By the end of the year, solitary confinement will no longer be an option for 16 and 17 year-olds held at Rikers Island jail. The New York Times, as you may have noted, has been covering Rikers very closely; it says in a report from Sunday that it obtained a memo from Joseph Ponte, correction commissioner, to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio that “says that solitary confinement will be replaced by ‘alternative options, intermediate consequences for misbehavior and steps designed to pre-empt incidents from occurring.'”
The Times says 16 and 17 year-olds make up 300 of the roughly 11,000 inmates at Rikers and quotes the department as saying there are 51 of those adolescents in solitary right now. For a wider perspective, according to a 2012 report from watchdog group Solitary Watch, there were about 80,000 people in isolated confinement in the U.S. at the time of its report.
The quote the Times writer runs from Elizabeth Crowley, the chairwoman of the City Council committee that overseas city jails, is certainly apt: “The facilities on Rikers are not suitable for holding and supervising adolescents,” Crowley said in a statement. “And exposing young offenders to the culture of violence that exists on the Island — especially during their formative years — can have detrimental lifelong effects.”