Adams, Backed By Federal Monitor, Editorial Boards, And Union, Vetoes City Council Bill For Safer NYC Jails

January 19, 2024

NYC Mayor Eric Adams today vetoed Intro. 549-A, a NYC Council bill that would have jeopardized the safety of both those in the city’s custody and correctional staff.

Interfered with the restrictive housing program designed in consultation with the federal monitor in the Nuñez case, and contradicted best practices for correctional safety.   

Last week, Federal Monitor Steven Martin provided an assessment stating that he “has deep concerns about many of [Intro. 549-A’s] provisions,” and added that, “Many of the provisions, as currently drafted, could inadvertently undermine the overall goals of protecting individuals from harm, promoting sound correctional practice and improving safety for those in custody and jail staff. Consequently, this could impede the Department’s ability to comply with the Nuñez Court Orders.” 

“Under our administration, the city’s jails are getting safer — but this bill would have taken us in the wrong direction. Vetoing this bill will keep those in our custody and our correction officers safer,” said Mayor Adams. “Our administration does not support solitary confinement in our jails, and New York City has not used the practice for years. In fact, we have achieved significant reductions in key indicators of violence in our correction system without solitary confinement. But despite the misleading nickname, had it taken effect, the Department of Correction would no longer be able to protect people in custody, or the union workers charged with their safety, from violent individuals. I implore the City Council to work with our administration and follow the federal monitor’s guidance to abandon this misguided bill.” 

“I have had deep-seated concerns about 549-A and the serious threat it poses to the safety of my staff and people in our custody if it were to be implemented,” said New York City Department of Correction (DOC) Commissioner Lynelle Maginley-Liddie. “I’m grateful that Mayor Adams has vetoed this bill, and I urge the council to reconsider its provisions. We all want to make our jails safer, but 549-A will not accomplish that shared goal.” 

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DOC Commissioner Maginley-Liddie explained the department’s significant concerns with the legislation in a video

While the bill incorrectly purports to ban solitary confinement, New York City has not used the practice since before the Adams administration took office. Under Mayor Adams’ leadership, DOC has made significant progress in many areas to address the deeply rooted problems at Rikers that have existed for generations. Slashings and stabbings, assaults on staff, and serious injuries to people in custody were all down by double digits in 2023. 

Related: Watch DOC Commissioner Maginley-Liddie Explain Intro. 549-A

Additionally, the New York Daily News editorial board opined that the bill could result in putting “detainees at unnecessary risk,” while simultaneously noting that “the bill’s defenders have often used sleight of hand,” concluding, “Now, Mayor Adams must act on Martin’s recommendation by vetoing the bill before it automatically becomes law.” 

The New York Post editorial board makes clear that the bill would be “guaranteeing more violence, chaos and suffering” at Rikers Island. Adding, “It’s not just jail staff at risk: Other detainees will be victimized as much or more if there’s no way to control violent inmates,” wrote the New York Post editorial board in September 2022. The editorial board added, in December 2023, “To be clear, the real victims are New Yorkers who deserve better: [The] bill would make jails more dangerous for detainees and staff.” 

“Intro. 549 will all but ensure that inmate assaults against Correction Officers and non-violent inmates will surge, jeopardizing thousands of lives in our jails,” wrote Antoinette Anderson, New York City correction officer and corresponding secretary, Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association. “Everyone in our jails deserves to be safe!” 

Photo credit: 1-2)

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