Though our criminal justice system still faces a near endless well of problems, the New York City Department of Corrections took one small step in the right direction this week by electing to end solitary confinement for young adults between the ages of 19 and 21.

Though this action may seem common-sense, New York City is now the only city in the nation to have taken such merciful action for young offenders. No state has adopted the policy either.

Now, if you are between the ages of 16 and 21 and are in the NYC DOC, you cannot be forced into solitary confinement – or punitive segregation, as it is officially called – for any reason.

The practice of solitary confinement is one that has proven to be incredibly damaging, especially for young offenders whose brains are still developing.

Some may wonder what the jail system intends to do with violent or reactionary inmates they previously would have thrown into a solitary cell. As it turns out, the city appears to have developed a sophisticated multi-level system of support for those inmates.

NYC Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte shares some of those elements:

“For the adolescents, these comprise Second Chance Housing and Transitional Restorative Units (TRU), which feature higher staffing levels – one officer to five inmates in Second Chance and one to two or even one to one in TRU. The officers in these units receive training on youth brain development, crisis prevention and management, and trauma-informed care practices for adolescents.

Inmates in these programs are afforded enhanced programming and counseling to better their life skills and job prospects and a behaviorally based incentive system enables them to earn privileges and commissary points.”

Ponte gives a full rundown of the new regulations in NYC at Gotham Gazette.

Here’s to hoping that New York City will be just the first of many to take a more compassionate and rehabilitative view of young offenders.

Sydney Robinson is a political writer for the Ring of Fire Network. She has also appeared in political news videos for Ring of Fire. Sydney has a degree in English Literature from the University of West Florida, and has an active interest in politics, social justice, and environmental issues. She would love to hear from you on Twitter @SydneyMkay or via email at