Gotham Gazette: “NYC Jails Action Coalition Pushes Reform”

09 Jul Gotham Gazette: “NYC Jails Action Coalition Pushes Reform”

NYC Jails Action Coalition Pushes Reform
July 9th, 2012

A recently formed coalition is calling for a reduction in the use of solitary confinement and what they refer to as a “culture of brutality” in the city’s jail system.

The New York City Jails Action Coalition, which formed in December of last year and is comprised of members of organizations that have worked on the issues for years, held its first protest outside the Board of Correction on 51 Chambers St. earlier today.

“The United Nations has likened solitary confinement to torture,” said member Richard Sawyer, referring to a statement by the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment that specifically called out the U.S.’s disproportionate use of punitive segregation.

The issue of solitary confinement has recently been discussed on a national level, and NYC JAC is using that momentum to promote their cause.

Sawyer specifically condemned the practice of putting someone in 10-day solitary confinement for “horseplay,” but Department of Correction spokeswoman Sharman Stein said the term trivialized the problem.

“The Department’s first responsibility is to protect everyone in its custody. When an inmate assaults another inmate or an employee, he cannot remain in his housing unit, nor should he,” read an official DOC statement. “There are consequences for harming others.”

NYC JAC and its member groups recommend the city adopt a policy similar to one in Mississippi, where punitive segregation is only used as a last resort. In Mississippi’s case, the policy change led to reduced violence – a point the coalition emphasizes.

The coalition also alleges that the DOC condones brutal practices, and spends millions settling lawsuits from former inmates The DOC has denied those allegations.

The New York City jails system is one of the largest in the U.S., with a daily population of 13,000 as of 2010.

By on July 9, 2012, 6:12 pm