New York City Is Finally Done Sending Teens to Solitary

Punitive segregation—a.k.a. solitary confinement—is history for all inmates 21 or younger in America's largest city.

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Oct 11 2016, 6:38pm

This January 28, 2016, file photo shows a solitary confinement cell at New York City's Rikers Island jail. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday announced that the city has put an end to punitive segregation—a.k.a. solitary confinement—for inmates 21 and under in local jails, including the notorious Rikers Island complex.

"Today's announcement shows that New York City is leading the nation down a new path toward rehabilitation and safety," de Blasio said in a statement. "New Yorkers can be proud that their correctional facilities are pioneering these smarter, more humane approaches."

At the tail end of 2014, amid scathing criticism from journalists and the feds alike over systematic violence (especially with respect to the mentally ill and adolescents), the New York Department of Corrections (DOC) stopped using punitive segregation for 16- and 17-year-olds. The rule was extended to include 18-year-olds this past June, but the DOC had stalled on expanding the plan for inmates between the ages of 19 and 21—despite city officials voting to do so—until now.

The new regime officially began on Tuesday after it was teased earlier this week.

"During the last two years, the Department created and tested a number of models for safely managing our youngest inmates," Correction commissioner Joseph Ponte said in the release. "Our ending of punitive segregation today is founded upon thoughtful evaluation, flexibility, and adjustments with the needs and safety concerns of staff and young adults front and center."

Read: The 14-Year-Old Who Grew Up in Prison

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