The train of reform is running right through Rikers Island, the second largest jail system in the nation. Reform is coming due to increased scrutiny of the correctional system for various infractions. In an innovative move, Rikers Island will implement a policy restricting inmates 21 and younger from getting sent to “the hole.” Christine Herrman, director of the Segregation Reduction Project at the Vera Institute of Justice said, “I’ve never heard of anything like that happening anywhere else. It would definitely be an innovation.”
Recently, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio banned solitary confinement for the 16 and 17-year-old inmates at Rikers Island. The goal of the new measure is to preserve the younger inmates mentally. Scientific research indicates that the experience of solitary confinement has a negative effect on the young men developmentally due to the fact that their brains are still maturing. Extended isolation can also exacerbate mental illness or, in some cases, cause it.
It is reported that there are 497 inmates between ages 19 and 21 at Rikers Island and 103 of them have been held in solitary confinement. Inmates in solitary confinement at Rikers Island are locked in their cell for 23 hours a day. They are allowed one hour outdoors for recreation where they spend time in a “small caged area.” A report by the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara’s office said that the practice for young people is “excessive and inappropriate.” Bharara is suing the city for the unjust treatment of teens in the jail system.