NYC agrees to $53 million settlement in lawsuit over solitary confinement at Rikers Island and other jails

New York City has agreed to pay up to $53 million to roughly 4,400 people who were held in extremely restrictive housing areas on Rikers Island in violation of guidelines laid down by a city jail watchdog agency.

The huge settlement ends a case called Miller v. City of New York, which was filed in 2021 in Manhattan Federal Court and claimed people were held in city jails on Rikers Island and in Manhattan between 2018 and 2022 in violation of their due process rights.

Each plaintiff in the class action suit will receive roughly $9,000, depending on how many days they were held in solitary confinement.

The lawsuit focused on those detained in two jails on Rikers — the West Facility and North Infirmary Command — and a 9th floor unit in the Tombs in lower Manhattan.

Some of the cells in those units featured a small cage-like annex supposed to be used for exercise. In the West Facility, people were held in cells 23 hours a day.

The people held in those units were deprived of recreation, a day room and natural light, all things required to be provided people in jail under the city’s minimum standards, the lawyers said.

The lawsuit claimed the Correction Department ignored warnings from the city Board of Correction that housing people in those settings violated city rules.

The lawsuit also alleged that people placed in the restrictive units had a right to a hearing — but the Correction Department took the position that hearings were not necessary.

Detainee advocates have been pressing the city to end solitary confinement at Rikers and its other jails.

“The Board of Correction has made progress towards ending inhumane practices of restrictive confinement in New York, but the Department of Correction tried to end-run around those reforms with practices that we challenged here,” said Alex Reinert, who represented the detained population in the lawsuit along with Eric Hecker.

“We hope this litigation will ensure that the City permanently ceases this practice, and that the settlement will provide much-deserved compensation to the people who were subjected to it.”

A city Law Department spokesman said, “The safety of all individuals on Rikers is among the City’s highest priorities. While the housing assignments at issue reflected these safety concerns, the practices that led to this litigation have been modified. This settlement is in the best interests of all parties.”