City Hall – Today the New York City Council will vote on legislation that creates a wide range of reforms at the Department of Correction, including requiring the utilization of innovative techniques in interacting with needy inmates, establishing due process in determining admission to the Department’s nursery program, requiring all criminal defendants to undergo a medical screening before arraignment, streamlining procedures for obtaining inmates’ health information, and enhancing oversight of inmates with mental health issues and programming offered to Department of Correction inmates. The Council will also vote to update the City’s Energy Conservation Code, and to implement gradual increases in the amount of biodiesel required in building heating oil.

Department of Correction Legislation

Today, the Council will vote on a package of legislation aimed at increasing reporting on and oversight of quality of life provisions for persons incarcerated in New York City Department of Correction facilities:

“Becoming incarcerated does not necessitate trading away an individual’s basic human dignities,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “By requiring the use of progressive techniques in dealing with vulnerable incarcerated persons, securing the correctional health care system’s access to the medical records of those incarcerated, and making sure that incarcerated women are not needlessly separated from their newborn children, among several other measures being proposed, we are ensuring that our city’s jails respect the needs of our incarcerated population.”

Introduction 1144-A, sponsored by Council Member Laurie Cumbo, would require the DOC to utilize trauma-informed care, a method of treating victims of trauma that has been developed in part by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. This method has been successfully used in a variety of contexts, including in correctional facilities, and involves recognizing the symptoms of trauma and using trauma-specific interventions that may deescalate volatile situations and help stabilize inmates. The bill would also require an annual report on the use of trauma-informed care.

Introduction 1183-A, sponsored by Council Member Andrew Cohen, is comprised of two components related to requiring the use of trauma-informed care in city correctional facilities. First, it would require the NYPD to create a report whenever a person under arrest is treated by a health care provider while in police custody. These reports would be transferred to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) whenever an arrestee is sent to a city jail. Second, it would require the DOHMH to ensure that every arrestee brought to a criminal court for arraignment is screened for possible health issues prior to being arraigned, and to create a report for any arrestee so identified. Formal protocols would also be established by the DOHMH to obtain records from healthcare providers who provided care to arrestees. Such records, reports created by the NYPD, and reports from pre-arraignment screenings would all be made available to correctional health services during their first evaluation of an inmate to ensure a continuity of care for inmates admitted to city jails.

“Many incarcerated women and men have experienced some aspect of trauma, often ongoing, during their lives,” said Council Member Laurie Cumbo, Chair of the Committee on Women’s Issues. “The majority of women in our criminal justice system have experienced various degrees of sexual violence, rape, assault, and childhood sexual abuse, or they may have witnessed violence done to others. Research suggests that correctional systems working with women offenders should be designed specifically to meet women’s needs. As Chair of the Committee on Women’s Issues and co-Chair of the Women’s Caucus, I look forward to a changing the correctional approach, in order for our inmates to be treated in an appropriate manner because the ultimate goal of prison is rehabilitation. For people to become productive members of society once they are released, it is vital that they are provided effective mental health resources while they are incarcerated. Trauma-informed care helps staff recognize symptoms of trauma and adjust therapy accordingly. Studies have shown that this method resulted in a 62% reduction in staff assaults and a 54% reduction in inmate assaults. There is evidence that trauma-informed care leads to less suicide attempts, disciplinary actions and prison violence.”

“The driving goal of Intro 1183 is to ensure that individuals entering the justice system are treated in a humane and sensitive manner.  The legislation will require mental health screenings of arrestees, as well as mandate more extensive gathering and sharing of health records and reports while an inmate is in custody. Everyone involved in the system will be better off if this legislation passes,” said Council Member Andrew Cohen, Chair of the Committee on Mental Health.

Introduction 1014-A, sponsored by Council Member Corey Johnson, responds to the increase in mentally ill inmates confined in city jails by requiring an annual report on the number of inmates released to the community who have been repeatedly treated for mental illness while in DOC custody. The report would also include the number and percentage of those inmates who re-enter DOC custody within one year.

“As a compassionate, forward-thinking city, we need to have a comprehensive accounting of individuals in our correctional system with mental health issues,” said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Committee on Health. “Through data collection, we will be able to measure the scope and severity of recidivism among these individuals, which could have huge implications for crime prevention and mental healthcare throughout New York. This Council has been fully engaged on matters of social justice, and this bill is an important part of that equation. I thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for being a leader on criminal justice reform, as well as my co-sponsors on this legislation.”

Introduction 1064-A, sponsored by Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, would require the DOC to issue an annual report on inmate programming, including vocational training, counseling, cognitive therapy, and drug treatment. The reports would be required to include information related to funding, the number of inmates served, a brief description of each such program, and successful completion and compliance rates where applicable.

“By bringing a greater level of transparency to DOC programs, we can better evaluate their effectiveness. I thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for her leadership and dedication to criminal justice reform,” said Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, Chair of the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services.

Introduction 899-A, sponsored by Council Member Vanessa Gibson, would establish formal procedures for the Department of Correction’s nursery admission process, including that the warden of the facility makes initial admissions determinations, requiring written decisions to be provided to any inmate whose admission is denied specifying the reasons for denial, and establishing an appeals process. The bill would also require reporting related to the usage of the nursery, the placement of children denied admission to the nursery, and the programming and services available in the nursery. This legislation was proposed in light of reports starting that the 25-bed nursery to house pregnant DOC inmates and recently born children of female DOC inmates was operating below its capacity, as well as courts holding that the DOC arbitrarily denied inmates and their children admission to this facility.

“By establishing clear procedures around admittance and record keeping, Introduction 899-A will improve the Rikers Island nursery program and restore basic rights to incarcerated mothers and their infants,” said Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Chair of the Committee on Public Safety. I thank my co-sponsors Council Members Laurie Cumbo and Elizabeth Crowley for their partnership in the efforts to improve women’s correctional health and thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for her determination to bring justice back to the criminal justice system.

Energy Conservation Code

Under New York State law, New York City may have its own energy conservation code as long it is at least as strict as the State’s own energy conservation code.

Introduction 1277-A, sponsored by Council Members Jumaane Williams and Rafael Salamanca (by request of Mayor Bill de Blasio), would update City’s energy conservation code to reflect recent changes to State’s energy conservation code.

“This technical bill, Introduction 1277-A, complements recently signed legislation, Intro 1169-A which, when combined, exceeds the energy efficiency standards set in the state’s recently adopted code,” said Council Member Jumaane Williams, Chair of the Committee on Housing and Buildings. “For example, going forward, many buildings will need solar ready roofs, sensors to automatically turn off lights in commercial buildings, increased air leakage testing and improved insulation for certain air conditioners. These are just a few steps we’ve taken to increase maximize the city’s energy efficiency.”

Clean Heating Oil

In continuing to pursue its goal of decreasing citywide greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050, the City Council will be voting on the following piece of legislation:

Introduction 642-A, sponsored by Council Member Costa Constantinides, would gradually increase the amount of biodiesel required in building heating oil from 2 percent to 20 percent. Biodiesel is comparably priced to regular oil and is a substantially cleaner fuel – it emits 50% to 90% less greenhouse gases than oil and less asthma-triggering pollutants like particulate matter and nitrogen oxide. Under this legislation, heating oil would need to contain at least 5 percent biodiesel by October 2017, 10 percent biodiesel by October 2025, 15 percent biodiesel by October 2030, and 20 percent biodiesel by October 2034.

The bill also includes a number of waiver provisions and safeguards to ensure that the supply of biodiesel is sufficient, that prices for biodiesel blends continue to be comparable to the prices of regular oil, and relevant heating equipment can accommodate the required fuel blends.

“Expanding use of biofuel in our heating oil would reduce pollution, upgrade air quality, and improve our public health,” said Council Member Costa Constantinides, Chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection. “With this bill, we would slowly increase the biodiesel blend from the currently regulated 2% blend up to 20% by 2034 on an incremental basis.  This increase would have the environmental equivalent to taking up to 177,000 cars off the road.  INT. 642-A is a tested solution that will bring us closer toward our goal of reducing carbon emissions 80% by 2050 and help us combat the effects of climate change.  I thank Speaker Mark-Viverito, my council colleagues, and environmental advocacy groups for their support on this important legislation.”

The City Council will vote on landmark designation status for the following structures:

  • Mitchell-Linden Library Site
  • Rosedale Library Site