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New York to End Solitary Confinement for Inmates Under Age 21

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New York City officials Tuesday said they would eliminate the use of solitary confinement for all inmates age 21 and under at the notorious Rikers Island prison in the wake of an outcry over the prison’s treatment of its inmates.

The city’s Board of Correction approved the policy change in a unanimous vote, 7 to 0, and the policy will go into effect January 2016 as long financing for additional officers and clinical staff members is secured, the New York Times reports.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan is suing the city over its treatment of adolescent inmates, after revelations of brutal treatment and neglect of inmates on New York’s Rikers Island. Corrections officers have used solitary confinement as a key tool in controlling inmate behavior, but critics say it can leave lasting psychological damage on young prisoners.

The new policy, which comes in the face of mounting criticism over the punitive technique, would put Rikers Island at the forefront of national jail reform efforts. Jails in the U.S. considered to be the nation’s most innovative still use solitary confinement as punishment for inmates over 18.

“I’ve never heard of anything like that happening anywhere else,” Ms. Herrman said, referring to the New York City plan. “It would definitely be an innovation.”


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