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NYC Council seeks increased oversight of jails

The City Council Thursday approved a package of eight bills to increase oversight of the embattled New York City Department of Correction, which has been in the spotlight over a series of abuses of inmates.

Council members cited the lack of transparency as a stumbling block in their pursuit of reforms, particularly at the Rikers Island jail complex.

Their legislation included several requirements that the agency publicly and regularly release data ranging from inmate demographics to the waitlist for solitary confinement to the number of visitors inmates receive.

Other bills would mandate the department to post rules regarding the use of force by staff against inmates and to distribute a bill of rights to every inmate upon admission.

"We want everyone that is held within any of our correctional facilities to be treated humanely," City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said at a City Hall news conference. "There is serious concern about the level of violence, which has been on the rise. . . . Data will help us on the path to make the proper changes."

She acknowledged, however, that city lawmakers are requiring the release of "a lot of information."

Department of Correction representatives did not respond Thursday.

The city agreed last June to a court-appointed monitor for Rikers amid other measures to resolve a lawsuit over jail conditions brought in part by the U.S. Department of Justice.

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