaired by […]

As New York City Jails Amend Their Solitary Confinement Practices, Abuses on Rikers Island Continue

rikers demo 1

In early January the Wall Street Journal reported that the New York City Department of Correction (DOC) had ceased using solitary confinement as a form of punishment for people with mental illness. The last of the Mental Health Assessment Unit for Infracted Inmates (MHAUII) units was shuttered on December 31, replaced by a two-tiered system said to […]

Seven Days in Solitary [12/1/13]

Solitary confinement cell

The following roundup features noteworthy news, reports and opinions on solitary confinement from the past week that have not been covered in other Solitary Watch posts. • The Los Angeles Times publishes an editorial calling for lawmakers to apply Pelican Bay’s restrictions on solitary confinement at correctional facilities statewide. “As lawmakers prepare for the second half […]

Reports Condemn Solitary Confinement in New York City’s Jails, As Officials Weigh Its Future

rikers wire

Two recent reports provide a scathing picture of how solitary confinement is employed as a routine disciplinary measure on Rikers Island and in other city jails. The reports are particularly critical of the use of extreme isolation and deprivation on individuals with psychological disabilities, including mentally ill teenagers. The two reports were prepared for the […]

Seven Days in Solitary [9/15/13]

solitary_confinement_cell_auschwitz_13

The following roundup features noteworthy news, reports and opinions on solitary confinement from the past week that have not been covered in other Solitary Watch posts. • According to the tally kept by the Miami Herald, 19 of the 166 men held captive at Guantanamo are engaged in a hunger strike, with 18 being force-fed. The Associated Press reports […]

Board of Correction Votes Against Limiting Solitary Confinement in New York City Jails

BOC MEETING 2

The New York City Board of Correction (BOC) voted on Monday to reject a petition to limit solitary confinement in New York City’s jails. The petition, developed by a grassroots advocacy group called the Jails Action Coalition (JAC), sought to bring sweeping reform to a jail system with one of the highest rates of prison […]

Seven Days in Solitary [4.12.13]

solitary

The following roundup features noteworthy news, reports, and opinions on solitary confinement from the past week that have not been covered in other Solitary Watch posts. • Developments surrounding the systemic failures in California prisons were covered heavily by the media. Most recently, the Los Angeles Times reported on California judges’ threat to find Gov. Jerry Brown […]

“Sick and in Solitary” on Rikers Island

rikers

A comprehensive new article on the treatment of prisoners with mental illness in the New York City jail system appears on The New York World, a site run by the Columbia Journalism School. The piece, by Maura R. O’Connor, opens with the story of Jason Echeverria, a pre-trial detainee who was being held in a special solitary […]