In 2019, the City of New York formally committed to closing Rikers Island and building a smaller, safer, fairer, more humane jail system in the boroughs. The City Council approved a plan to build four new jail facilities in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. The new system is planned to be fully operational in 2027. The New York City Council has also passed legislation barring the use of Rikers Island as a correctional facility.
When the City Council passed legislation to create the new jail system, companion legislation was also passed requiring the Board of Correction to provide an update report every six months. According to the legislation, the Board is required to report on the City’s progress of closing the City’s jail facilities at Rikers and the transition to the borough-based jails. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this marks the Board’s first progress report.
This report will provide an update on the City’s efforts to reduce the jail population, the current state of the Department of Correction, the closure of jails, and the status of plans to build new facilities in the boroughs.
On October 18, 2021, the Board released a report presenting findings and recommendations in connection with its investigation concerning the attempted suicide of Nicholas Feliciano, who attempted suicide on November 27, 2019 and suffered permanent brain damage. Mr. Feliciano was 18 years old at the time of the attempt.
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 identify where lessons can be learned to prevent future deaths. The Board's report makes 10 recommendations concerning Department of Correction and Correctional Health Services' policies and practices, including better identification, treatment and observation of people in custody who are at risk for suicide. The Report also contains a response from CHS to the recommendations.
In the face of the ongoing pandemic and a steadily increasing jail population, on October 4th, 2020, the Department announced its plan to close the Manhattan Detention Center (MDC) and the Otis Bantum Correction Center (OBCC) by the end of November 2020. To better assess the Department's housing strategy, Board staff examined data from January 1 – October 31st, 2020 to understand trends in: (1) population changes at MDC and OBCC, (2) housing area capacity across DOC, and (3) the proportion of people in custody housed in high-density housing areas DOC-wide. The analysis shows that both the jail population and housing density has steadily increased, with a notable recent increase in the month of October. The majority of open housing areas exceed 50% capacity, and the majority of the jail population (63%, n=2,781) is now housed in an area that exceeds 75% capacity, preventing the implementation of effective social distancing strategies.
From April 1 through June 5, the Board of Correction published daily reports on COVID-19 in the New York City jail system. Beginning June 6, the Board will publish weekly reports on COVID-19. The weekly reports will include data from each day the prior week (for example, the report for the week of June 6 will include data from June 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12) and will also include analysis and visualizations to contextualize trends since the start of the pandemic in mid-March.
On April 1, 2020 the Board began publishing daily public COVID-19 updates. To observe trends over time, the Board published an updated COVID-19 summary report on June 8, 2020. This report summarizes data from March 16th through June 5th. It presents changes to: (1) the size of the jail population; (2) the number of people in custody with confirmed COVID-19, or under observation by CHS; (3) the number of staff with confirmed COVID-19; (4) the distribution of the jail population overall and in COVID-19 housing; and (5) the distribution of specific demographic groups overall and by COVID-19 housing. The report is an update to asummary report analyzing March 16 through May 9, 2020.
As the COVID-19 crisis has continued, the level of detail in BOC's public daily reporting has expanded and the Board's methods of tracking and reporting on COVID-19 in NYC jails has evolved. The Board gained new data sources, worked out minor data discrepancies with DOC, and has made updates to several daily reports to ensure accuracy and consistency of reporting. This data file (updated June 8, 2020) reflects the most up-to-date and accurate data on the metrics reported by the Board and should be considered the file of record for the Board's daily public data reports to-date.
On June 8, 2020, the Board published its second report presenting observational data collected by Board staff using remote access to the Department's Genetec security video footage system1 to monitor: (1) Social Distancing, (2) Use of PPE Among Staff, (3) Use of Masks Among People in Custody, (4) Phone Access and Cleaning, and (5) DOC Rounding Practices (in cell units). Board staff observed housing areas used for Confirmed COVID-19 Patients, Symptomatic Individuals, and Likely Exposed but Asymptomatic Individuals (quarantined areas). On May 11, 2020, the Board published its first report presenting observational data.
On June 28,2021, the Board released a report on NYC jail heat conditions in Summer 2020. This report summarizes the Board’s findings from June 1, 2020 through September 30, 2020 and is a continuation of the initial mid-summer report published on August 21, 2020, which looked at the Department’s heat mitigation efforts in June of that year.
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.
The Department began using body scanners in July 2019. Body scanners, like those in use at airports around the world, use low-dose ionizing radiation to detect objects such as drugs and items made from materials that are undetectable by magnetometers or stored in body cavities. From July 15 through November 30, 2019, the Department reports it has performed 11,212 body scans in the New York City jails. When someone has a positive scan or refuses to be scan, the Department believes the person possesses contraband and places them in a highly restrictive housing area called Separation Status which includes the person's confinement to an isolation cell for nearly 24 hours. DOC removes a person from the unit when they have a negative scan indicating the absence of contraband. From July 15 through November 30, the Department made 45 placements in Separation Status and the average length of stay in the unit was 30 hours. This report reviews the Department's early implementation of body scanners and Separation Status (July 15 - November 30, 2019) and makes 22 recommendations to the Department and CHS on improvements to body scanner and Separation Status practice and policy.
The lessons learned from these findings should inform future DOC violence reduction efforts and the Boarfd's expected restrictive housing rules. Violence in the New York City jails is an ongoing and urgent issue and it is critical that the Department explore new tools and initiatives to support safe jails, especially as the Department begins to plan new jail facilities. Body scanners can be an effective violence prevention tool for use alongside the Department's other violence prevention initiatives, such as increased programming, PACE expansion, additional staff training, further reforms to restrictive housing, and a continued city-wide commitment to reducing the jail population. The Board urges the Department to move quickly to implement the recommendations in this report, and to use this technology in the safest, fairest, and most effective possible way.
On July 18, 2019, Mayor de Blasio declared a heat emergency commencing Friday, July 19 at 9 AM through Sunday, July 21 at 11:59 PM. To monitor conditions and operations in the jails during this period, the Board of Correction conducted unannounced tours of three jails on July 20 and July 211. This September 2019 report is the Board's final report and recommendations. On July 22, the Board additionally released a public statement of its findings and preliminary recommendations.
Based on its first-hand observations and document/information review, the Board makes recommendations in four key areas: (i) daily temperature monitoring; (ii) heat-sensitive people in custody; (iii) restrictive housing areas such as Punitive Segregation and Enhanced Supervision Housing (ESH)3; and (iv) short- and long-term action to mitigate heat risks.
Download the Final Report and Recommendations (September 2019)
DOC Response to BOC Recommendations (September 2019)
This report summarizes findings on the outcomes of scheduled health and mental health services using data reported in the Correctional Health Services monthly access reports for calendar year 2018. Despite great challenges to providing care in the jail setting, CHS has consistently reported that overall, around 80% of all scheduled appointments are completed, with higher completion rates at half of DOC's facilities. Notwithstanding these rates and improved transparency, significant gaps in reporting on the Standards and persistent challenges affecting access to care remain. Additionally, jails and services differ in the barriers to care, and not all jails are equal in their ability to provide care. These findings indicate there is more work to be done to improve coordination and compliance with the Minimum Standards in key areas.
Ensuring the delivery of health and mental health services to people in custody is a critical part of the Board of Correction's mission. The Board, an independent oversight authority for the City's jails, monitors compliance with longstanding regulations that require services consistent with accepted professional standards and sound professional judgment and practice. Health and Hospitals' Correctional Health Services is responsible for providing health and mental health care in the jails while the Department of Correction provides security for and transportation to these services.
Department of Correction policy permits staff to lockdown housing areas and facilities to investigate violent incidents, avoid serious violent incidents, conduct searches for contraband, or restore order. Last year, the Board published its first review of lockdowns, findings that despite a 32% decrease in the DOC average daily population since 2008, there has been an 88% increase in lockdowns through November 2017. In this new report, the Board found that for the first time since 2014, the number of lockdowns in DOC facilities decreased. From 2017 to 2018, there was a 9% decrease in the DOC average daily population, and an 18% decrease in the number of lockdown incidents.
The Board of Correction monitors the length of lockdowns and their impact on programs and services mandated by Minimum Standards including access to health and mental health services. Lockdowns hinder DOC's and Correctional Health Services' ability to meet the Minimum Standards. As a security response that impacts a large number of people and services, lockdowns also contribute to perceptions of unfair and excessive punishment, frustrations, and tensions in the facilities.
Download the 2019 Annual Lockdowns Report (May 2019)
Download the Lockdowns Report (January 2018)
Additional Lockdown Findings (January 2018)
Audit of DOC Facility Report of Area Lock-In Forms (April 2018)
Consecutive Lockdowns & Duration of Lockdowns (April 2018)
On a quarterly basis, the Board releases updated dashboards documenting the reports and submissions from the Department of Correction and H+H Correctional Health Services, as required by Chapter 5 of the Board's Minimum Standards.
Visit our jail regulations page for more information on the Implementation of Sexual Abuse and Harassment Standards.
As required by Chapter 5 of the Board's Minimum Standards, DOC provides BOC with data on each alleged incident of sexual abuse. Findings presented in the report are based on allegation-level data on all sexual abuse and sexual harassment allegations from people in custody in calendar years 2017 and 2018. This report presents these data in aggregate and are critical to understanding trends in violence, evaluating impact of interventions, and monitoring compliance with the Minimum Standards.
Download BOC's Report on Allegations, Disposition, Time to Case Closure (Minimum Standard 5-40)
In an effort to identify and deter staff sexual abuse and sexual harassment, the Department is required to implement a policy and practice of having intermediate-level or high-level supervisors conduct and document unannounced rounds of facilities. The Standards further require that the Department conducts rounds during night shifts as well as day shifts and at unpredictable and varied times. Between February and March 2019, the Board analyzed video footage and logbook entries to determine whether rounds were occurring as documented and to observe the activities occurring during these rounds. This report summarizes the Board's findings, highlighting critical areas for improvements in procedures and recordkeeping.
Download BOC's Supervision and Monitoring, Unannounced Rounds Audit (Minimum Standard 5-04(k))
In March 2019, Board staff toured 194 jail areas across eleven facilities and one hospital ward, monitoring the availability and visibility of materials accessible to people in custody describing DOC's zero tolerance policy on sexual assault and harassment and ways to report with the Department, as well as other City agencies.
Download BOC's Observations Regarding Person in Custody Education (Minimum Standard 5-14)
When serious injuries occur in NYC jails, their consequences are severe and wide-ranging. Serious injuries affect the short- and long-term physical and mental health of individuals and have a compounding negative effect on individuals' employment, education, housing, and general reintegration into the community. These incidents also place a signifcant burden on security and safety staff.
In January 2019, the Board of Correction reviewed the aggregate data on serious injuries to people in custody over time and summarized our in-depth audit of three months of serious injury reports. The report documents large discrepancies between the number of serious injuries diagnosed by NYC Health + Hospitals' Correctional Health Services (CHS) and the number of serious injuries reported internally and publicly by the Department of Correction (DOC). In 2017, DOC reported 81% fewer serious injuries than CHS (158 v. 816). This report is also the first public accounting of serious injuries over time and presents the number, type, cause, and facility of serious injuries for audited months.
In 2018, the Board of Correction conducted an audit of the Department's investigation of sexual abuse or harassment allegations made by people in custody in New York City's jails. The audit uncovered significant weaknesses in the Department's process for reviewing sexual allegations of abuse and sexual harassment and offered recommendations for the Department to adopt in order to improve the quality and timeliness of investigations.
In Spring 2016, NYC Board of Correction staff repeatedly discovered people in custody being held in cells in housing units classified as "closed" by the NYC Department of Correction. These documented reports from multiple jails concerned the Board due to these people being effectively hidden from health staff and oversight; violations of Minimum Standards on showers, toilets, sinks, telephones, mattresses, pillows, visits, recreation, law library, and linen exchange; and poor conditions including trash and water on the floor.
In response to Board reports, the Department of Correction vowed to end its use of closed housing areas and developed new policies on temporary housing assignments now called "Satellite Intakes." The new DOC policy includes requirements on documentation, notification, and limits on length of time a person can be held in a Satellite Intake. This report analyzes the first 500 placements in Satellite Intake.
To further objectives related to its City Charter responsibilities, its history of work in this area, and as part of its responsibility to monitor jail conditions, the Board undertook an assessment of the inmate grievance program operated by the Department. The Board sought to understand the current patterns and trends in filing and responding to grievances and the effectiveness, consistency and timeliness of the current system.
The Department of Correction (DOC) issued its Transgender Housing Unit (THU) policy on alternative housing options for transgender people in custody in December 2014. DOC's THU policy requires transgender men to be housed in protective custody at the Rose M. Singer Center (RMSC) and transgender women to be housed in a facility designed for male occupancy. The THU is available exclusively to transgender women but is not guaranteed for all transgender women.
Through data analysis and observations of the THU, this assessment of the THU seeks to inform the ongoing discussion of the unit's operations, future plans for the unit, and implementation of Minimum Standards intended to ensure the safety of transgender people in custody.
As a start toward establishing a better understanding of splashings and their prevalence in New York City jails, Board of Correction staff reviewed all occurrences of splashings reported in 2017. While preliminary, this report represents the most comprehensive public empirical analysis on splashings in the country.
Splashings are defined in DOC policy as “any incident wherein a person in custody intentionally causes an employee to come in contact with any fluid or fluid like substance.” Fluid or fluid like substances range from water and milk to bodily fluids such as urine, feces, spit, and blood.
In October 2014, as the Board debated historic punitive segregation reforms, the Department proposed a new restrictive housing unit, Enhanced Supervision Housing, that it believed to be a critical part of its punitive segregation and violence reduction plans. The Board ultimately approved a modified version of the proposal. BOC staff published an April 2017 report studying the first twenty-two months of adult ESH placement (February 2015 - November 2016) and is intended to inform the Board's discussion of the effectiveness of ESH. In July 2017, BOC staff published a second report studying ESH for Young Adults, reviewing all young adult placements between September 2016 and March 2017.
This quarterly report creates a series of metrics to measure and evaluate compliance with the City's Minimum Standards for confinement and to track other conditions and policies that impact change toward safer and more humane jails for adolescents and young adults.
This quarterly report is the Board's findings concerning the impact of recent Minimum Standards amendments on the use of punitive segregation in the City's jails and an analysis of the overrides and 7-day waivers approved by the Chief of Department.
This monthly report analyzes DOC visit restrictions and BOC visit appeals.
December 2017 - Guided by the crucial role that contact visits play in violence reduction, rehabilitation, and reentry, the Board reviewed the Department's new visit Directive and analyzed over a years' worth of visit restriction data. The analyses identify ways for both agencies to enhance access to visiting; improve safety of staff, people in custody, and visitors; and ensure restrictions on visiting are tailored and go no further than what is necessary to address serious threats to safety and security.