NYC council wants to limit solitary confinement at Rikers

Dan Abrams Live

(NewsNation) — Authorities say a corrections officer at one of the largest jail facilities in the country is recovering after a brutal stabbing Monday by an inmate.

The 28-year-old officer at New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex was stabbed in the back of his head approximately 15 times. According to the Corrections Officers Union, as of Monday evening, the officer was hospitalized in stable condition and undergoing tests.

The suspect was awaiting trial for the alleged murder of his pregnant girlfriend. He has now been rearrested.

“We will not tolerate any assaults on our members of service who show up to work each day to keep our jails safe. We are praying for this officer to make a speedy recovery,” the DOC commissioner said.

The stabbing comes as the New York City Council is looking to pass a bill to limit solitary confinement at the same facility where the officer was stabbed. Rikers insists they do not practice solitary confinement and have moved to a “restrictive housing” model, but reform proponents say inmates are still isolated for too long in the new system.

The council bill aims to lessen the amount of time most inmates are being held in a kind of solitary confinement and give them more interaction with jail staff.

The legislation presents the question: Does solitary confinement help or hurt?

Marc Bullaro, a retired Rikers assistant deputy warden, and The Fortune Society CEO Stanley Richards, appeared on Dan Abrams Live to discuss the issue Tuesday night.

Many officers and former investigators have said eliminating solitary confinement would make jails even less safe for officers and embolden dangerous inmates. Bullaro argues there should be more confinement of violent offenders.

“First of all, let me say that New York City Correction Department does not have solitary confinement. We have restrictive housing, where we separate violent inmates from the general population. But having said that, we need confinement of inmates that are violent. That’s the only way to keep other inmates and staff safe. The City Council is doing a disservice not only to correctional officers, but to the inmates if they pass this bill,” Bullaro said.

Richards pushed back, insisting that solitary confinement has not made jails safer.

“We’ve had decades and decades of uses of solitary confinement, and it has not made our jails safer,” Richards said, later adding: “Rikers Island is a place that just permeates with hurt, and it hurts people who are incarcerated and it hurts officers and civilians who work there. We need to take the lessons that we have learned over the decades of using the most punitive and restrictive models of dealing with violence in jails, and we need to change that.”

Bullaro believes confinement and restrictive housing do work. Richards thinks depending on the situation, when an inmate commits an infraction, they should be removed from general population and placed into a housing area that uses a risk management and accountability model.

“The city council is stepping in, saying, ‘Enough is enough.’ We have to both have accountability, and we need to stop being so reliant on extreme isolation. It doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked. We need to create a new model that allows people who work in department corrections to be safe,” Richards said.

The council bill is expected to pass when it comes to the full council for a vote; 38 of the 51 councilmembers are co-sponsors of the legislation. They believe solitary confinement is making prisoners more violent and making mental health problems worse.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said he will veto the bill if the council passes it. With 38 cosponsors, there would probably be more than the majority needed to override the mayor’s veto.

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