NYC lawmakers pass law banning solitary confinement despite Adams’ opposition
Solitary confinement was recently banned by city lawmakers, despite opposition from Mayor Eric Adams.
The United Nations has called it torture and Fortune Society’s Ludwig Paz agrees.
Five years ago, he was in solitary confinement on Rikers Island for 10 months back when the city jails observed it. He says he’s never been the same. “I came home, I repeat myself a lot, I get angry...my temper has definitely changed, my demeanor has changed – and people who know me very well, my ex-partner goes bro, you do understand you’re not the same, you’re a little off?” he told News 12 New York.
Back in 2018 in a high-profile case, former NYPD Detective Paz pleaded guilty to running a multimillion-dollar gambling and prostitution ring. He says he was told that he was separated from the general population for his safety. Paz says he stared at beige walls for 10 months.
“When you’re in prison there’s only one color, you tend to hate beige after a while...I traveled a lot, so I told myself just to transport myself to Venice, to walk around Venice again in my mind...it wasn’t a physical game, it was more of a mental game,” he said.
Forensic psychologist Dr. Edward Fernandez didn’t treat Paz, but says he was likely dissociating from the trauma of being isolated. He says that’s just one of the mental health effects of solitary confinement.
“Depression, sadness, isolation, low energy, lethargic sleeping a lot...sometimes solitary confinement is used for removing people that are generally thought to be violent...but placing them into solitary confinement just by the statistics and the research in jails and prisons doesn’t reduce violence,” Dr. Fernandez told News 12 New York.
Despite the new law banning solitary confinement, the Department of Corrections told News 12 New York it hasn't been practiced in city jails since 2019. The DOC says the law has other provisions and provides incentives for those in restrictive housing units and limits time spent in de-escalation. The DOC commissioner says it also eliminates their ability to handcuff people when transporting them to court - which could mean danger. The Corrections Officers Benevolent Association says since Dec. 20, there have been 74 assaults on DOC staff and dozens of other incidents. As for Paz, he says these days, he makes every experience count.
“At any time, I can go to the store, I know that I can stop working, take a break, get something as simple as fresh air. Watch people go by, watch traffic, anything,” he said.
The mayor vetoed this bill, and the City Council overrode it. The changes will go into effect sometime in July.