The doctors, nurses and medical staff working at Rikers Island and the City’s correctional facilities applaud the package of corrections reforms announced by federal prosecutors and the City. As the frontline providers of healthcare in the City’s jails, we put patient care at the center of everything we do, and we believe this new framework will help create an environment of increased safety and more timely access to quality care for detainees.
Interagency cooperation will be critical to the implementation of these sweeping changes. Training of Corrections Officers done in concert with healthcare staff can help improve interactions with detainees with mental illness, elevate workplace safety and ensure that detainees receive medical care with dignity.
Additionally, we commend the increase of cameras and surveillance technology at Rikers which will provide a measure of safety and accountability for both detainees and staff.
Significant reforms in how we treat young detainees are fundamental to their safety and health. The effects of solitary confinement particularly on the still-developing brain of adolescents and teenagers can be damaging. Due to their developmental vulnerability, juvenile offenders are at particular risk of adverse reactions such as depression, anxiety and psychosis according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Finally, we urge that any new programs and reforms are supported by proper staffing; adequate funding; and a team approach to dealing with crises. Our experience has shown that successful interventions have the resources to back them.