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Carlina Rivera, tapped to head Criminal Justice Committee, says solitary confinement must end

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Declaring that it’s critical to “center humanity” within the city’s jails and criminal legal system, Councilmember Carlina Rivera on Thursday announced her appointment as chairperson of the Council’s Committee on Criminal Justice.

In a press release, the East Side councilmember cited the “devastating impacts of incarceration,” and stressed, “We must finally end solitary confinement, once and for all.”

“I am thankful to serve New York City as chair of the Committee on Criminal Justice — an opportunity I do not take lightly,” Rivera said in the release. “I am humbled by this responsibility to New Yorkers, and am prepared to do everything in my capacity as chair to shed light on the systemic inequities rampant in these spaces.

“Our current criminal legal system is archaic and outdated. New Yorkers deserve better, and the onus is on us as legislators to heed their call for stronger and bolder policy.

“We must center humanity for all subjected to the devastating impacts of incarceration, starting with addressing the massive public health crisis within our jails,” Rivera said. “These challenges are both inherited and familiar with my tenure in the Council, and addressing the inhumane circumstances plaguing the city’s jails is urgent.

“Our goals, while they will be challenging to meet, are simple. We must follow the data to address the compounding humanitarian crises in our jails, including abuse, a lack of access to comprehensive services and insufficient transparency. We must secure the right to counsel and a speedy trial. And we must finally end solitary confinement, once and for all.

“I look forward to working with Mayor Adams, Speaker [Adrienne] Adams, advocates and the members of the committee to take every advantage of our Charter-mandated duty of oversight and investigation,” Rivera said.

“In addition, I am proud to continue service in key areas of a just recovery as a member of the Committees on Hospitals, COVID-19 Recovery and Resiliency, Housing and Buildings and Land Use, and to join the Committee on Standards and Ethics.”

A former police officer, Mayor Adams has said he supports solitary confinement for violent or disruptive inmates, though he refers to it instead as “punitive segregation.” To critics who say the spaces used for solitary confinement are too small, he has said he plans to “build out” larger ones.

Solitary confinement isn’t the only issue where Rivera and Mayor Adams have not seen eye to eye. Rivera recently had been in the running to be City Council speaker. But Adams reportedly did not back her candidacy, in large part, because in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, Rivera was a vocal advocate for defunding the police during the Council’s 2020 budget negotiations.

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