Amid increasingly vocal calls to improve conditions at New York City’s Rikers Island fail, the city’s correction department has decided to eliminate solitary confinement for 16- and 17-year-old inmates by the end of the year, reports the New York Times. The decision was noted in an internal memo by correction commissioner Joseph Ponte, to Mayor Bill de Blasio. It comes as the department attempts to face down sharp criticism of the often brutal treatment of inmates at Rikers Island, particularly adolescents and those with mental illnesses.
In August, the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan issued a highly critical on the Correction Department's handling of teenage inmates. It found a “deep-seated culture of violence,” and noted that the use of solitary confinement was “excessive and inappropriate.” It gave the city 49 days to find solutions. That deadline elapsed last week. New York is one of just two states that automatically charges 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. Teenagers at Rikers have been found to be more violent, to commit more infractions and to suffer more injuries than inmates in other age groups.