The city jail system is sharply expanding its so-called Punitive Segregation Unit, or solitary confinement cells, reports Solitary Watch, a blog which reports on the nations penal system. By the end of the year, the number of punitive segregation cells will increase by 45 percent, from 681 to 990.
Ostensibly for housing troublesome inmates, but also used for teens, and mentally ill prisoners, the punitive segregation cells hold inmates for 23 hours a day. Inmates are sent there for violent incidents, but they can also be housed there for relatively minor infractions.
“Once the expansion is complete, New York City’s island jail will have one of the highest rates of solitary confinement in the country,” the article notes, going on to point out that academic research suggests that such confinement leads to psychological problems.
“States from Maine to Mississippi have taken steps to reduce the number of inmates they hold in isolation.”
What’s pushing the increase? Well, we’re not sure, but DOC Commissioner Dora Schriro has been under fire from the correction unions over safety issues, staff cuts, and a big backlog in the punitive segregation wings.