NEW YORK (PIX11) — A new bill from the New York City Council would eliminate the practice of solitary confinement in city jails. A pair of dueling rallies were held at City Hall, with supporters on both sides of the issue.

On one side were activists for prisoners, some who claim severe solitary confinement led to the suicide of loved ones. On the other side were correction officers who claim 1,100 of their members were assaulted by inmates since the beginning of the year.

”What do we do with inmates who continue to cut, stab, slash, sexually assault and brutally assault our officers and other inmates? Nobody is able to answer that question,” said Benny Boscio, president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association.

Activists raised the question of safety. They contend the confinement practice is directly responsible for at least 21 deaths since last year.

“It is barbaric, and it is against human rights,” said activist Victoria Phillips.

The New York City Council bill would end solitary confinement, other than four hours of so-called emergency de-escalation immediately after an incident.

New York City’s correction commissioner argued that eliminating the severe punishment in city jails is not a good idea. 

“If enacted, HR549 would have grave consequences. It would make the job of running a humane and safe jail system far more difficult,” said Commissioner Louis Molina. 

To highlight the difficulty, the union presented correction officers who were victimized by inmates, including a woman who was sexually assaulted last year.

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, a key supporter of the bill, said change is needed on Rikers Island, and the New York City Council bill is necessary now. He joined PIX11 Morning News on Thursday to talk about the bill.

“We have to make sure that everyone on that island is safe. That means people who are incarcerated and also people who work there,” Williams said. “Solitary and torture doesn’t make everybody safe. Quite the contrary.”

The bill has not yet been voted on in the New York City Council. However, the bill has 36 sponsors, which is veto-proof majority in the city council.