Rikers Island Will Stop Putting Teens in Solitary Confinement

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A view of buildings at the Rikers Island penitentiary complex where IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn is being held in New York on May 17, 2011. The grand jury deciding whether or not to send IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn to trial has until May 20th to decide. In the meantime, Strauss-Kahn, accused of attempting to rape a hotel maid, remains incarcerated without bail because a judge deemed him liable to attempt escape to France, which does not extradite citizens to the United States.  AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel Dunand (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
Photo: EMMANUEL DUNAND/2011 AFP

Eight weeks after the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan issued a report that found “for adolescent inmates, Rikers Island is broken,” conditions for young inmates are set to become somewhat less horrifying. According to an internal memo from Corrections Commissioner Joseph Ponte to Mayor Bill de Blasio, which was obtained by the New York Times, 16- and 17-year-olds will no longer be punished with solitary confinement. Seclusion is currently the primary form of punishment at Rikers Island, and sometimes lasts for months. The memo says it’s part of “the first round of changes,” meant to “meet our shared commitment to a safe, just and age-appropriate correctional setting” for teen inmates. It isn’t specific about when the change will go into effect, or what alternative forms of punishment will be used. There are currently 51 teenagers in solitary confinement.