JAC is a collection of activists, including formerly incarcerated people, family members, and other community members, working to promote human rights, dignity, and safety for people in New York City jails. Its current advocacy projects aim to curtail New York City's use of solitary confinement as a jail punishment, stop staff brutality, and improve the quality and availability of medical and mental health care.
Even as a growing international consensus has deplored the use of solitary confinement in jails and prisons, New York City has expanded it. By the end of fiscal year 2013, solitary confinement beds will represent nearly ten percent of the average daily population in New York City jails. Solitary confinement, or what the city calls "punitive segregation," entails 22 to 24 hours of daily lockdown with limited social interaction. It causes, among other things, cognitive disturbances, perceptual distortions, paranoia, psychosis, and self-harm. Juveniles and people with preexisting mental illness remain the most vulnerable to the ravages of "the bing," yet New York City subjects ever more of them to solitary confinement.

Staff brutality on Rikers Island has continued unabated for decades despite scores of lawsuits against correction officers. Members of the highest echelon of the Department of Correction have been identified again and again as perpetrators of gruesome violence against incarcerated people. Such assaults have left its victims without their eyesight, with broken spines and faces, punctured lungs, lacerated skulls, and other serious injuries.
JAC aims to end the culture of brutality in New York City jails by influencing necessary changes in the culture of the Department of Correction. New York City must treat the people it incarcerates as people, not as problems.
Crucial to reforming the culture on Rikers Island is increasing the quality and availability of medical and mental health care and rehabilitative programs. By treating symptoms of mental illness and physical disease, rather than punishing them, New York City can help its incarcerated people to heal. And by engaging incarcerated people with programs, the city can help them to succeed when they return to the community.
Several Mental Health Project staffers are core members of JAC, dedicated to utilizing our expertise to oppose conditions that are detrimental to incarcerated people's mental well-being.
To learn more about JAC, contact Jennifer (JJ) Parish at 646-602-5644 or visit JAC’s website (www.nycjac.org).