NYC Board of Correction
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Variances Granted by the Board of Correction

Minimum Standards for New York City Correctional Facilities

Section 1-15, “Variances”, provides that the Department of Correction may apply to the Board of Correction for a variance “from a specific subdivision or section…when compliance cannot be achieved or continued” (subdivision [a]). Subdivision (b) explains the circumstances under which the Department may apply for a variance. Subdivision (c) lists the elements of a variance application, and subdivision (d) describes the process by which the Board considers variance requests. Subdivision (e) provides that the Board may set conditions upon which it grants a variance.

At the request of the Department of Correction, the Board of Correction has granted several variances. These variances, and conditions imposed by the Board, are summarized briefly below. The date each variance initially was granted appears in parentheses:

Standard 1-02, “Classification of Prisoners”

Subdivision (b)
A limited variances authorizes the commingling of detainee and sentenced pregnant inmates at RMSC.

Subdivision (b)(1)
A Continuing Variance authorizes DOC to house special category and high secuirty adolescent City-sentenced prisoners in adolescent detainee cell housing areas at the Robert N. Davoren Center (RNDC), in a separate side of the same housing area.

This variance was granted upon the condition that adolescent City-sentenced prisoners housed in RNDC will be treated as detainees, and that weekday Sentenced/Detention Housing Reports be forwarded to BOC from RNDC detailing where each category of City-sentenced adolescent is housed. (March 1989)

 Subdivision (b)(2)(c)
A limited variance authorizes an extension of the October 15, 2015 deadline to complete the requisite components of the Young Adult Strategy plan.  The deadline is extended to December 31, 2015.

Standard 1-03, “Personal Hygiene”
Subdivision (g), “Clothing”
A continuing variance authorizes DOC to require detainees in punitive segregation status to wear, except for court, seasonally appropriate facility clothing provided, laundered and repaired at Department expense.  (April 1991)

The above variance from §1-03(g) was granted upon the following conditions:

  • Upon admission to a punitive segregation housing area, each prisoner shall be issued three facility uniforms and two facility thermal undershirts, clean and in good repair and appropriately sized. Thereafter, DOC shall provide twice weekly exchanges of two uniforms;
  • Each prisoner shall be permitted to retain four changes of underwear, four pairs of socks, and one pair of shower slippers; and
  • DOC shall provide secure, readily-accessible storage for the personal property of each punitive segregation prisoner;
  • When punitive segregation prisoners go outside the facility, DOC shall provide access to appropriate outer garments.

Subdivision (g), “Clothing”
A continuing variance authorizes DOC to require prisoners on suicide watch to wear suicide resistant smocks and undergarments when inside their housing areas. The variance further provides that DOC may require detainees on suicide watch to wear uniforms whenever outside the housing area, except for court, when they may wear personal clothing. Personal accessories, including shoelaces, belts, ties and bras, need not be provided until immediately before the prisoner enters a courtroom, and may be confiscated after the prisoner exits therefrom. (September 2003)

Subdivision (i)(1), “Bedding”
A continuing variance authorizes DOC to provide to prisoners on suicide watch status only bedding made of suicide-resistant materials. (September 2003)

The above variances from §1-03(g) and (i) were granted upon the following conditions:

  • Only mental health providers may place a prisoner on suicide watch and require the use of a suicide smock and bedding;
  • Officers assigned to areas where prisoners are on suicide watch must make frequent, irregular observations of these prisoners (at least four per hour).
  • Unless inappropriate for compelling security or medical reasons, prisoners on suicide watch should be housed in dormitories. Dormitory prisoners may be required to wear smocks only in dormitories where all other prisoners are clothed in suicide smocks.
  • Unless prohibited in writing by the provider, prisoners on suicide watch must be permitted personal hygiene items and personal items, including reading materials and photographs.
  • Prisoners wearing suicide smocks shall be provided with daily exchanges of clean smocks and undergarments. Disposable undergarments will be provided with a uniform whenever prisoners leave their cell.
  • Suicide watch prisoners shall be permitted to wear civilian clothing when inside a court room for trial.

Standard 1-06, “Recreation”
Continuing variances require DOC, in consultation with medical staff, to provide to prisoners confined for medical reasons in contagious disease units, appropriate outdoor recreation equipment and materials for in-cell recreation, including but not limited to passive games and arts and crafts. As a condition, DOC provides daily newspapers and books and magazines, in English and Spanish, as appropriate. (May 1992)

Standard 1-17, "Limitations on the Use of Punitive Segregation"

Subdivision (d)(1-2)
A limited variance authorizes the Department, in highly exceptional circumstances presenting safety and security concerns, to waive the requirement that inmates be immediately released from punitive segregation for seven (7) days after they have been held in punitive segregation for thirty (30) consecutive days.

The above variance was granted upon the following condition: The Chief of Department’s approval of the waiver is to, additionally, include the reasons why placement in a less restrictive setting has been inappropriate or unavailable.


Mental Health Minimum Standards

Variances from specific sections or subdivisions of the Mental Health Minimum Standards are governed by Section 2-09 (“Variances”).

At the request of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Board of Correction has granted the following variance:

Standard § 2-05, "Medication
Subdivision (b)(2)(i) and (2)(ii), "Procedures"
A continuing variance authorizes psychiatrists to see and evaluate stable adult patients on psychotropic medications in general population at least every 28 days instead of the current 14-day requirement. Controlled substances ordered for psychiatric reasons will be reduced from the current 14-day limit to no more than five days per order. By granting this variance, the Board believes that this will make the psychotropic medication prescription practices consistent with the current community standard. This variance was granted upon the following conditions:

  • Patients must maintain compliance with medication regimen after being placed on 28-day medication renewals.
  • Patients must be compliant with requirements to see clinician and/or psychiatrist regularly after being placed on 28-day medication renewals.
  • The variance will not result in the reduction of psychiatric staffing levels.

(November 2005)

Health Care Minimum Standards

Variances from specific sections or subdivisions of the Health Care Minimum Standards are governed by Section 3-13 (“Variances”).

Standard Section 304, “Screening”,
Subdivision (b)(2)(v)(a), "Intake Screening"
DOHMH is authorized to allow health providers, during the medical intake screening process to use either the tuberculin skin test or interferon gamma release assays (IGRA) to screen female and male prisoners for tuberculosis. (September 2010 and July 2012)

Standard Section 308, “Privacy and Confidentiality”,
Subdivision (c)(3), "Confidentiality"
DOHMH is authorized to allow health care staff to provide to the Department of Correction specific diagnoses related only to injuries sustained by prisoners while in correctional custody. The reporting of diagnoses unrelated to an injury would remain prohibited from disclosure. (November 2013)