New York Times

A Major Change to Life in New York’s Prisons and Jails

Weather: Freezing conditions in the morning, and it will stay cold and blustery, with a high in the low 40s. Saturday: Sunny, mid-50s. Sunday: Mostly cloudy, around 60.

Alternate-side parking: Suspended today for Good Friday, and through the weekend for Passover.


Life behind bars in New York will soon undergo a fundamental change.

On Thursday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that he had signed into law a bill that will end the use of long-term solitary confinement — nearly all-day isolation — in the state’s prisons and jails. It’s one of the farthest-reaching efforts in the nation to curb the practice.

The law goes into effect in a year, and it will bar officials from holding inmates inside for more than 15 consecutive days. Solitary confinement will be banned entirely for several groups, including people under 22 and those with certain disabilities.

[Read more about the end of solitary confinement in New York’s prisons and jails.]

Here’s an overview of the state’s move:

About 40,000 solitary confinement sanctions were issued in state prisons in 2018, the most recent year for which full data is available. The majority of prisoners placed in solitary confinement remained inside for several months, but for others the confinement lasted for more than a year.

Under the new law, after the 15-day cap, inmates would move to high-security rehabilitative units when needed, where they would receive therapy, treatment and other programming.

In New York City, officials are hoping to go further and end the use of traditional solitary confinement entirely.

Mr. Cuomo indicated that some changes to the new state law were possible to ensure that corrections staff could still address violence behind bars — a worry union leaders share about the new restrictions.

Civil liberties groups had long raised concerns about the overrepresentation in solitary confinement of Black people, who make up 48 percent of the prison population but 58 percent of those in special housing units.

A large body of research also links isolation to increased risks for self-harm and suicide, and worsened mental illness.

Solitary confinement came under greater scrutiny in New York after the 2015 suicide of Kalief Browder. He had returned home after spending three years on Rikers Island awaiting trial, much of it in total isolation, after being accused of stealing a backpack as a teenager — only to have the charges dropped.

The efforts to curb solitary confinement date back more than eight years, when a major campaign to limit the use of isolation in New York began. But the push for change had long fallen short in Albany.

Last November, though, Democrats secured a supermajority in the State Legislature, enabling them to override a veto from the governor. Lawmakers hoped the shift would prevent a repeat of 2019, when similar attempts to restrict solitary confinement died partly because of a veto threat.

Lawmakers had sensed they would not face major obstacles this time, as the changes had broad support among leaders in the state’s Black communities whose support Mr. Cuomo has sought as he faces the threat of impeachment and calls for his resignation.


Although many performance spaces, museums and community centers are closed, people are finding creative ways to connect through virtual events and programs. Here are suggestions for maintaining a New York social life this weekend while keeping a safe distance from other people.

On Friday at 6:30 p.m., join Jim Lewis, the author of “Ghosts of New York,” for a conversation with the editor Donald Breckenridge about the new novel.

R.S.V.P. for free on the event page.

Watch a performance based on the novelist Franz Kafka’s letter to his father on Friday at 7 p.m. Viewers can make their own choices among several camera angles.

Register on the event page.

On Sunday at 2 p.m., join the South Street Seaport Museum’s monthly gathering, where a roster of participants share sea songs.

Sign up for free on the event page.

It’s Friday — take a break.


Dear Diary:

I had been living in a studio apartment that was uncomfortably tight, and when my lease was up, I moved into a sunny two-bedroom about a mile away.

I now had more space to furnish, and packages were arriving daily. At one point, I picked out a rug, a full-length mirror and some extra sheets for my bed.

In my excitement, I neglected to update the address that auto-filled when I completed the online purchase. I only realized my error after getting confirmation that my items had been delivered despite not having gotten the packages.

I texted my former super, who said I should come by on Saturday. Fernando, the porter, greeted me, but the large pieces were nowhere to be found.

He glanced at the door of my old apartment.

“I did see a few big packages come this week,” he said.

We knocked on the door. There was music playing.

A man answered, and I explained the situation. He stared at me as if he were seeing a ghost.

“Well, we didn’t think you were coming,” he said. “We thought you moved out of the country. We have the rug inside, but we’re using it. It’s under our bed.”

I burst out laughing.

“And the mirror?”

“Yes,” he said. “We have that, too.”

“The sheets? Let me guess, they’re on your bed.”

“No!” he insisted. “Never saw them.”

I waited while they rolled up the rug. It looks great in my new place.

— Anastasia Erbe


New York Today is published weekdays around 6 a.m. Sign up here to get it by email. You can also find it at nytoday.com.

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bourbiza

Bourbiza Mohamed. Writer and Political Discourse Analysis.

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