John Surico relays some actual good news out of the Big Apple when it comes criminal justice:
New York City’s Rikers Island, the second-largest jail in America, has been making headlines for the worst possible reasons lately. Between the ritualized beating of teenage inmates and horrendous treatment of mentally ill prisoners, it’s no wonder the feds are suing NYC over civil rights violations at the sprawling complex.
So it came as something of a surprise when, on Tuesday morning, New York City officials announced that, starting next year, Rikers Island will no longer hold anyone in solitary confinement under the age of 21, making it the first jail of its kind to do so in the country. Furthermore, no one—regardless of age—will be allowed to suffer in solitary for more than 30 consecutive days, and a separate housing unit will be established for those inmates most prone to violence.
Suffice it to say this is a big deal: Rikers Island just went from being one of the most dysfunctional jails in America to tentatively claiming a spot at the vanguard of the emerging criminal justice reform movement.
Major props to Mayor de Blasio, who last March appointed a new jails commissioner who promised to “end the culture of excessive solitary confinement.” But not all the news from Rikers was good this week: