NYC Mayor Eric Adams vetoes ban on solitary confinement and bill expanding police transparency

The legislation was overwhelmingly supported by the city council.

January 19, 2024, 1:41 PM

New York City Mayor Eric Adams vetoed a ban on solitary confinement in city jails that was overwhelmingly passed by the city council. He also vetoed separate legislation that would require more transparency on data from the NYPD.

"Vetoing this bill will keep those in our custody and our correction officers safer," said Adams in a statement Friday after vetoing the solitary confinement legislation. Adams is a former NYPD police officer.

Adams said if the bill were to take effect, "the Department of Correction would no longer be able to protect people in custody, or the union workers charged with their safety, from violent individuals."

The new bill would require all people in city custody to have at least 14 hours of out-of-cell time in a congregate setting "unless for the purpose of de-escalation confinement or during emergency lock-ins," which would limit the confinement to a maximum of four hours after an incident or confrontation.

The bill defines solitary confinement "as any placement of an incarcerated person in a cell, other than at night for sleeping, for a period not to exceed eight hours in any 24-hour period or during the day for a count not to exceed two hours in any 24-hour period."

Current city policy uses the term "restrictive housing" rather than solitary confinement.

The current policy requires someone placed in this "restrictive housing" to have a minimum of seven hours outside of their cell, according to the Board of Corrections. Steve Martin, the court-appointed monitor to the city's correctional facilities, argues this policy does not constitute solitary confinement, which traditionally refers to the limitation of out-of-cell time to up to four hours a day.

Adams said the city already does not use solitary confinement. "In fact, we have achieved significant reductions in key indicators of violence in our correction system without solitary confinement," he said.

Mayor Eric Adams speaks during press briefing at City Hall.
Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images, FILE

The city council could still override Adams' veto with a vote of two-thirds of all council members, or 34 votes.

The council passed the legislation concerning confinement on Dec. 20, with a 39-7 vote. The legislation is sponsored by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, would require all people in city custody to have at least 14 hours of out-of-cell time in shared spaces

"Solitary confinement is inhumane, and its presence in our city is indefensible," Williams said in a statement following the legislation's passage. "Committing an infraction in jail can cause you to lose privileges, not basic human rights. People in solitary are isolated, denied human contact and connection, denied support, and come out of these deplorable conditions worse than when they went in – and some don't come out at all."

"The physical and psychological harm caused by solitary confinement leads to increased death and violence in jails, endangering those incarcerated, as well as correction officers and staff," said City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams. "When formerly incarcerated New Yorkers eventually return to their communities, the lasting trauma of solitary confinement follows them home, and affects us all as neighbors and members of a shared community."

The NYC council also passed policies concerning NYPD transparency, which Mayor Adams also vetoed. These bills would force the NYPD to publicly report on police-civilian investigative stops and consent searches, as well as to expand NYPD reporting on vehicle stops to include the justification and the type of offense observed, as well as other data connected to vehicle stops.

A cell block is seen at Rikers Island Correctional Center in the East River on March 9, 2021 in New York City.
Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

These policies would also expand public insight into overtime, NYPD's use of stop-question-and-frisk, and crime status information such as data on criminal complaints, arrests, and summons issued. The NYPD has long been under scrutiny over allegations of discriminatory policing by marginalized communities.

"While Intro. 586 has good intentions behind it, the bill is misguided and compromises our public safety," the mayor said. "Our administration supports efforts to make law enforcement more transparent, more just, and more accountable, but this bill will handcuff our police by drowning officers in unnecessary paperwork that will saddle taxpayers with tens of millions of dollars in additional NYPD overtime each year."

The passage of the bills by the city council had been applauded by local civil liberties groups and activists.

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