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Mayor Eric Adams vetoes bill restricting solitary confinement in city jails

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Mayor Eric Adams vetoed a bill endorsed by the City Council in December, aimed at prohibiting most forms of solitary confinement in city jails.

The legislation permits the Department of Correction to isolate detainees for up to four hours within a 24-hour period if they are assessed as a threat to themselves or others. Furthermore, the bill imposes stringent guidelines on the operation of the correction department’s high-security housing units, designated for the most dangerous detainees.

Despite widespread support from jail reform advocates who emphasize the psychological harm inflicted by solitary confinement, Mayor Adams and the city correction officers union consistently opposed the legislation. In a statement released on Friday, Mayor Adams argued that the bill, if enacted, would jeopardize the safety of both individuals in custody and the union workers tasked with ensuring their security.

A press release from the city highlighted concerns expressed by the federal monitor regarding several provisions of the bill. The monitor’s letter cautioned that certain aspects, as presently drafted, might inadvertently undermine the overarching goal of safeguarding individuals from harm. Mayor Adams urged the City Council to collaborate with the administration and heed the federal monitor’s guidance, characterizing the bill as misguided.

City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and City Council criminal justice chair Sandy Nurse issued a joint statement in response to the veto. They maintained that solitary confinement, under any guise, has been proven to cause physical, psychological, and emotional harm, contributing to violence and deaths on Rikers Island. The Council, undeterred by the veto, asserted its commitment to enacting the law and criticized the Mayor’s disregard for the federal monitor’s feedback during the public process.

Mayor Adams, in a letter to the city clerk, contended that solitary confinement had already been eradicated from New York City jails in 2019, despite assertions by advocates that restrictive housing units still amount to severe isolation.

Notably, the Mayor had earlier vetoed a separate bill related to public safety on the same day, which aimed to mandate the recording of lower-level interactions between police and civilians. Both bills had secured a “veto-proof” majority in the City Council, requiring Mayor Adams to garner support to prevent a potential override.

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