NYC Public Advocate's Statement On Mayor Adams Vetoing A Ban On Solitary Confinement To Defend The Status Quo On Rikers

January 19th, 2024

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams released the following statement after Mayor Eric Adams vetoed Intro 549-A, which would ban the isolation of solitary confinement in city jails. The City Council passed the bill with a with veto-proof majority last month.

"With this veto, the mayor has condemned New Yorkers to suffer in solitary confinement and isolation, and he did so after the cameras were turned off and backs were turned. It’s cowardly, weak, shameful, and entirely expected from this version of this mayor.

"I don’t think there’s a single person in the city outside the mayor’s office who thinks the status quo on Rikers right now is good and effective. The ongoing use of solitary confinement and isolation in New York City – no matter what the administration calls it – is indefensible, and vetoing the ban is inexcusable. If we want different results, we have to do something different, and banning isolation – while allowing for separation and de-escalation – is good for public safety. The mayor’s veto makes our jails and our city less safe.

"The administration needs to get its stories straight before it decides to deceive New Yorkers about our bills, otherwise they’ll continue to contradict themselves and deliberately confuse the issues. Which is it – that solitary confinement doesn't exist, or that they don’t want to ban it? 

"The federal monitor is right that Rikers is in a dangerous state, one that the administration has shown themselves unwilling or unable to correct. But fears that the Department of Correction will be unable to operate without isolating detainees are not a valid reason to oppose improving conditions. We don’t make laws to conform to failing systems, we make laws to change them. We would be happy to work with the administration on the most effective ways to implement this legislation, but that would require them engaging in good faith, which they have repeatedly refused to do.

"We would be happy to clarify for the administration the key elements of a bill they clearly haven’t read, after the City Council overrides this misguided, performative, ego-driven veto."

Read the full text of Intro 549-A.

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