Dora Schriro, Correction Commissioner, Sharply Increasing Solitary Confinement On Rikers

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The city jail system is sharply expanding its so-called Punitive Segregation Unit, or solitary confinement cells, reports Solitary Watch, a blog which reports on the nations penal system. By the end of the year, the number of punitive segregation cells will increase by 45 percent, from 681 to 990.

Ostensibly for housing troublesome inmates, but also used for teens, and mentally ill prisoners, the punitive segregation cells hold inmates for 23 hours a day. Inmates are sent there for violent incidents, but they can also be housed there for relatively minor infractions.

"Once the expansion is complete, New York City's island jail will have one of the highest rates of solitary confinement in the country," the article notes, going on to point out that academic research suggests that such confinement leads to psychological problems.

"States from Maine to Mississippi have taken steps to reduce the number of inmates they hold in isolation."

What's pushing the increase? Well, we're not sure, but DOC Commissioner Dora Schriro has been under fire from the correction unions over safety issues, staff cuts, and a big backlog in the punitive segregation wings.


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Jail101
Jail101

Punitive Segregation does not mean solitary confinement.  Solitary confinement gives the impression the inmate has no outside contact with other humans, which is not true of punitive seg.  Punitive segregation, also known as administrative segregation, involves limiting the inmates ability to have physical contact with other inmates.  This prevents the subject inmate from physically harassing, strong arming and assaulting fellow inmates as well as staff.  These inmates usually still have the ability to communicate and interact with other inmates in the housing unit, share food, even play cards or chess with others on the block.  Multiple articles in local media have presented punitive segregation as solitary confinement, when that assumption is false. 

Carl Toersbijns
Carl Toersbijns

Another example of overriding sound correctional practices and being aware of the psychological impact of solitary confinement by the mentally ill and those already decomposing at an alarming rate BUT ignoring the experts advice to reduce solitary confinement terms. This ideology is creating ideal situations for increased dbl bunk assaults, suicides and non-compliance with living conditions re: recreation and showers unless staffing pattern is increased to keep  a schedule going.. We will see.

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