Vera Institute of Justice Calls on the New York City Council to End Solitary Confinement

In June, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams introduced a bill in the New York City Council to end solitary confinement in city jails. We applaud the many City Council Members who have cosponsored this important legislation and urge the Council to pass it swiftly. Jullian Harris-Calvin, director of Vera’s Greater Justice New York program, issued the following statement:

“Solitary confinement does not promote safety and well-being—not for people working in jails, people in detention, or New York City at large. Ending the use of solitary confinement in city jails is a concrete step toward ending the ongoing humanitarian crisis on Rikers Island. It will usher in new therapeutic practices that will help connect New Yorkers in detention with the services and care that they need to thrive when they return to their communities.”

Solitary confinement, which is often euphemistically referred to as “restrictive housing,” is prolonged time alone in a cell without any meaningful human contact and is widely used in U.S. prisons and jails to control and punish incarcerated people. All too often, people who are vulnerable, have mental illnesses, or need protection end up in solitary. Vera's decades of research on solitary confinement have found that instead of making correctional facilities safer, it leads to psychological, neurological, and physiological harm for people in detention and only makes jails more dangerous. The harmful consequences of solitary also follow people back to their communities after release, leading to higher rates of suicide, homicide, and overdose. One study found that people released after being held in solitary confinement once while incarcerated are at least 24 percent more likely to die of an opioid overdose, 29 percent more likely to die from homicide, and 55 percent more likely to die by suicide. People with more than one experience in solitary confinement are significantly more likely to die from homicide or suicide within the first year of release.

As New York City works to close Rikers Island and replace it with four borough-based jails, it must ensure that it does not export the violence and suffering on Rikers to new locations. Severely limiting the amount of time a person can be held alone in a cell—and ensuring that they have access to the physical, mental, and emotional care they need—is a crucial way to safeguard the well-being of people in detention and their communities.


About the Vera Institute of Justice
The Vera Institute of Justice is powered by hundreds of advocates, researchers, and policy experts working to transform the criminal legal and immigration systems until they’re fair for all. Founded in 1961 to advocate for alternatives to money bail in New York City, Vera is now a national organization that partners with impacted communities and government leaders for change. We develop just, antiracist solutions so that money doesn’t determine freedom; fewer people are in jails, prisons, and immigration detention; and everyone is treated with dignity. Vera’s headquarters is in Brooklyn, New York, with offices in Washington, DC, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. For more information, visit