Rule status: Proposed
Comment by date: April 21, 2021
Rule Full Text
The Board of Correction is proposing a new rule and rule amendments designed to ensure that people in the Department of Correction’s custody: (1) are placed in restrictive housing in accordance with due process and procedural justice principles; and (2) are confined in the least restrictive setting and for the least amount of time necessary to address the specific reasons for their placement and to ensure their own safety as well as the safety of staff, other people in custody, and the public.
Send comments by
- Email: BOC@boc.nyc.gov
- Mail: Board of Correction, Attn: Margaret Egan, 1 Centre Street Room/Floor: Room 2213 ; New York, New York 10007
April 13, 2021
9:00am - 12:00pm EDT
Call-In Number: 1-408-418-9388 and Access Code: 129 509 8952
April 14, 2021
6:00pm - 9:00pm EDT
Call-In Number: 1-408-418-9388 and Access Code: 129 418 5651
Online comments: 13
The proposed units are just another version of isolation where during the 10 hours of out-of-cell time, incarcerated individuals merely move from their cell to a caged-in space in front of their cell where they remain alone and can have some limited interaction with the person in the cell(s) next to them. Even worse, there is no limit to the amount of time that a person can be held in these conditions. Solitary confinement in ANY form is torture.
Solitary confinement is torture and must be abolished completely in NYC.
These rules don’t do that and instead perpetuate extreme forms of isolation, even indefinitely. All people should have access to at least 14 hours out of cell per day in spaces conducive for people to engage in programs and activities with other people. People should have access to lawyers to help ensure these rules are properly implemented and people are protected.
Alice Sturm Sutter
See attachmentComment attachment
this system of creating new punishment instead of programs is just making another solitary confinement unitComment attachment
Solitary confinement is torture and must be abolished completely in NYC.These rules don’t do that and instead perpetuate extreme forms of isolation, even indefinitely. All people should have access to at least 14 hours out of cell per day in spaces conducive for
people to engage in programs and activities with other people. People should have access to lawyers to help ensure these rules are properly implemented and
people are protected. Please do what is best for the populations you serve.
Kenya M. Lee
This comment is made on behalf of a group of students enrolled inCUNY School of Law’s Spring 2021 Public Instutions Course.Comment attachment
Dear Chair Jones Austin and Members of the Board:
Solitary confinement is torture, and you cannot reform torture. Making these cosmetic changes to a fundamentally violent and damaging practice is NOT enough. The harm will continue, perpetuating the same torture.
I wish to draw here on the work done by the Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement. Any quotations I have below come from their tireless work for human rights, and I have also duplicated their structure.
The proposed rules are just a reworking of the current rules, and would only reproduce the same harm. Measures that focus on rehabilitation and allow healthy socialization will get us closer to not just a more humane way of treating people, but also more effective changes in behavior. Solitary, whether in its current structure or in your proposed shifts, only worsens people’s ability to coexist alongside others.
From CAIC: “‘Out-of-cell’ time must include access to meaningful congregate interactions with at least several people at a time in the same open space that is conducive for healthy human interaction and engagement. People must be treated as human beings, have opportunities for regular activities with other human beings, in spaces that are conducive for human beings to interact meaningfully.”
If you’re really hoping to interrupt harmful behavior, you can’t just throw people into boxes. You need to address the harm—and not with MORE HARM, which is what solitary confinement is. Here are the CAIC recommendations on measures to implement so harm is interrupted, not replicated:
“All people in City jails, including those separated from the general jail population, should have access to at least 14 hours out of cell per day, with access to at least seven hours of congregate out-of-cell programming and activities. The proposed rules allow for the required five hours of daily programming in the Risk Management and Accountability System (‘RMAS’) to take place in-cell or out-of-cell without any requirement for the programming to be congregate in nature. The rule should require out-of-cell, congregate programming with other incarcerated people or program staff. Programs like CAPS in NYC jails, Merle Cooper in a New York prison (now closed), and the RSVP program in San Francisco jails offer interventions that do not restrict out-of-cell time, focus on meaningful pro-social programming and engagement, and actually work to reduce violence and improve safety.”
If we really want to change behavior and interrupt cycles of violence, it is not enough to lock people out of view. We have to engage with their healing and growth ACTIVELY and in ways that can create demonstrable change.
3. You need to directly and formally create limits for the amount of time people spend in the various levels of containment, or else this system because IMMEDIATELY tied to the whims of individuals, not to any sort of law. As CAIC puts it:
“There must be absolute limits on the length of time that people spend in the RMAS levels. The length of the time limit is dependent upon the provision of meaningful programs and activities. The proposed rule creates a highly restrictive environment in which individuals in Level 1 spend their ‘out-of-cell’ time in separate cages without meaningful human engagement. Thus, there should be an absolute limit of 15 days in RMAS Level 1….[T]here must be hard limits and the presumption that individuals will progress through each level if they do not engage in violent behavior in RMAS.”
For these proposed rules to have any impact, they need to be formally stated, NOT left to individual decision making, which would allow abuse to proliferate unchecked.
4. If solitary or your replacement for it are going to be medically harmful to an individual, you CANNOT allow them to be used. It is completely unconscionable for this system to worsen the condition of people whose mental and physical health is at risk. From CAIC: “The rules should prohibit from placement in the RMAS or other forms of restrictive housing all young people aged 25 and younger, elderly people aged 55 and over, people with mental health needs, people with physical disabilities, and people with medical conditions and comorbidities. These categories of incarcerated people are particularly vulnerable to the harms of isolation.” What you must keep in mind is that people put into solitary suffer profoundly, even if they’re mentally and physically well. If they are at all medically compromised, the harm can increase swiftly. Lack of medical care and lack of taking medical issues into account can lead to immense suffering and potential death.
5. You must provide access to council. As I’ve stated above, these types of punishment CANNOT be left to the whims of individuals in the prison system. To do so allows a direct avenue to abuse. Again I will quote CAIC: “People should have access to their own counsel or legal advocate at hearings that can result in placement in RMAS and in the placement review process. They should have the right to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses. Both the person incarcerated and their attorney of record should be provided timely written notice of the reason for proposed placement in restrictive housing. This notice should include specific information regarding the allegations, which the proposed rule does not require. A failure to provide such notice should constitute a due process violation warranting dismissal. Counsel should be provided adequate time to prepare for such hearings, including requests for adjournments. People should not be required to remain in isolated confinement for the duration of the disciplinary process.
“At a minimum, providing access to counsel will provide some semblance of fairness and accountability for the operation of these hearings and the placement of people in highly restrictive and damaging environments. Access to counsel is also critical to ensuring that the periodic placement reviews are meaningful and that any decision to continue placement is supported by evidence that meets the standard set forth in the rules.”
We are currently allowing those within the carceral system to increase the level of violence and harm done to those inside without the oversight of courts or the law. Again, this allows abuse to proliferate, and additionally it operates as a form of punishment outside of the legal system, allowing cruel and unusual punishments to cause harm without any legal oversight.
6. How can people be expected to access any kind of rehabilitation or growth if they are locked in chains? CAIC puts this succinctly:
“While the proposed rules purport to end the use of so-called restraint desks and other restraints during out-of-cell time, they do not place limitations on restraints until November 2021. The proposed rules also continue to allow people to be chained to desks or placed in five-point restraints or in other forms of restraints not in response to an immediate threat of harm but if a person “recently” engaged in serious violent conduct, with a review every seven days. The rules should be amended to ban restraint desks and other forms of restraint during out-of-cell time entirely, or at the very least ensure that every use of restraints is in response to an immediate threat of imminent and serious harm. To the extent that restraint desks or other forms of restraint are used, the rules must require correctional health staff to provide medical and mental health rounds during each tour.” Restraints should not be used as a go-to! If used at all, it should only be used in EXCEPTIONAL cases.
7. No isolation for non-violent offenses!!!!! If the purported reason for solitary confinement, is, as it is so often given, to keep other incarcerated people and prison workers safe—it CANNOT be allowed for non-violent offensive. Allowing its use in these cases throws the doors wide open for abuse.
8. We know these practices don’t increase safety, so why are we perpetuating them? I’ll let CAIC take it away: “The proposed rules continue to perpetuate the idea that treating some people as less than other people in the jails (and indeed in this case less than any human being should be treated) is somehow acceptable and is somehow going to miraculously improve safety when all evidence indicates otherwise. The City should not create classes of people who are subject to more limits on out-of-cell time. Limiting people’s out-of-cell time does not address safety or violence concerns, but it can cause devastating harm. We need an approach that is actually about addressing safety and protecting the health and well-being of people who are incarcerated. All people in the City jails, regardless of what unit they are in or if they are separated from the general jail population, should have access to at least 14 hours out-of-cell per day, again with at least seven hours of out-of-cell congregate programming and activities.” We will not have any meaningful change in safety or human rights if people are still being thrown into boxes. There are not sufficient proposed alternatives for addressing and interrupting the violence at hand (unsurprisingly as the prison system itself replicates that violence). We need measures that will actually help keep people safe and well. These aren’t those.
9. Not clearly defining the limits of these practices make abuse almost inevitable. Per CAIC: “There should be strict and precisely defined limits on the scope, reasons for, and lengths of time for emergency lock-ins and ‘deescalation confinement,’ if they are to be permitted at all. Emergency lock-ins and placement in deescalation should be reviewed at least every hour and should never last more than four hours in any 24-hour period nor more than 12 hours in any seven-day period.”
10. Do not build more prisons. Dear god, if you have the money to build new cells, you clearly have the money to invest in programs that actually center rehabilitation and healing. Instead, you have just devised a new style of torturous confinement, rather than address the core issues. From CAIC:
“No human being should be locked in the types of units envisioned under the rule. Putting people in small cages to allow them to communicate with one other person in a separate nearby cage, and holding people in those conditions for months and even indefinitely, is not how any human being should be treated.
“There is no need to construct any new units, and certainly the City should not construct more punitive and isolative units. People should have out-of-cell time in large spaces that are conducive to human beings interacting in a meaningful way. The Board’s rules should not require the City to spend precious resources to construct more units that are abhorrent to humanity.”
You can’t make better cages for human beings. That’s not how this works. We need to entirely abolish our current system of incarceration, which merely perpetuates harm and gives it a place to proliferate. We need something entirely new and different. While we’re working on that—and I need y’all as leaders to read up on that, read Angela Davis and Mariame Kaba and start rethinking how we address harm in our communities—but while you’re all doing the learning that will lead us somewhere much better, let’s take some commonsense steps to halt the current egregious harm. Again I will allow CAIC to sum it all up: “In line with the Mayor’s and the Board of Correction’s promise, the Board must amend the proposed rule to actually end solitary confinement once and for all in New York City. Evidence shows that in addition to being more humane, what actually works to address violence are opportunities for real and meaningful human engagement and pro-social programming. By contrast, the proposed alternatives to solitary in this poorly conceived rule are the exact opposite of these essential program needs, and will allow people to be held in isolated conditions for months, possibly years, and indefinitely. Ultimately, the Board must enact rules that treat all people as human beings and allow them to engage with other people in spaces and in manners that are suitable for human beings.”
We’re asking for solutions and interventions in harm, NOT cosmetic changes.
In my work as a Licensed Clinical Social worker and in my life experience with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals, I witness how damaging solitary confinement is and how long-lasting its effects are, both to the individual and to the people they interact with.
In addition and as a result, safety inside jails and prisons as well as safety in the community outside is profoundly undermined.
Safety as well as humane treatment are increased when there is meaningful human contact in the context of rehabilitation.
The proposed rules must be altered to achieve these objectives.
The Board of Correction proposed rules to purportedly end solitary confinement in New York CityComment attachment
jails. However, the Board of Correction’s proposed rules simply create a new system of inhumane
and abhorrent treatment that amounts to solitary confinement by another name. The Board must
amend its rules to actually end solitary confinement in a real and meaningful way.
The Vera Institute of Justice released a report on “Solitary Confinement: Common Misconceptions and Emerging Safe Alternatives” that provides evidence that supports the abolition of solitary confinement. Additionally, this resource also presents alternatives that focus on restorative justice, not reforms that simply recreate solitary confinement in more “palatable” forms, such as this proposal.
I hope you review and meaningfully consider this resource, as well as the words of Ruth Wilson Gilmore on “Abolition Geography and the Problem of Innocence” I’ve included below:
“Today’s prisons are extractive. What does that mean? It means prisons enable money to move because of the enforced inactivity of people locked in them. It means people extracted from communities, and people returned to communities but not entitled to be of them, enable the circulation of money on rapid cycles. What’s extracted from the extracted is the resource of life — time. If we think about this dynamic through the politics of scale, understanding bodies as places, then criminalization transforms individuals into tiny territories primed for extractive activity to unfold — extracting and extracting again time from the territories of selves. This process opens a hole in a life, furthering, perhaps to our surprise, the annihilation of space by time. A stolen and corrupted social wage flies through that time-hole to prison employees’ paychecks. To vendors. To utility companies. To contractors. To debt service. The cash takes many final forms: wages, interest, rent, and sometimes profit. But more to the point, the extractive process brings the mechanics of contemporary imperialism to mind: extraction, in money form, from direct producers whose communities are destabilized too. But money, too, gives us some insight into the enormity of the possible inhabitants and makers of abolition geographies — abolition geography, the antagonistic contradiction of carceral geographies, form an interlocking pattern across the terrain of racial capitalism. We see it.”
“Abolition geography starts from the homely premise that freedom is a place…Working outward and downward from this basic premise, abolitionist critique concerns itself with the greatest and least detail of these arrangements of people and resources and land over time. It shows how relationships of un-freedom consolidate and stretch, but not for the purpose of documenting misery. Rather, the point is not only to identify central contradictions — inherent vices — in regimes of dispossession, but also, urgently, to show how radical consciousness in action resolves into liberated life-ways, however provisional, present and past. Indeed, the radical tradition from which abolition geography draws meaning and method goes back in time-space not in order to abolish history, but rather to find alternatives to the despairing sense that so much change, in retrospect, seems only ever to have been displacement and redistribution of human sacrifice. If unfinished liberation is the still-to-be-achieved work of abolition, then at bottom what is to be abolished isn’t the past or it’s present ghost, but rather the processes of hierarchy, dispossession, and exclusion that congeal in and as group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death.”
– Futures of Black Radicalism, p. 227-28.Comment attachment
positive change in our current system can not be achieved in archaic facilities. 2021 no person should be made to live or work in buildings with no air conditioning during the hot summer months.
with the understanding that the current increasing jail population consists of more serious offenders eliminating the use of punitive segregation puts all people in harms way. if a violent inmate commits egregious acts in nyc the consequence is he is removed from the general population and brought to jail to keep society safe. when that same individual prays on inmates and staff while in jail how do you keep the population safe? inmates and staff are brutalized by violent predatory inmates every single day. eliminating punitive segregation without having a proven alternative proves that the BOC is irresponsible and truly does not care about the well being of the majority of the inmate population. society has rules , people break those rules and people fall victim. why should the board be allowed to enrich an environment? the rule breakers are essentially allowed to run wild, and everyone else has to just deal with it and constantly be in fear for their safety? this gross fault in inadequate safety is what’s forcing what would be non violent individuals to act outside of their character just to survive.
the only real solution or alternatives to punitive segregation that would keep the nyc citizens safe :
-new modern facilities with more housing units that house fewer inmates.
-another mass release of inmates
– expedition of the courts
if the BOC truly believes the elimination of punitive segregation is the answer, eliminate it. if the inmate population is well behaved, and the punitive seg “ survivors “ truly are victim to officer abuse / department abuse like they say they are , limit the officer to inmate contact. remove the guards from the housing unit. no longer make the jail guards responsible for inmates safety. when an inmate gets his face or neck sliced open have the medical staff, and mental health staff respond to quell and meditate the situation. someone on the BOC or an advocate group could take responsibility for that persons actions since he can’t be held accountable for his own.
inmates, staff members, and civilians have the right to coexist in the same building without jeopardizing their own safety. nobody should have to live or work in constant fear that they are gong to get assaulted. no assault victim should have to wake up and be forced to eat breakfast lunch and dinner while sitting across the table from their assailant.
I am writing to you as a concerned citizen and graduate student of the City and Regional Planning Program at Pratt Institute.
On the one hand, it’s encouraging to see that the Board of Corrections will be moving towards ending the practice of punitive segregation (PSEG), which is long overdue, following evidence of irreparable harm and deaths within the system. On the other hand, the proposed Risk Management and Accountability System (RMAS) rules do not go far enough to ensure accountability. Perpetuating restrictive housing within the larger context of a broken criminal justice system is an unacceptable condition to those of us seeking racial, social, and economic justice in our society. By continuing to reform a broken system, we avoid asking the questions of how to work towards the abolition of these systems of subjugation.
In my full public comment, I highlight some observations within the existing systems and call on the Board of Corrections, and New York City government as a whole, widen its scope to imagine a world where neither restrictive housing nor the carceral system is necessary.
Full comment attached as PDF.Comment attachment
This new rule is a progressive step in realizing the needs of justice communities and is a step toward more effective rehabilitation. However, the idea of continuing usage of solitary confinement as a system of punishment is not only outdated but will not lead to effective rehabilitation nor gives the person in custody the tools to live outside of the prison system. Abolish solitary confinement.
Full comment attached.Comment attachment