Crime may be down across the city, but assaults by perpetrators already behind bars has nearly doubled. Attacks on Rikers Island correction officers by inmates have risen from 25 to 46 over the same time period since last year, the Daily News reports.
Officials attribute the rise in assault to reduced use of solitary confinement. “There is a strange, dysfunctional paradox now in the Correction Department,” said Sidney Schwartzbaum, a union leader representing deputy wardens. “A reduction in the penalties for inmates who perpetrate violence, and an increase in the discipline of staff for minor procedural violations.”
By way of illustration, an accompanying video shows 18-year-old Daquan Monroe attacking a correction officer last October.
Attacks on non-security staff have also increased from 11 to 28 since the same period last year. Just last week, a 24-year-old medical intern was assaulted by a prisoner, leaving her with a broken jaw and multiple facial fractures.
In February, New York's prison system became the largest in the country to ban isolation as a disciplinary measure for prisoners under 18.
Today, a bill was introduced that would drastically reduce instances of solitary confinement, with the goal of banning "extreme isolation" beyond 15 days. Called the Humane Alternatives to Long-TermSolitary Confinement Act (HALT), the bill also calls for the creation of Residential Rehabilitation Units (RRUs), high-security units that allow "substantial out-of-cell time, and programs aimed at addressing the underlying causes of behavioral problems" as an alternative to solitary.
"Isolation does not promote positive change in people; it only damages them," Megan Crowe-Rothstein, of the Urban Justice Center's Mental Health Project, said in a statement. “By requiring treatment and programs for people who are separated from the prison population for serious misconduct, the legislation requires Corrections to emphasize rehabilitation over punishment and degradation.”