New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will stop using solitary confinement in the city’s jails, marking a victory for criminal-justice reform advocates who have long argued the practice is inhumane, the Wall Street Journal reports. De Blasio and Board of Correction Chair Jennifer Jones Austin said the city formed a working group to eliminate punitive-segregation practices. The board will vote this fall on recommendations from the four-person panel. “This group will have a simple mission,” de Blasio said. “Find a way to end solitary confinement.” De Blasio said people with some underlying medical conditions, including seizures and heart, lung and kidney disease, will no longer be held in restrictive housing “effective immediately.” Pregnant women and people with mental illness were already barred from solitary confinement.
The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, representing corrections staffers, has advocated for punitive segregation, describing it as “one of many tools used to curb abusive behavior—even criminal conduct—by detainees while incarcerated.” Correction board vice chairman Stanley Richards will head the newly formed working group. “Today is a new day,” said Richards, executive vice president at the Fortune Society, a criminal-justice advocacy group. “It’s the first time we’ve heard the mayor say he wants to end solitary confinement.” Since de Blasio took office in 2014, city jails have significantly reduced use of solitary confinement. In 2015, the city eliminated punitive segregation for detainees between 18 and 21. By 2018, the jails had reduced the segregation population to one-fifth of what it housed before De Blasio’s tenure. There are now 94 people in punitive segregation. DeAnna Hoskins of Just Leadership USA, a nonprofit focused on decarceration, will join Richards, correction commissioner Cynthia Brann and a representative from the corrections officers’ union on the four-person working group.