Woman Who Spent Over 2 Years in Rikers Solitary Confinement Is Suing NYC for $10 Million


After spending 29-months in the Rikers Island Correctional Facility — and all but two of those months in solitary confinement — for a crime she did not commit, Candie Hailey is suing New York City for $10 million, the New York Daily News reported Monday. 

Hailey alleges that, throughout most of the time she spent behind bars waiting to be tried for the 2012 stabbing of an infant, prison officers frequently abused her. She was ultimately acquitted of the charge in May 2015, but — she says — nearly didn't make it.

"I just wanted to die," Hailey told the Daily News. "I didn't think about anything else. It was taking too long to prove my innocence."

Bebeto Matthews/AP

According to the Daily News, Hailey said she attempted suicide "more than 100 times" as a result of the sexual and physical assault. And indeed, solitary confinement is thought to induce suicidal impulses in prisoners, wreaking havoc on their mental well-being.

According to a PBS Frontline report, a battery of psychological disorders are attached to solitary confinement, including hallucinations, panic attacks, paranoia and loss of behavioral control, all of which make it difficult for prisoners to readjust to life among other people.

Bebeto Matthews/AP

As the Daily News reported, Hailey was continually sectioned in solitary, despite the fact that she was sent to the Elmhurst Hospital psychiatric ward on eight occasions. 

"The solitary room is really cold. It smells like death," she told the News. "It smells like urine, feces, vomit, mildew, mold." According to her attorney, Paul Prestia, Hailey hasn't been able to shake the lingering trauma from more than two cumulative years spent there. The Department of Corrections, meanwhile, said it "take[s] these allegations seriously" and is investigating.

More than 80,000 inmates are kept in solitary confinement throughout the United States. Because of the lasting toll it takes on prisoners, President Barack Obama has called on state correction centers to reduce punishment by isolation and banned solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons.

Read more: On Self-Injury Awareness Day, We Need to Talk About Prisoners and Suicide