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De Blasio signs 'bill of rights' for NYC jail inmates

Mayor de Blasio signs a set of bills

Mayor de Blasio signs a set of bills into law, requiring various reporting with respect to inmates, on Oct. 7, 2015, at the city hall. Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Every city inmate must receive a "bill of rights," and jail guards' use-of-force policies must be publicly disclosed under legislation that Mayor Bill de Blasio signed Wednesday at City Hall.

The laws -- a package of eight City Council bills passed earlier this year -- are meant to further regulate a Department of Correction that has been buffeted by allegations of brutality that led to appointment of an outside monitor under an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department.

"We've seen and read about too many instances of inmates being abused, beaten, neglected and violated by fellow inmates and correction officers," said Councilman Dan Garodnick (D-Manhattan). He added: "Our city cannot afford to wait any longer, and we are taking some very important steps here today."

Other parts of the legislation require the department to track and disclose a range of demographics and statistics -- about solitary confinement, inmate visitation, bail amounts, sentence lengths and inmate grievances.

"It's a step towards greater fairness and greater transparency," de Blasio said before he signed the bills.

According to the New York City Department of Correction, the jails this year handled more than 67,000 admissions, and the average daily population was 10,240.

More still needs to be done, Jennifer J. Parish of the inmate-advocates Urban Justice Center told de Blasio during a public-comment period. Parish said she's "concerned" about a "wrong" de Blasio proposal before the Board of Correction, an oversight panel, to limit jailhouse access to inmates by visitors with serious criminal records.

Also Wednesday, the mayor signed a bill requiring all stores to close their doors when a cooling system such as air conditioning is running, to save electricity.

The law expands on 2008 legislation that imposed the closed-door requirement on businesses that are 4,000 square feet or larger, or part of a chain of five or more stores.

De Blasio and other city officials joining him for the bill signing wore blue stickers with the campaign's slogan: "SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!"


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