Aimed at Improving Conditions for Inmates, Council to Vote on Revised Policy for Rikers Nursery Admissions
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2016

Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson is sponsoring a bill that will revise the Department of Correction’s current policy on the Rikers nursery. There was no oral testimony on the nursery bill because it got moved out of committee with no debate, but Legal Aid’s written testimony is attached.

The legislation is aimed at improving conditions for inmates at Rikers, in particular female inmates who are pregnant or have young children. Caroline Hsu, a Staff Attorney in the Prisoners’ Rights Project, worked on the created of the legislation. The revised policy is related to the admission process for the nursery and how often the program is used.

"By establishing clear procedures around admittance and record keeping, [this bill] will improve the nursery program and restore basic rights to incarcerated mothers and their infants," Gibson said in a letter to Council colleagues urging support of the bill.




City Council set to vote on Rikers bills targeting mentally ill and pregnant inmates
By Gloria Pazmino
09/28/2016

The City Council will vote on a package of bills on Wednesday aimed at improving conditions for inmates at Rikers Island, specifically female detainees who are pregnant or have young children and inmates who are mentally ill.

Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson, who chairs the Committee on Public Safety, is sponsoring legislation that will overhaul the Department of Correction's current policy related to the nursery admission process and require reporting of how often the program is used.

Gibson's bill comes in response to reports that Rikers' nursery program has been severely underused for years even though the facility has housed inmates who would have qualified for it. New York is one of 11 states to provide a nursery program for incarcerated mothers. The program has been proven to decrease recidivism and long-term drug use among inmates who are admitted.

Gibson's proposal will require the department to establish "clear procedures" around inmate admittance and record keeping and require that female detainees are notified of the program upon entering custody.

"By establishing clear procedures around admittance and record keeping, [this bill] will improve the nursery program and restore basic rights to incarcerated mothers and their infants," Gibson said in a letter to Council colleagues urging support of the bill.

Another proposal, sponsored by Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo, will require the department to use what is known as "trauma-informed care" when treating injured inmates. The method was developed by the Substance and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The bills are in part designed to increase the amount of services the mentally ill population on Rikers Island is receiving and to track the extent to which the department has to deal with mentally ill inmates.

A bill sponsored by Councilman Corey Johnson will target the jail's mentally ill population by requiring the department to compile an annual report on the number of inmates who are released and have been treated for mental illness while in custody. The report will also include the percentage of inmates that reenter custody within a year's time.

Another proposal, sponsored by Councilman Andy Cohen, will require the NYPD to create a report whenever a person under arrest is treated by a health care provider while in custody. The Council wants the reports to be transferred to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene if the person if sent to a city jail. A second part of the bill would require that DOHMH screens every person who is arrested and brought to a criminal court for arraignment for possible health issues prior to being arraigned.

The bills will go before the full Council at the stated meeting.