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NYC BOC CPSU Recreation Report, 2014

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NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF CORRECTION

Barriers to
Recreation

at Rikers Island’s Central Punitive Segregation Unit

Staff Report

July 2014

About the New York City Board of Correction
The New York City Board of Correction (BOC) is a non-mayoral,
independent agency created under the New York City Charter,
Chapter 25 §626(c). The BOC establishes and monitors
compliance with minimum standards on the conditions of
confinement, codified under Title 40 of the Rules of the City of
New York, as well as health and mental health care in all City
correctional facilities, including the ten jails located at Rikers
Island, three borough facilities, prison hospital wards, and court
pens. In addition to monitoring conditions in the City’s jails, the
BOC investigates serious incidents, including prisoner deaths,
evaluates DOC’s performance, and makes recommendations in
critical areas of correctional planning.
This report was prepared by Chai Park, JD, MPH, Director of Research & Analysis.

Table of Contents
Executive Summary 	 _____________________________________3
Introduction 	 ___________________________________________4
Research Methods 	_______________________________________8
Findings and Recommendations	 ___________________________9
Conclusion 	 ____________________________________________19
Appendix A: Information on Survey Participants 	 _____________20
Appendix B: Survey Instrument (English) 	___________________23
Appendix C: Survey Instrument (Spanish) 	 __________________25
Appendix D: Interview Protocol 	___________________________27

Executive Summary
When people confined in New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex violate rules the Department of Correction (DOC)
has the authority to remove them from the general inmate population and place them in punitive segregation. Often
referred to as “the bing,” punitive segregation functions as a jail within a jail, where prisoners are locked almost
continuously in single-occupancy cells that are roughly 7 feet wide and 12 feet long. Several of the facilities on Rikers
Island have punitive segregation units, and the largest is the Central Punitive Segregation Unit (CPSU) at the Otis
Bantum Correctional Center, which is reserved for male prisoners. On March 17 of this year, for example, 367 adults
– 92.4% of all adult prisoners assigned to punitive segregation – were housed in the CPSU along with 22 adolescent
prisoners, representing roughly a quarter (27.8%) of all teens in punitive segregation on that day.
Because continuous solitary confinement is detrimental to a person’s physical and mental health, the Minimum
Standards promulgated by the New York City Board of Correction (BOC), reflecting both national and international
standards for the treatment of prisoners, entitle inmates in punitive segregation to at least one hour of recreation every
day. For individuals confined in the CPSU, the only form of recreation available is an hour alone in one of the Unit’s 32
outdoor “cages.” While the cages are empty of any equipment such as a basketball hoop and ball or pull-up bar that
would facilitate exercise, this hour nevertheless represents a prisoner’s only access to fresh air and direct sunlight and
only opportunity for social contact with other prisoners in adjacent pens and staff present in the area.
This brief interruption of life in solitary confinement is particularly important for a population with a high rate of
mental illness and instability and, as a result, one that is difficult to supervise safely. According to snapshot data
provided by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, more than half of prisoners in CPSU either
came to Rikers Island with a diagnosed mental illness or received mental health services during their current period of
incarceration.
Despite the existence of the standard requiring daily recreation, the present study by BOC found that, on average,
fewer than 1 in 10 CPSU prisoners engage in recreation on any given day. So while the CPSU population hovers around
400 people, fewer than 40 prisoners are experiencing the mandated hour outside their solitary confinement cells on
an average day. With the exception of a brief shower and any time out to receive mandated services or visits, the other
360 prisoners spend all day locked in their cells. Moreover, the study shows that many CPSU prisoners go for days
without access to the outdoor recreational area.
This study explains why going to recreation is an infrequent event within the CPSU rather than part of a prisoner’s
daily routine. Based on our research, the principle barriers are DOC procedures that make it very difficult for prisoners to indicate an interest in going to recreation (they are not required to go), shortages in staffing and facilities to
accommodate all prisoners who are interested, and inclement weather that makes going outdoors either unappealing
or practically impossible. DOC could begin to remedy these problems with relatively simple changes in policy and
practice. More significant reform sufficient to fully meet the Minimum Standards would require either an investment
in expanding the number of recreation officers and outdoor cages or reductions in the daily CPSU population. In
addition, DOC should make an effort to create indoor recreation areas that can accommodate at least some CPSU
prisoners during inclement weather.

3

Introduction

Figure 1.
The interior of a
typical punitive
segregation cell
in CPSU

On September 9, 2013, the New York City Board of Correction (BOC) unanimously decided to initiate rule
making governing the use of punitive segregation (also known as “solitary confinement,” “the hole,” and “the
bing”) in city jails.1 This decision was the result of mounting concerns about conditions in punitive segregation
units. To inform the development of new rules, the BOC has been gathering data and other information from a
wide range of sources, and as part of that process conducted original research on access to recreation in the
Central Punitive Segregation Unit (CPSU) at the Otis Bantum Correctional Center (OBCC). The largest punitive
segregation unit on Rikers Island, roughly 400 adult and adolescent male prisoners occupy the CPSU on any given
day.2 The CPSU operates as a jail within a jail, with its own staff, operating manual, and facilities. The present study
sought to examine the extent to which individuals confined in the CPSU have a genuine opportunity every day to
engage in outdoor recreation and what barriers, if any, exist.
The decision to research this particular issue followed anecdotal evidence, including occasional first-hand observations
by some BOC staff and some members, that prisoners in punitive segregation seemed to have infrequent access to
the recreation area – circumstances that, if true, would be in violation of the Minimum Standard requiring all
prisoners, including those in punitive segregation, at least one hour of recreation every day. Recognizing out-ofcell recreation to be “essential to good health” and that it “contributes to reducing tensions within a facility,”3
the Minimum Standards require DOC to provide every prisoner in its custody access to at least one full hour of

1 DOC can impose punitive segregation on any prisoner that violates jail rules. Unless the violation is serious or the prisoner poses a
threat to other prisoners or staff, the decision requires an administrative hearing. Adult male prisoners who are not diverted to Restrictive Housing Units (RHU) or Clinical Alternatives to Punitive Segregation (CAPS) units, are typically assigned to the Central Punitive
Segregation Unit (CPSU) at the Otis Bantum Correctional Center (OBCC), although some are placed in a punitive segregation unit at
the George R. Vierno Center (GRVC). Most adolescent male prisoners are assigned to the Robert N. Davoren Complex (RNDC), which
also includes an RHU, and the rest are assigned to the CPSU. Female prisoners are assigned to a punitive segregation unit in the Rose
M. Singer Center, except for the few who are temporarily placed in the prison ward at Elmhurst Hospital.
2 On March 17, 2014, for example, 367 people – 92.4% of all adult prisoners assigned to punitive segregation – were housed in the CPSU
along with 22 adolescent prisoners, representing roughly a quarter (27.8%) of all teens in punitive segregation on that day.
3 See N.Y.C. BOARD OF CORRECTION, CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES, Recreation § 1-06(a), at 11 (June 16, 2008).

4

Figure 2.
A view of the
tier in one
of the CPSU
housing areas

outdoor recreation, with “direct access to sunlight and air”4 seven days per week,5 except in inclement weather6
when DOC must provide access to an indoor recreation area.7 Because prisoners in punitive segregation are
locked continuously in single-occupancy cells that are each roughly 7 feet wide and 12 feet long, that hour outside
is their only access to fresh air and direct sunlight and gives them a rare opportunity for social contact.8
There is no shortage of medical journal articles documenting the strong, positive association between moderate or
vigorous exercise and mental or physical wellbeing,9 and conversely, the strong association between inactivity and
poor mental or physical health.10 The importance of physical activity to good health is so well established that the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued minimum guidelines for all Americans. For adults, the
CDC recommends at least 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise, such as walking fast, or 150 minutes

4 Id.	
5 See id. at § 1-06(c), at 11; see also id. at § 1-06(a), at 11 (“Prisoners shall be provided with adequate indoor and outdoor recreational
opportunities.”) and N.Y.C. DEP’T OF CORRECTION, OTIS BANTUM CORRECTIONAL CENTER CPSU OPERATING MANUAL para. 29(a), at
30 (June 2012). “Inmates housed in CPSU shall be afforded the opportunity seven (7) days per week to attend a recreation period of at
least one (1) hour. An inmate who requests recreation shall not be denied to recreate [sic].” Id.
6 See N.Y.C. BOARD OF CORRECTION, CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES, Recreation § 1-06(c), at 11 (June 16, 2008). Notably, the CPSU
Operating Manual does not address inclement weather with respect to recreation. See generally N.Y.C. DEP’T OF CORRECTION, OTIS
BANTUM CORRECTIONAL CENTER CPSU OPERATING MANUAL (June 2012).
7 See N.Y.C. BOARD OF CORRECTION, CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES, Recreation § 1-06(b), at 11 (June 16, 2008).
8 See N.Y.C. DEP’T OF CORRECTION, OTIS BANTUM CORRECTIONAL CENTER CPSU OPERATING MANUAL para. 2(c), at 3 (June 2012)
(“All inmates housed in the Central Punitive Segregation Unit will be under twenty-four (24) lock-in status except when participating
in daily recreation or other mandated services as described herein.”).
9 See e.g., Andrew Steptoe & Neville Butler, Sports Participation and Emotional Wellbeing in Adolescents, 347 THE LANCET 1789-92
(June 29, 1996) (finding a strong and positive association between emotional well-being and participation in sports and vigorous
physical activity among 16 year olds) and Frank J. Penedo & Jason R. Dahn, Exercise and Well-Being: A Review of Mental and Physical
Health Benefits Associated with Physical Activity, 18 CURRENT OPINIONS IN PSYCHIATRY 189 (2005) (a medical literature review finding that majority of studies suggests that exercise and physical activity are associated with better health outcomes and quality of life).
10 See e.g., Ming Wei et al., Relationship Between Low Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Mortality in Normal Weight, Overweight, and
Obese Men, 282 J. OF THE AM. MED. ASS’N 1547 (Oct. 27, 1999) (looking at low cardiorespiratory fitness as an objective marker of physical inactivity and finding that low fitness was a strong and independent predictor of cardiovascular disease and mortality, independent of body mass index and various other risk factors) and Satoru Kodama et al., Cardiorespiratory Fitness as a Quantitative Predictor of All-Cause Mortality and Cardiovascular Events in Healthy Men and Women, 301 J. OF THE AM. MED. ASS’N 2024 (May 20, 2009)
(looking at cardiorespiratory fitness as a measure of physical fitness, and finding that better cardiorespiratory fitness was associated
with a lower risk of mortality and coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease).

5

Figure 3.
A toilet, sink/water
fountain, and mirror
in a typical cell
in CPSU

per week of vigorous-intensity exercise, such as playing basketball,11 combined with muscle-strengthening activities
at least twice per week.12 The recommendations for adolescents are even more stringent.13
Studies focused specifically on prisoners found a clear connection between inactivity and poor health, including
insomnia14 and low cardiorespiratory fitness.15 At least two studies examining the structural determinants16 of
health among prisoners found that forced idleness as a result of solitary confinement harms an inmate’s mental
and physical health and distracts the person from the goal of rehabilitation.17 In addition to these studies, there is
also evidence that overexposure to artificial environments may negatively affect a person’s health.18 A punitive
segregation cell is an extreme example of an artificial environment: small and made of cinderblock walls, a
concrete floor and ceiling and a reinforced metal door; featuring only a stainless steel sink, toilet and bunk; and
illuminated primarily by fluorescent lighting.

11 See CDC, How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?, http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/adults.html (last
visited Feb. 14, 2014).
12 See id.
13 See Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, How Much Physical Activity Do Children Need?, http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/children.html (last visited Feb. 14, 2014).	
14 See e.g., Bernice S. Elger, Prison Life: Television, Sports, Work, Stress and Insomnia in a Remand Prison, INT’L J. OF L. AND PSYCHIATRY, Mar.-Apr. 2009, 74 (finding that little or no physical activity or participation in sports was a predictor of insomnia or trouble sleeping at night among prisoners).
15 See e.g., Sulaiman A. Olaitan, Correlates of Selected Indices of Physical Fitness and Duration of Incarceration Among Inmates in
Some Selected Nigeria Prisons, ETHIOPIAN J. OF HEALTH SCI., Mar. 2010, 65 (finding a high prevalence (93%) of low cardiorespiratory
fitness among prisoners and concluding that extended periods of “inadequate physical activity” may cause low physical fitness among
prisoners in prison).	
16 Structural determinants of health include environmental factors, as well as social, political, economic factors.
17 See e.g., Nick de Viggiani, Unhealthy Prisons: Exploring Structural Determinants of Prison Health, 29 SOC. OF HEALTH & ILLNESS 115,
129 (2008) (“While the prison was highly effective in rendering prisoners subservient to and dependent upon the regime, through this
very process it fostered idleness and apathy, distracting prisoners from the important goal of rehabilitation (through empowerment,
personal responsibility and autonomy) towards short-term privileges . . . [such as] canteen provisions, use of gym. . . .”) and Jo Nurse
et al., Influence of Environmental Factors on Mental Health Within Prisons: Focus Group Study, 327 BRITISH MED. J. 480 (Aug. 28, 2003)
(concluding that a wide range of environmental and organizational factors in the correctional setting negatively impact prisoners’
mental health and prisoners’ relationship with staff, including, but not limited to, prisoners’ isolation and lack of exercise or mental
stimulation).
18 See GEOFFREY GODBEY, RESOURCES FOR THE FUTURE, OUTDOOR RECREATION, HEALTH, AND WELLNESS 1, 4 (May 2009) http://
www.rff.org/documents/RFF-DP-09-21.pdf (internal citations omitted).

6

The Board of Correction is not alone in recognizing the importance of daily outdoor exercise for prisoners. Among
the American Bar Association’s standards regarding the treatment of prisoners, Standard 23-3.6(b) requires that
“[e]ach prisoner, including those in segregated housing, should be offered the opportunity for at least one hour
per day of exercise, in the open air if the weather permits.”19 A number of courts nationally have found corrections
officials to be in violation of the Constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment for failure to
provide prisoners reasonable access to outdoor exercise.20 Similarly, the United Nations Standard Minimum
Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners provide that “[e]very prisoner who is not employed in outdoor work shall
have at least one hour of suitable exercise in the open air daily if the weather permits.”21 The UN Standards go
even further, requiring that “[y]oung prisoners, and others of suitable age and physique, shall receive physical
and recreational training during the period of exercise,” and that “[t]o this end space, installations, and equipment
shall be provided.”22

19 See AM. BAR ASS’N, TREATMENT OF PRISONERS STANDARDS, Recreation and Out-of-Cell Time § 23-3.6, at 89 (2010). The commentary to the ABA’s recreation standard cite to evidence that exercise is essential to physical health, and adds that such exercise
is “nearly impossible in a small prison cell.” See id. cmt. at 90. The commentary further explains that the ABA recommends access
to outdoor exercise because the “opportunity to breathe fresh air and see the sky provides independent physical and mental health
benefits.” See id. at n. 115.
20 For a detailed look at the legal landscape pertaining to prisoners’ access to recreation, see Americans for Effective Law Enforcement Legal Center, Prisoner Exercise and Civ. Liability, AELE Mo. L. J. 301 (Jul. 2008) and Robert D. Lee, Prisoners’ Rights to Recreation: Quantity, Quality, and Other Aspects, 24 J. OF CRIM. JUST. 167 (1996).
21 See Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, U.N. Doc. A/CONF/611, annex I, E.S.C. res. 663C, 24 U.N. ESCOR
Supp. (No. 1) at 11, U.N. Doc. E/3048 (1957), amended E.S.C. res. 2076, 62 U.N. ESCOR Supp. (No. 1) at 35, U.N. Doc. E/5988 (1977) (Aug.
30, 1955), at pt. I, sec. 21 (1). The Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners were adopted by the First UN Congress on
the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, approved by the UN’s Economic and Social Council in a July 1957 resolution,
and extended by the Council by resolution in May 1977. The SMRs are currently under review and may undergo revision in the near future to reflect the evolution of correctional best practices and international human rights law standards since they were first adopted.
22 See id. at Part I, sec. 21 (2).

7

Research Methods

This study involved several research activities conducted over a five-month period beginning in
October 2013. BOC staff started by reviewing DOC records pertaining to recreation for prisoners in the CPSU —
records that the Department maintains in the ordinary course of business. Specifically, we obtained photocopies
of the CPSU daily recreation logbook for July 5 through October 1, 2013, randomly selected a sample of 14 days
and closely examined the logbook entries for each of those days, noting how many prisoners and what proportion
of the total population went outdoors that day. We also examined the logbook entries for four days that were the
focus of an inmate survey we conducted.
The survey took place on Tuesday, December 3, 2013. Between 1:25 PM and 3:20 PM, BOC staff working in pairs
went from cell to cell and spoke with every prisoner. We chose afternoon hours because our review of logbook
entries showed that the daily recreation period of typically ends by 1:30 PM. We also verified that DOC had completed recreation before the surveys were distributed. Staff introduced themselves, explained the study, and distributed copies of a 30-item mainly multiple-choice questionnaire in either Spanish or English to prisoners who were
willing to complete it. Respondents were asked whether they had participated in recreation that day and in each
of the three previous days, and if not, to choose among possible reasons they had not gone outside. Respondents were
also asked to provide basic demographic information about themselves. BOC staff remained in the housing areas,
giving prisoners roughly 30 minutes to complete the questionnaire, and then collected the surveys – 185 in all. A
copy of the survey and data on participants are included as appendices to this report.
BOC staff toured the CPSU multiple times during the research period, visiting every housing area and observing the
entire recreation process. In the course of these tours, we spoke informally with correction officers, in particular
those assigned as CPSU recreation officers, and also with prisoners who had engaged in recreation that particular
day as well as those who had not. We also conducted multiple in-depth interviews with randomly selected prisoners
in CPSU.23 A copy of the interview protocol is included as an appendix. To maintain the confidentiality of the
prisoners and DOC staff who spoke with us, we have not identified them by name.

23 BOC Field Representatives Barbie Melendez and Shaquana Pearson and Director of Research & Analysis Chai Park conducted
these interviews.	

8

Findings &
Recommendations

Finding 1
Based on our review of recreation logbook entries and data from the inmate survey, only
a small fraction of individuals confined in the CPSU actually participate in outdoor
recreation on any given day, and it is common for prisoners to go for days without
access to recreation.
Recreation logbook entries for 14 randomly selected days between July 5 and October 1, 2013 reveal that the
proportion of CPSU prisoners that participated in daily recreation ranged from a low of 2.9% on August 9, 2013 to
a high of 16.0% on July 7, 2013, for an average across these 14 days of 9.8%.24 See Figure 4. Our own first-hand
observations echo this data, albeit painting a starker picture: On the several occasions that BOC staff visited the
CPSU recreation area during the research period, the recreation area was largely empty.

Figure 4.
Percentage of CPSU
prisoners that participated
in recreation o
 n a random
sample of dates (Source:
CPSU recreation logbook
entries)

100
90
80
70
60
50

8.7%

3.2%

5.4%

8.4%

8.5%

13.4%

11.9%

14.1%

14.5%
2.9%

7.5%

7.
7.
13
7.
10
.13
7.
22
.13
7.
23
.13
8.
9.
13
8.
14
.13
8.
15
.13
8.
18
.13
9.
1.1
3
9.
2.
13
9.
15
.13
9.
18
.13
9.
22
.13
9.
28
.13

0

8.7%

10

16%

20

13.4%

40
30

Moreover, results from our survey of inmates suggest that the vast majority of prisoners go for days without
access to recreation. A striking 87.8% of the survey respondents indicated that they did not participate in recreation
on any of the four consecutive days (November 30 –December 3, 2013) that were the focus of the survey. A mere
7.9% of respondents indicated that they went to recreation once over those four days, 2.2% stated that they went
twice, and only 0.7% indicated that they went to recreation on three of the four days.25 See Table 1.

Fewer than 1 in 10 prisoners in CPSU participate in recreation on an average day, and a majority of CPSU inmates go
for days at a time without access to the outdoors.
Corresponding DOC recreation logbook entries confirm that few inmates went to recreation on these four days.
Note: No prisoners went to recreation on Saturday, November 30, because the entire jail was on lockdown, a
24 Participation percentages were calculated based on DOC census data for the CPSU.	
25 Approximately 1.4% of respondents indicated that they went to recreation on all four days. Their survey responses were not included
in this specific analysis because their responses were factually incompatible. See infra note 26 and accompanying text.

9

status that requires all inmates to remain in their cells.26
Survey respondents who reported that they went to recreation at least once during the four-day period tended to
have spent fewer days in CPSU during their current incarceration at the time of the survey. The median length of stay
among prisoners who participated in recreation at least once was 30 days, compared with a median length of stay of
60 days among those who did not go out on any of the four days – a statistically significant difference (p=0.04).
This suggests that the longer a person has been confined in the CPSU, the less likely he is to participate in recreation,
although the reasons are not clear.

Participated in Recreation On

Percentage of
Survey Respondents

Zero of four days

87.8%

One of four days
y

7.9%

Two of four days

2.2%

Three of four days

0.7%

table 1.
Participation in
recreation among
survey paraticipants

Finding 2
Results from the inmate survey suggest that a large proportion of CPSU prisoners — 	
roughly 4 out of 5 — never even have a chance to “sign up” for recreation.
To be eligible to go outdoors, a prisoner has to “sign up” – in essence, verbally express an interest in going
outdoors that day. This happens in the morning when designated recreation officers canvass the CPSU housing
units. Our own observations of this process, conversations with staff and prisoners, and results from the inmate
survey show that the canvassing process as it currently operates is actually a deterrent. Some prisoners
described it as akin to a game of “cat and mouse.”

Results from the inmate survey suggest that roughly
4 out of 5 prisoners in CPSU are not given a meaningful
opportunity to “sign up” for recreation.
Early in the morning, at least one recreation officer goes to each of the eight CPSU housing areas and, without
announcement, walks down each tier of cells. Officers typically do not knock on individual cell doors or otherwise
make their presence known. Our observations during the research period confirm this practice. As a result, a
prisoner who wants to sign up for recreation must be “at the gate” – in other words, standing at his cell door – to
catch the recreation officer’s attention. If a prisoner is asleep, using the toilet, at the sink washing his face, or
sitting on his bed when the recreation officer passes by, that prisoner has missed his only opportunity to sign up
for recreation. Prisoners from different CPSU housing areas told BOC staff that they or their entire housing area risk
being barred from recreation if an inmate takes it upon himself to announce the arrival of the recreation officers.
Current practice diverges in important ways from DOC’s own policies. The CPSU Operating Manual requires an
“assigned officer” to “make an announcement” prior to canvassing the housing area for prisoners who want to
26 According to a DOC report of unusual incidents issued on November 30, 2013, at 8:20 AM by the Central Operations Desk, every
area of OBCC, including CPSU, entered lockdown status at 8 AM that day. CPSU remained under lockdown until 5:10 PM. That report
indicated that the entire facility was under lockdown “pending multiple unscheduled searches.” Another DOC report, commonly
referred to as the “Action Report” and dated December 11, 2013, noted “Tension in facility.”

10

participate in recreation that day.27 OBCC’s Institutional Order “CPSU Recreation” is even more specific.
Recreation officers are required to use a Megaphone to announce their presence and document their use of the
Megaphone in the daily logbook.28 Yet when BOC staff asked recreation officers to see the Megaphone, one officer
responded that he did not know where it was kept or whether it works. The Order further requires the recreation
supervisor, usually a captain, to be present on the floor when recreation is announced29 and ensure that the
recreation officers visit each cell to determine whether or not the inmate would like to go outdoors that day.30
Curiously, the Order also requires officers assigned to the evening “tour” (i.e., shift) to canvass the housing areas
for prisoners who want to go to recreation the following day, write their names on an established form,31 sign the
form and forward it to the CPSU Tour Commander for review.32 But the Order does not state how the recreation
officers on duty the following morning are supposed to use the form, assuming it was completed and made available
to them, and in the course of our research we never saw a recreation officer consult such a form.

7.7.13

7.10.13 7.22.13

7.23.13 8.9.13

8.14.13

8.15.13

8.18.13

9.1.13

9.2.13

9.15.13 9.28.13

Start of first tour of recreation officers 5:00 AM 5:00 AM 5:00 AM 5:00 AM 5:00 AM 5:00 AM 5:00 AM 5:00 AM 5:00 AM 5:00 AM 5:00 AM 5:00 AM
Start of recreation canvassing in
housing areas
Start of recreation period
(first prisoner out)

6:40 AM 6:30 AM 5:15 AM 5:20 AM 5:30 AM 5:10 AM 5:20 AM 6:30 AM 5:10 AM 5:05 AM 5:05 AM

7:40 AM 6:30 AM 6:38 AM

End of recreation period
(last prisoner in)

1:15 PM

End of third tour of recreation officers

4:31 PM 4:31 PM 4:31 PM

1:10 PM

5:11 AM

7:11 AM 7:30 AM 7:00 AM 6:25 AM 6:30 AM 8:35 AM 6:20 AM 6:55 AM 7:45 AM

1:15 PM 12:53 PM 1:30 PM
4:31 PM

1:10 PM 3:40 PM 3:00 PM 1:30 PM 1:00 PM 11:30 AM 1:20 PM

4:31 PM 4:31 PM

4:31 PM

4:31 PM 4:31 PM 4:31 PM

4:31 PM 4:31 PM

Sunset

7:30 PM 7:28 PM 7:21 PM 7:20 PM 7:02 PM 6:55 PM 6:54 PM 6:49 PM 6:28 PM 6:26 PM 6:05 PM 5:43 PM

Sunrise indicated by orange bars
in chart above, exact times to right:

4:32 AM 4:34 AM 4:44 AM

4:45 AM

5:01 AM 5:06 AM 5:07 AM

5:10 AM 5:23 AM 5:24 AM

5:37 AM 5:50 AM

table 2.
Recreation at CPSU
on randomly selected
dates from July
through September
2013. The portions
highlighted in yellow
indicate daylight
hours, while those in
grey indicate pre-dawn
or post-sunset hours.

The difficulty of signing up is compounded by the fact that recreation officers canvass the housing areas
early in the morning when most prisoners are asleep. It is important to note that the CPSU Recreational
Order requires officers to start recreation “no later than” 6:30 AM every day.”33 Our review of a random
sample of recreation logbook entries shows that canvassing began as early as 5:05 AM, which was before
sunrise on that particular day, and never later than 6:40 AM.34 See Table 2.35 Because prisoners in CPSU are

27 See N.Y.C. DEP’T OF CORRECTION, OTIS BANTUM CORRECTIONAL CENTER CPSU OPERATING MANUAL para. 29(c)(1), at 31 (June
2012).
28 See N.Y.C. DEP’T OF CORRECTION, OTIS BANTUM CORRECTIONAL CENTER INST’L ORDER NO. 56/01, CPSU RECREATION sec.3(a)(5)
(July 16, 2001).
29 See id. at sec. 3(a)(8) (“All housing area floor Captains shall be present on the floor when recreation is announced to ensure all
inmates are afforded recreation. This does not exclude the recreation Captain from his/her responsibilities.”).
30 See id. at sec. 3(a)(6) (“Once recreation is announced the recreation Supervisor shall assure (sic) that the recreation officer goes to
each cell, to see if the inmate is requesting recreation.”).
31 See id. at sec. 3(b) (“Recreation sheets are established on the 1500 x 2331 hours tour by the housing area officer on a CPSU recreation form.”).
32 See id. (“Housing area supervisors are to sign the CPSU recreation form on completion of signing up of inmates [sic] wanting to
go to recreation. The signed form is then to be forwarded to the CPSU Tour Commander for review. A log book entry is to be made
noting the number of inmates going to recreation.”).
33 See id. at sec. 3(a)(1).
34 All sunrise and sunset data for New York City in this report were obtained from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Earth System Research Lab (ESRL) website at www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/grad/solcal/sunrise.html.
35 Please also note that data for two of the 14 dates covered in our logbook review - 9/18/2013 and 9/22/2013 – do not appear in this
table. Due to incomplete time entries in the recreation logbook for September 18 and September 22, 2013, those two dates were omitted from this specific analysis.

11

not allowed to have watches, they have no way to ensure they are awake by 5:00 AM.36
A review of logbook entries for the four-day period covered in the inmate survey reveals a similar pattern. As
mentioned above, the facility was on lockdown on Saturday, November 30th, so recreation was cancelled, but on
December 1st and December 3rd canvassing began at 5:20 AM and 5:15 AM – nearly two hours before sunrise on
those days. See Table 3.
SATURDAY
NOVEMBER 30TH

SUNDAY
DECEMBER 1ST

MONDAY
DECEMBER 2ND

TUESDAY
DECEMBER 3RD

5:00 AM

5:00 AM

Start of first tour of recreation officers

5:00 AM

5:00 AM

No recreation

5:20 AM

7:00 AM

5:15 AM

7:00 AM

7:01 AM

7:02 AM

7:03 AM

Start of recreation period (first prisoner out)

No recreation

7:20 AM

7:30 AM

8:15 AM

End of recreation period (last prisoner in)

No recreation

11:45 AM

11:30 AM

11:15 AM

End of third tour of recreation officers

4:30 PM

4:29 PM

4:29 PM

4:29 PM

Sunset

4:31 PM

4:31 PM

4:31 PM

4:31 PM

Start of recreation canvassing in housing areas
Sunrise

table 3.
Recreation at CPSU
between Saturday,
November 30th and
Tuesday, December
3rd, 2013. The portions
highlighted in yellow
indicate daylight hours,
while those in grey
indicate pre-dawn or
post-sunset hours.

While canvassing early and especially before sunrise seems problematic, BOC staff learned during the course of
surveying CPSU prisoners, that the presence of daylight does not mean that prisoners will be awake. Our survey
took place in the afternoon, yet roughly one out of every five prisoners (18.3%) was asleep when BOC staff
approached the person’s cell. This observation further underscores the need for recreation officers to loudly and
clearly announce their presence prior to canvassing the housing area, to be vocal during canvassing, and to knock
on each cell door.
Signed up for recreation
Saturday, November 30th

Signed up for recreation
Sunday, December 1st

Signed up for recreation
Monday, December 2nd

Signed up for recreation
Tuesday, December 3rd

Yes

18.6% (n=24)

25.2% (n=29)

21.7% (n=33)

28.0% (n=42)

No

81.4% (n=105)

79.7% (n=114)

78.3% (n=119)

72.0% (n=108)

0

0.7% (n=1)

0

0

I don’t remember

SATURDAY
NOVEMBER 30TH

SUNDAY
DECEMBER 1ST

MONDAY
DECEMBER 2ND

TUESDAY
DECEMBER 3RD

Conflict with other prisoner(s)

0

0

0

0

Conflict with DOC staff

0

1.9% (n=2)

0

1.0% (n=1)
1.0% (n=1)

Prisoner had court that day

0

0

6.9% (n=8)

1.0% (n=1)

1.9% (n=2)

0

0

Prisoner was tired and did not want to go to recreation

14.9% (n=15)

14.0% (n=15)

12.1% (n=14)

8.6% (n=9)

Prisoner was sleeping when DOC staff
may have come by to take names for recreation

18.8% (n=19)

18.7% (n=20)

19.0% (n=22)

22.9% (n=24)

Prisoner was out on a visit or waiting for a visit

0

1.9% (n=2)

0

0

Prisoner was at or waiting for his bing hearing

0

0

0

0

Prisoner wanted to wait for medical attention instead

Weather conditions

table 4.
Survey respondents in
CPSU who signed up
for recreation on any
of the four days in the
survey

8.9% (n=9)

4.7% (n=5)

5.2% (n=6)

6.7% (n=7)

DOC staff did not come by prisoner’s cell to let him
sign up for recreation

43.6% (n=44)

44.9% (n=48)

47.4% (n=55)

48.6% (n=51)

Other

12.9% (n=13)

12.1% (n=13)

9.5% (n=11)

11.4% (n=12)

Table 5.
Survey respondents’
reasons for not signing
up for recreation

Among prisoners surveyed on December 3, 2013, the vast majority indicated that they were not able to sign up for
recreation (see Table 4), either because they were sleeping when the recreation officers were canvassing their
housing area or because no officer approached their cell to give them an opportunity to sign up. A smaller yet still
significant number of respondents indicated that they refused the opportunity for recreation, either because they
were too tired or because of the weather. See Table 5.

36 See N.Y.C. DEP’T OF CORRECTION, OTIS BANTUM CORRECTIONAL CENTER CPSU OPERATING MANUAL para. 10(d)(4), at 15 (June
2012) (“Watches are not permitted in the C.P.S.U.”).

12

According to prisoners, getting one’s name on the recreation list is no guarantee of actually going outside. Among
several possible barriers, which we discuss below, two or more hours can pass between the time recreation
officers canvass the housing area and when they return, also without announcement, to begin escorting prisoners
on the list to one of the 32 outdoor cages. See Tables 2 and 3. Again, prisoners who are not awake, dressed and
ready to go will be passed over, since waiting for prisoners would further delay the process. A prisoner told BOC
staff that one of the “older” recreation officers would occasionally knock on cell doors to wake up sleeping
prisoners – a comment that conveys this is far from common practice.
RECOMMENDATIONS

	

• Require a clear and loud announcement using an operational Megaphone prior to canvassing each housing
area. The recreation captain or housing area captain should enter in the recreation logbook the time of the
announcement, confirm the use of the Megaphone, and note whether he or she personally witnessed the
announcement.

	

• During canvassing, require and instruct recreation officers to visit each cell – knocking loudly on the cell
door – to ask whether the prisoner wants to participate in recreation that day, record each prisoner’s
response on a form, and submit the completed form to supervisors for review and storage.

	
	

• Require a clear and loud announcement in each housing area using an operational Megaphone 15 minutes
prior to beginning to escort the first prisoners to recreation. Require and instruct recreation officers to
knock loudly on each cell door in an attempt to wake a sleeping prisoner who has signed up for recreation.

	

• Create a single clear written protocol – amending and merging existing contradictory policies – that
incorporates these standards and then monitor staff compliance with the protocol.

Finding 3
The inability to offer recreation for the majority of the day – which is driven by current
staffing levels and shift hours – limits the number of interested prisoners who can
participate in recreation on any given day.
Ten correction officers and one supervisor, usually a captain, are assigned to steady posts as recreation officers
at the CPSU.37 These officers work one of three 8.5-hour recreation “tours” (i.e., shifts) starting at 5 AM, 6 AM or
8 AM – shift hours that remain consistent throughout the year, despite seasonal variations in what time the sun
rises and also the number of hours of daylight.38 According to the CPSU Operating Manual, two recreation officers
should be assigned to the 5 AM tour, four officers to the 6 AM tour, and four to the 8 AM tour.39 Under these rules,
37 As part of this research, BOC staff reviewed the Post Assignment Sheets for the CPSU for a two-week period (November 24, 2013
through December 7, 2013) and discovered discrepancies between policy and practice. During that period, when the sun was rising
around 7 AM, three officers (instead of the mandated two) were assigned to the 5 AM tour while three officers (instead of the mandated
four) began work at 6 AM. See N.Y.C. Dep’t of Correction, Otis Bantum Correctional Center, CPSU Post Assignment Sheet (Nov. 24,
2013 – Dec. 7, 2013).
38 There is no provision in the CPSU Operating Manual for seasonal adjustments to the shift hours, and DOC staff confirm that the
hours are consistent throughout the year. See generally N.Y.C. DEP’T OF CORRECTION, OTIS BANTUM CORRECTIONAL CENTER CPSU
OPERATING MANUAL (June 2012).
39 See id. at para. 3(f), at 5.

13

most recreation officers (6 of the 10) would end their day at 1:31 PM or 2:31 PM, while just four officers would
work until 4:31 PM. According to DOC staff, it takes at least six officers working as a team to safely escort prisoners
to and from the outdoor recreation cages and monitor them outside. Given this reality, recreation has to end by 2:31
PM when the number of officers on duty decreases to four, assuming DOC follows its own policy on staff assignments.
In practice, recreation typically ends even earlier. BOC’s review of daily recreation logbook entries shows that
recreation ended on or before 1:30 PM on all but two of the days reviewed. (See Tables 1 and 2 above). The
reasons are not entirely clear, but on at least one winter day it was because seven of the ten recreation officers
began work at 5 AM – two hours before sunrise – and ended their work day at 1:31 PM, with more than three
hours of daylight remaining.40 When we asked recreation officers working later tours what they do in the remaining
afternoon hours when there are too few officers on duty to escort prisoners to and from recreation, some said
they take lunch, and some said they go wherever a supervisor sends them. And when asked what happens when
recreation ends before prisoners in every housing area have a chance to go out, the officers said they generally
pick up the next day with the housing areas they missed the day before.

One of the main barriers to recreation is the
understaffing of correction officers to recreation posts.
Exacerbating these problems, recreation officers are sometimes ordered off-post to assist correction officers in
other areas of the facility. At least twice during an unannounced visit to the CPSU on February 7, 2014, BOC staff
witnessed recreation officers being called off-post to assist correction officers in other areas of the jail: two left
early in the morning to work at Main Intake and the same two were later called off-post to help with a possible
cell-extraction in another housing area. The recreation process halted while these officers were away from their
assigned posts. Altogether, only seven prisoners participated in recreation that day – all seven from the first
housing area the recreation officers canvassed that day.
RECOMMENDATIONS

	

• Redeploy the current staff of 10 recreation officers to make maximum use of daylight and avoid having
officers on duty who are unable to safely escort inmates to and from recreation and supervise them outside
because their shift, or a portion of it, is understaffed.

	

• Unless prisoners in all CPSU housing areas have had an opportunity to participate in recreation that day, do
not call recreation officers off-post to perform unrelated duties except in emergency situations.

	

• While these two changes should expand access recreation, our research suggests that DOC will have to
increase the overall number of recreation officers to ensure that all prisoners have a genuine opportunity to
participate in recreation every day.

40 On February 7, 2014, BOC staff made an unannounced visit to the CPSU. Their observations and DOC records confirm that seven
recreation officers reported to work at 5 AM, one officer at 6 AM, and two at 8 AM.

14

Figure 5.
A view of the jail from inside one of the
recreation cages in the CPSU recreation area

Figure 6.
A prisoner is escorted back to CPSU from
the recreation area.

Finding 4
The cumbersome process of escorting prisoners to and from recreation, coupled with
the small number of recreation officers on duty at a time, limits the number of prisoners
who can participate in recreation on any given day.
While perhaps necessary for security reasons, DOC’s procedures for escorting CPSU prisoners to and from recreation
are cumbersome, time-consuming and require several recreation officers to be involved in the movements of
a single prisoner. The way the process currently works and with the current number of recreation officers, the
CPSU cannot accommodate every prisoner who would like to participate in recreation each day.
The ten recreation officers on duty at any one time typically operate as a group, moving from one of the eight
CPSU housing areas to the next. In each housing area, some are involved in the process of escorting prisoners
to and from recreation while others are stationed outside monitoring prisoners in the recreation cages. Working
with one prisoner at a time, an officer rear-handcuffs the prisoner through the food slot in his cell door and then
escorts him to the “three-point” search room located in each housing area where the prisoner is strip-searched
for possible contraband.41 The prisoner then walks through a magnetometer to detect any foreign metal objects
he might have placed in a body cavity. If the prisoner fails to clear the search process or fails to comply with
the procedures, he is deemed to have “refused” recreation.42 The prisoner is rear-handcuffed before exiting the
three-point search room and may also be required to wear ankle chains and security mitts. If it is cold outside,
a recreation officer will give the prisoner a jacket before escorting him out of the housing area.43 For security
reasons, only one prisoner is permitted in the open area (i.e., “the floor”) of the housing unit at a time. Therefore,
41 This process is consistent with what is described in the CPSU Operating Manual. See N.Y.C. DEP’T OF CORRECTION, OTIS BANTUM
CORRECTIONAL CENTER CPSU OPERATING MANUAL para. 29(c)(2), at 31 (June 2012). The process does not require a body cavity

search.
42 See N.Y.C. DEP’T OF CORRECTION, OTIS BANTUM CORRECTIONAL CENTER INST’L ORDER NO. 56/01, CPSU RECREATION sec. 3(c)(3)
(July 16, 2001) (“Any inmate who fails to clear the security search process of rails to comply with the security procedures shall be
deemed a refusal to participate in that recreation session. All refusals shall be appropriately documented and if required, disciplinary
action initiated.”).
43 The CPSU Operating Manual requires officers to use handcuffs and a daisy chain to secure and transport two prisoners at a time to
the recreation yard, unless otherwise indicated by the on-duty Tour Commander. See N.Y.C. DEP’T OF CORRECTION, OTIS BANTUM CORRECTIONAL CENTER CPSU OPERATING MANUAL para. 29(c)(3), at 31 (June 2012).
The Institutional Order further requires that prisoners be transported from the three-point search room to the “interview room,” where
they and other prisoners will be secured together with daisy chains and escorted en masse to the recreation area. See N.Y.C. DEP’T OF
CORRECTION, OTIS BANTUM CORRECTIONAL CENTER INST’L ORDER NO. 56/01, CPSU RECREATION sec. 3(c)(2)(a)-(b) (July 16, 2001).
However, Board staff have never observed prisoners being transported in such a manner. In addition, DOC staff confirmed with Board
staff that they only transport prisoners to outdoor recreation one prisoner at a time.

15

Figure 7.
A view from
inside one of the
recreation cages
in the CPSU
recreation area.
the next prisoner on the recreation list must wait until the prisoner in transit has left the housing area before he
can begin the process.
Prisoners remain locked in a recreation cage until an hour has elapsed or until they tell a recreation officer that
they want to return to their cell. The security procedures are then repeated in reverse in the process of escorting
the prisoner back to his cell.44 Recreation officers are also required to search the cages for contraband before
and after each use,45 as well as monitor both the cages and the corridors to ensure that no contraband is
passed between prisoners.46
RECOMMENDATION

	

• While it was beyond the scope of this study to examine potential inefficiencies in the process of escorting
prisoners to and from recreation or to consider alternate procedures that might be more efficient, these
are issues that DOC should explore.

Finding 5
The outdoor recreation cages are empty of any equipment that might encourage prisoners
to go outdoors and that would facilitate aerobic exercise.
The CPSU’s outdoor recreation area is a cluster of 32 diamond-pattern metal cages, each measuring 11 feet wide
and 22 feet long, and each entirely empty. Unlike recreation areas in other areas of OBCC and in the other city
jails, there are no basketball hoops, balls, dip bars, high bars, or pull-up bars. Prisoners can do sit-ups, push-ups,
and other stationary exercises, provided the ground is not wet or covered in snow or ice, and they can run in small
circles, but that is essentially the limit of what is possible within the cage.

Recreation essentially consists of one hour in an outdoor metal cage devoid
of any equipment or structure that would facilitate exercise.
During our visits to the recreation area as a part of this research we saw very few prisoners who appeared to
be engaged in physical exercise. BOC staff once observed a prisoner doing push-ups and another pacing along
the interior perimeter of the cage, but most of the prisoners we saw were just standing in their cages or leaning
against one side. Some appeared to be socializing with prisoners in other cages or talking with an officer on duty.
Several survey respondents as well as prisoners we interviewed indicated they have little interest in going out44 See N.Y.C. DEP’T OF CORRECTION, OTIS BANTUM CORRECTIONAL CENTER CPSU OPERATING MANUAL para. 29(c)(7), at 31 (June 2012).
45 See id.	
46 See id. at p. 2.	

16

Figure 8.
A prisoner standing in
the driest area of his recreation cage, surrounded
by rock salt, ice, melted
ice, and snow. A thick
layer of snow and ice on
the roof of his recreation
cage prevented sunlight
from entering the area
where he was standing.

side, and some explicitly said they often forego recreation because the opportunities for exercise are so limited.
One person said that that the benefit of standing outside in a cage with little to do does not outweigh the trouble
of trying to get on that day’s recreation list.
rECOMMENDATION

	

• The Department should install basic exercise equipment in the recreation cages, such as dip bars, pull-up
bars, or basketball hoops, or walls for handball.

Finding 6
If the vast majority of CPSU prisoners were encouraged to participate in recreation every
day, the 32 outdoor cages would not meet the need year-round, and there are no indoor
facilities for use during inclement weather.
Prisoners’ access to recreation is not only limited by the availability of daylight and officers to escort and supervise
them, space too is limited. There are 32 outdoor recreation cages at the CPSU, and only one prisoner is allowed
per cage for the duration of his recreation hour. For much of the winter, it is mathematically impossible for all or
even most CPSU prisoners to participate in recreation. On December 21, 2013, the shortest day of that year when
there were 9.25 hours of daylight (7:17 AM to 4:32 PM),47 the maximum number of prisoners who could spend a
full hour in one of the 32 recreation cages was 288 – roughly a hundred fewer prisoners than the average daily
CPSU population. It is important to note that this calculation assumes that recreation is available from sunrise
through sunset and that all 32 cages are perpetually occupied – both of which are impossible under current staffing
levels and security procedures. Although the shortage of outdoor cages is not the most pressing issue, as DOC
changes policies and procedures in ways that make it possible and appealing for more prisoners to participate in
recreation, the CPSU will eventually need more outdoor cages to meet the need year-round, although the precise
number is unknown.
The calculation above also assumes that prisoners will want to go outside in the depths of winter, which many
do not. The CPSU currently has no indoor recreational facilities to accommodate prisoners in inclement weather
– extreme cold or heavy rain, despite the Minimum Standard requiring access to indoor recreation in inclement

47 See supra note 34.

17

Figure 9.
A thick layer of snow
and ice on the roof of
the recreation cages
and corridor prevented
sunlight from entering
the recreation cages.

weather.48 During an unannounced visit to the CPSU on February 7, 2014, BOC staff observed a few prisoners in
the outdoor recreation area at approximately 10 AM. The temperature was just 27 degrees, 17 degrees factoring
in the wind chill. Staff noticed that each prisoner was wearing DOC-issued black canvas shoes and standing in
what appeared to be the driest area of their cage, amid snow, ice, and areas where rock salt had melted the ice.49
Very little or no sunlight penetrated the thick layer of snow and ice that had formed across the tops of the cages
and in the corridors between cages. When we asked these prisoners why they had chosen to come outside on
such a cold day, they said it was their only opportunity for fresh air and time out of their cell. Only seven prisoners
went to recreation that day.

Even if many of the barriers to recreation are removed, there is the issue
of space. There are only 32 recreation cages and no indoor recreation
facilities available to the nearly 400 prisoners in CPSU
RECOMMENDATIONS

	

• DOC should closely track the use of outdoor recreation cages to ensure that supply meets demand.

	

• DOC should designate indoor recreational areas for use during inclement weather. Changes in the facility
must be accompanied by clear policies and procedures that define under what specific weather conditions
prisoners will have access to the indoor facilities and how prisoners will be escorted to and from these
areas and supervised during indoor recreation.

	

• DOC should explore the possibility of providing congregate recreational opportunities to prisoners.

48 See supra note 7 and accompanying text.
49 Recreation officers informed Board staff that they had shoveled several inches of snow from eight of the 32 outdoor recreation
cages and that they placed rock salt in those cages so that some cages so that prisoners could go to recreation that day.

18

Conclusion

Findings from the present study show that fewer than 1 in 10 prisoners confined in the CPSU participate
in recreation on an average day and that a majority of CPSU inmates go for days at a time without access to the
outdoors. While some prisoners are passing up the opportunity to participate in recreation – principally because
there is virtually nothing to do outside other than stand around – many more prisoners never even have the
opportunity to decide whether or not to go outside. The process corrections officers use to “sign up” prisoners for
recreation in effect bypasses the majority of prisoners, and there are not enough designated recreation officers
to escort and supervise the many prisoners who would opt to go outside if given the chance. If these barriers to
recreation were removed and participating in recreation was more appealing, there would not be enough outdoor
recreation cages for every interested prisoner. Finally, the CPSU has no indoor recreation facilities to offer prisoners
during inclement weather.
The recommendations in this report provide at least a starting point for DOC to address these problems. In
particular, DOC must require officers to make a clear and loud announcement prior to the start of the recreation
period, to canvass each prisoner individually, and to improve the outdoor recreation areas through the addition
of basic exercise equipment. These changes will begin to expand access to recreation. But to meet the Minimum
Standards requiring that all prisoners have genuine access to an hour of outdoor reaction every day and indoors
during inclement weather DOC will have to expand staff and facilities or reduce the number of prisoners in punitive segregation. In considering both the course of reform and the need for reform, DOC should keep in mind that
this hour of recreation is not a mere pleasure for prisoners – in fact, the term “recreation” is somewhat misleading. For individuals who are otherwise confined alone in small, spare cells, this hour of fresh air and sunlight
and exposure to other people is essential for their mental and physical health and essential to promoting safety
within the facility.

19

Appendix A

Information on Survey Participants

REASONS FOR
NON-PARTICIPATION
REASONS FOR
NON-PARTICIPATION

Prisoner
was asleep
Prisoner
46.2%
was asleep
46.2%
Prisoner
Declined
Prisoner
42.9%
Declined
42.9% Other

Did not complete
survey: 39.7%
Did not complete
survey: 39.7%
Completed survey 60.3%
Completed survey 60.3%

Other
11%

Figure 1.
Prisoner participation
in CPSU recreation
survey on Tuesday,
December 3, 2013

11%

Number of prisoners in CPSU at time of the survey = 300
Number of prisoners in CPSU at time of the survey = 300

Survey Participation

On December 3, 2013, at the time of the survey 300 prisoners were present in the CPSU.1 The majority of those
inmates (60.3%) completed our survey,2 51 including 8 prisoners (4.4% of all respondents) who did so in Spanish.
Among the nearly 4 out 10 prisoners (39.7%) who did not participate in the survey, a little fewer than half of them
(42.9%) actually declined; most of the others were asleep. See Figure 1.

Demographic Information on Survey Participants
Current Incarceration Status The vast majority of survey respondents (81.2%) identified as detainees at the

time of the survey, while 17.1% indicated that they had been sentenced and 1.7% did not answer this survey question.

See Figure 2. These figures are relatively consistent with the make-up of the entire population of prisoners in
DOC custody.

Survey Respondents (181)
No response 1.7%

All prisoners in NYC DOC custody
on December 3, 2013* (11,766)

Sentenced 17.1%

Detainees 81.2%

Number of survey participants = 181

Sentenced 14.7%

Detainees 85.3%

Figure 2.
Approximately 81.2%
of survey participants
indicated that they are
detainees, which is
relatively consistent
with the corresponding
figure among the entire
prisoner population in
DOC custody.

*Based on DOC census

1 The prisoner census at the time of the survey is different from the prisoner census according to DOC’s “floor sheets” because the
census was taken at different times of the day, and some prisoners were out at court or medical appointments at the time of the survey.
2 BOC staff collected a total of 185 surveys from prisoners. After closer inspection, we dismissed four of the surveys because they were
incomplete.

20

Incarceration Experience

Three out of 4 survey respondents (75.7%) indicated they had been in jail before, and a sizeable majority (65.2%)
indicated that they had been confined in the CPSU on a prior occasion. See Table 1.

YES

NO

NO RESPONSE

Detainee

81.2% (n=147)

17.1% (n=31)

1.7% (n=3)

First time in jail

23.2% (n=42)

75.7% (n=137)

1.1% (n=2)

First time in CPSU

31.5% (n=57)

65.2% (n=118)

3.3% (n=6)

table 1.
Demographic and
current incarceration
information for survey
respondents in CPSU

Age

Of the 179 survey respondents who provided their age, the youngest was 16 years old and the oldest two were
53 years old. The average, median, and modal ages among survey respondents were 24.9 years old, 23 years old,
and 23 years old, respectively. Approximately 11.7% of respondents were between 16 and 18 years old, inclusive.
Nearly 60.3% were between 16 and 24 years old, inclusive. Almost 80.0% were 29 years old or younger. See

Figure 3.

figure 3.
A graph of the
age distribution
among survey
respondents in
CPSU

Number of survey respondents

25

20

15

10

5

0
16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53
Age (years)

Mental Health Status

A large number of survey respondents indicated that they have mental illness. Approximately 40.3% of survey
respondents reported that they have been diagnosed with a mental illness, are receiving medication for a mental
health problem, or both. Meanwhile, 44.2% reported that they have not been diagnosed with a mental illness and
are receiving neither mental health therapy nor mental health medication. Nearly 12.2% indicated that they do
not know if they have been diagnosed with a mental illness and that they are not receiving mental health treatment.

21

Experience in Punitive Segregation

A great majority of survey respondents (77.9%) indicated that they are they have already had their disciplinary
hearings (i.e., “bing hearings”) as opposed to the 17.7% who said their hearing had not yet occurred. Similarly,
a great majority of respondents (71.3%) knew how many days they had left in the CPSU – as opposed to 22.7%
who did not know. Roughly half of all respondents (58.6%) indicated that they had attended their bing hearings,
while nearly a third (32.6%) had not. Some respondents chose not to answer one or more of these questions.

See Table 2.

YES

NO

NO RESPONSE

17.7% (n=32)

77.9% (n=141)

4.4% (n=8)

Attended bing
hearing

58.6% (n=106)

32.6% (n=59)

8.8% (n=16)

Knew number of days
left in bing sentence

71.3% (n=129)

22.7% (n=41)

6.1% (n=11)

In Pre‐Hearing
Detention (PHD)

table 2.
Punitive Segregation Sentence
Demographics Among Survey
Respondents

Among the 91.7% of survey respondents who provided the number of days they have been in CPSU as of December
3, 2013, the average and median were 49.6 days and 28.5 days, respectively. Responses ranged from one day to
425 days. In addition, among the 71.3% of survey respondents who indicated that they knew how many days
remained in their bing sentences, the average and median were 66.9 days and 28 days, respectively. The
prisoners’ responses ranged from zero days to 774 days remaining in their bing sentences.
Survey respondents who reported that they are mentally ill were more likely to have spent more days in CPSU at
the time of the survey: 59 days (median) compared with 29 days (median) among prisoners who did not identify as
mentally ill, p=0.028. Respondents who identified as mentally ill were also more likely to have more days remaining
in their bing sentence, 42 days (median) compared with 16 days (median), p < 0.000. These findings suggest that
individuals with mental illness are more likely to receive longer bing sentences.

22

Appendix B

Survey Instrument (English)

23

24

Appendix C

Survey Instrument (Spanish)

25

26

Appendix D

Interview Protocol

We randomly selected a number of cells in CPSU using a random number generator. To ensure that
no CPSU housing area was overrepresented in the sample, we grouped selected cells by housing area.
Starting with the first cell on the list, Board staff approached the prisoner assigned to that cell, identified
themselves, and asked if he would speak with them outside of his cell. Six of the seven prisoners Board staff
approached agreed to speak with staff outside of their cells.
The six prisoners were escorted by DOC staff from their cells to the dayrooms, where Board staff conducted the
interviews. Board staff ensured that the interviews took place outside of hearing range from DOC staff and other
prisoners. Only two Board staff and the prisoner were present in the room during each of the six interviews.
The prisoners spoke at length about their experience in CPSU and recreation, described the recreation process, and
explained their perceptions of the impediments to accessing recreation. They also suggested changes that may
help improve their overall access recreation while in CPSU.

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Federal Prison Handbook - Side