On June 29, 2020, Board Chair Jennifer Jones Austin and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the formation of a working group to eliminate punitive segregation (also known as solitary confinement) in the New York City jail system. TThe working group’s recommendations will be incorporated into the Board's broader rule package on restrictive housing and voted on in the fall. The working group will be led by Board Vice-Chair Stanley Richards and include Department of Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann and JustLeadershipUSA President and CEO DeAnna Hoskins.
On June 23, 2020, the Board released a report presenting findings and recommendations in connection with its investigation concerning the death of Layleen Xtravaganza Cubilette-Polanco. Ms. Polanco died in the Restrictive Housing Unit (a form of punitive segregation) on Rikers Island on June 7, 2019. She was a 27-year-old Afro-Latinx transgender woman.
The Board’s investigation is distinct from those conducted by other City and State agencies. BOC investigations do not focus on criminal wrong-doing or individual fault. Rather, the Board’s investigations focus on the circumstances of deaths in custody and identifying where lessons can be learned to prevent future deaths. The Board’s report makes 25 recommendations concerning DOC and CHS policies and practices. These include recommendations to: transform the processes the agencies use to exclude from punitive segregation people with medical or mental health issues; increase and improve information sharing between NYPD, DOC, and CHS while protecting sensitive patient information; enhance and retrain on DOC and CHS policies for housing area rounds to ensure staff identify people at-risk; and institute new oversight of medication provision to encourage proper access and compliance.
On May 19, 2020, Board Member Robert Cohen, Board Executive Director Meg Egan, and Deputy Executive Director Emily Turner provided testimony re COVID-19 in City jails to City Council's Committees on Criminal Justice and Justice Systems. Board Chair Jennifer Jones Austin submitted written testimony. Read Chair Jones Austin's testimony, Board Member Cohen's testimony, and ED Egan's testimony.
On April 6, 2020, the New York Ciity Board of Correction received a variance request from New York City Health + Hospitals' Correctional Health Services (CHS). In order to respond to the COVID-19 emergency, CHS requests variances from four variances.
The Board considered this request a special meeting on April 14, 2020.
On March 30, 2020, Mayor Bill de Blasio designated Jennifer Jones Austin as Chair of the Board of Correction. Chair Jones Austin has been a Board Member since October 2014. Chair Jones Austin succeeds Interim Chair Jacqueline Sherman, who will remain on the Board.
The Board of Correction is deeply saddened by the loss of Board Member Tino Hernandez in March 2020. Tino was a leader in the field, a true public servant, and a kind person. The City will miss him.
On March 17, 2020, the New York City Board of Correction is calling on the City to work with all its criminal justice partners to: (1) immediately remove from jail all people at higher risk from COVID-19 infection; and (2) rapidly decrease the jail population. While Department of Correction (DOC) and Correctional Health Services (CHS) staff continue to perform heroic work to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in the jails and maintain safe and humane operations, the City must drastically reduce the number of people in jail right now and limit new admissions to exceptional circumstances. The City can follow the leads of Los Angeles County and Cuyahoga County (Ohio) which have already begun to release people to minimize a potential outbreak. The City must begin this process now. The City’s jails have particular challenges to preventing disease transmission on a normal day and even more so during a public health crisis.
On March 6, 2020, the New York City Department of Correction declared an emergency at the Manhattan Detention Center (MDC) due to a burst pipe impacting the delivery of certain services at the jail. The Department reported they were unable to comply with Minimum Standards §1-06 Recreation (North Tower only), §1-07(c) Congregate Religious Services, §1-08(c)(4) Incoming Legal Mail (North Tower only), §1-08(f-h) Law Library (North Tower only), §1-09 Visiting, and §1-11(d) Incoming Correspondence (North Tower only). Attorney visits, recreation, mail and legal mail, and congregate services resumed on March 7. Family visits resumed on March 8 with an amended schedule to allow for visits for all people in custody (rather than just for people in custody with last name beginning with A-L, as is the normal schedule).
All normal operations have resumed, as of March 9, 2020.
On February 3, 2020, the Board's Executive Director Margaret Egan and Acting Deputy Executive Director Emily Turner provided testimony to the City Council's Committee on Criminal Justice. Read ED Egan's testimony
The Board of Correction has named Margaret Egan as its Executive Director (download the press release). Egan will lead the Board's independent oversight of the New York City jail system as the City moves forward with its plan to close the jail complex on Rikers Island and build four smaller, safer, and more humane jails in the boroughs.
An accomplished executive, Egan brings nearly 20 years of experience in corrections and criminal justice reform, policy, and operations. Most recently, Egan served as the Interim Vice Chancellor for Human Resources and Director of Strategic Initiatives for the City University of New York (CUNY) managing the University's HR department as well as a broad restructuring of administrative and academic operations for the University. At the CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance (ISLG), she served as a member of the executive staff and senior advisor to the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform (commonly known as the Lippman Commission) and oversaw research on culture change at the New York City Department of Correction.