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Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

Solitary confinement

Solitary confinement

  • We Lost Our Siblings to Solitary Confinement; This Torture Must End Now

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    Mayor de Blasio at Rikers (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


    June is Torture Awareness Month and it is also the month we both lost our siblings — Kalief Browder and Layleen Polanco — because of the torture of solitary confinement. No other family should ever have to go through the pain and torment our baby brother and baby sister suffered and we continue to suffer. Political leaders from New York City to Washington, D.C. have repeatedly invoked Kalief’s and Layleen’s names to promise to end solitary confinement. Now is the time they must

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  • We Must End Solitary Confinement in New York

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    We need to end solitary confinement in our city and state. Spending all day in a cell the size of an elevator can cause permanent brain damage. Common sense tells us this. Science confirms it. But only the words of someone who has been in solitary confinement can begin to explain it.

    “No one to talk to. Nothing to do. I did push-ups. I read the Bible. That’s it. For days.” That is the way my brother-in-law explained it to me. And the haunting look in his eyes –– years later –– conveyed more than words ever could.

    This is an issue of fundamental

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  • Our Opportunity to End Solitary Confinement in New York City Jails

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    A jail cell (photo: Brook Ward)


    This is a year we would all sooner forget. But 2020 can be remembered as the year New York City ended solitary confinement.

    Layleen Polanco’s death in 2019 was a tragic illustration of how restricted housing and solitary confinement place people at an additional risk while being moved out of sight from urgent medical care and attention. One year later, there is an imminent opportunity to make lasting changes to the city’s criminal justice system that prevent another incident like Layleen’s from occurring.

    In the days following

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  • Plan for Ending Solitary Confinement in City Jails is Imminent, Board of Correction Chair Says

  • Max & Murphy Podcast: Correction Reform at a Crossroads

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    Stanley Richards with Mayor de Blasio (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)


    July 15, 2020 - Max & Murphy Podcast: Correction Reform at a Crossroads

    Stanley Richards of The Fortune Society joined the show to discuss the status of correction reform, particularly with regard to solitary confinement and much more.

    Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMaxand @JarrettMurphy. You can

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  • The State Legislature Claims To Be Co-Equal, So Why Is It Letting The Governor Block Popular Solitary Confinement Restrictions

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    Gov. Cuomo at a correctional facility (photo: governor's office)


    On April 3, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo rammed through a budget that will be devastating to New Yorkers and then on April 4 declared that the legislative session was “effectively over” for the year. Several legislators immediately pushed back.

    Comments from legislators on social media ranged from “Hell no” to “...

  • Lives on the Line: Legislature Must Reform Solitary Confinement Before Session's End

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    (photo: Governor's Office)


    Thousands of people are subjected to long-term solitary confinement in New York. The United Nations calls it torture. New York’s jails and prisons call it business as usual.

    Our state’s laws permit 23-hour confinement for months and even years at a time in jails and prisons across the state. This despite the fact that long-term solitary confinement creates severe and irreparable mental and

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  • Leading the Way on Ending Punitive Segregation

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    Commissioner Ponte, the author, & Mayor de Blasio (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


    Today, the New York City Department of Correction formally ended the practice of punitive segregation for young adults ages 19 through 21 years old, resulting in the complete elimination of punitive segregation, which some call solitary confinement, for inmates ages 16 through 21 in our custody. This is an unprecedented milestone in New York State correctional history and, even more important, across the nation. To date, no other city or state has

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  • Jail Abuse, Lawsuit Show Need to ‘Raise the Age’

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    "Raise the Age" advocates (photo: Correctional Association)


    Last week, the New York Civil Liberties Union and Legal Services of Central New York filed suit against the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office in Syracuse for placing juveniles in solitary confinement. According to the suit, children aged 16 and 17 have been subjected to extended and arbitrary solitary confinement for up to months at a time despite mental health and personal safety concerns. These practices continue in Onondaga County despite the

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  • Another Legislative Session Ends with Thousands Still in Solitary

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    photo: Bob Jagendorf


    Earlier this month, I saw Mariposa & the Saint: From Solitary Confinement, A Play Through Letters. Actress and activist Julia Steele Allen plays Sara Foneseca, or Mariposa, as she is referred to in the play, and uses Mariposa’s own words to express her experiences in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at a women’s prison in California. For the past ten

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  • Advocates Rally to Keep Solitary Confinement in Spotlight

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    A rally to reform solitary confinement rules (photo: @NYCAIC)


    Last November he United Nations committee on torture found that the United States was not in compliance with its Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment because of excessive use of solitary confinement in prisons across the country.

    The UN found that use of solitary confinement of over 15 days amounts to torture. Nearly

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  • Reforming Solitary Confinement At The City's Biggest Psych Ward — Rikers Island

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    NEW YORK — After about three days of being isolated in “the Box” away from his fellow detainees at Rikers Island, Ismael Nazario was beginning to break.

    "That's when it started to take it's toll,” he said, conjuring memories of his time in punitive segregation — solitary confinement — in

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