The Bronx Defenders releases its report “Voices From the Box: Solitary Confinement at Rikers Island”


September 12, 2014

Contact: Skylar Albertson, The Bronx Defenders, (347) 842-1215,

Voices From the Box: Solitary Confinement at Rikers Island

New York – The Bronx Defenders released a report summarizing the experiences of 59 current and former clients who were subjected to extreme isolation in solitary confinement at Rikers Island. The report sheds light upon the horrific conditions that individuals placed in solitary confinement endure every day at Rikers. These clients’ stories will bring the voices of people who have experienced solitary confinement firsthand into the ongoing discussion regarding the future of Rikers.

From July 2013 to August 2014, members of the Bronx Defenders Solitary Confinement Project conducted 59 interviews with clients held in various solitary confinement units at Rikers Island. Together, the interviews expose a systemic practice that is unquestionably inhumane, raises serious Eighth Amendment issues, and deserves the label torture. The report details key areas of concern and lists a number of remedies that the Department of Correction and Board of Correction should implement.

Of particular concern are the young age of many individuals subjected to solitary confinement, the duration of solitary confinement, and the regularity with which people suffering from mental illness were placed in solitary confinement. More than half of the 59 clients interviewed were between the ages of 16 and 20. The median amount of time for which the clients interviewed were held in solitary was 90 days. At least 72% of all 59 clients interviewed were diagnosed with or treated for mental health issues.

The Bronx Defenders’ ultimate recommendation is for the Department of Correction to end the practice of solitary confinement. However, the report also includes intermediate steps that the Department of Correction and Board of Correction can take immediately to reduce the suffering that individuals continue to experience daily in solitary confinement at Rikers.


Click here for the executive summary and the full report.