Ex-cop and incoming NYC mayor Eric Adams is already fighting with more than half the city’s incoming council members, after they sent a letter saying they’re not feeling his plan to bring back solitary confinement at the infamous Rikers Island jail.
Outgoing mayor Bill DeBlasio promised to eliminate solitary–the practice of punishing inmates by locking them alone in cramped cells for up to 23 hours a day–by Dec. 31. But Adams takes over on Jan. 1 and plans to introduce what he calls “punitive segregation”—which he hasn’t defined but sounds a lot like solitary–over the objections of 29 members of the 51-person council who sent the mayor-elect a letter warning him against going back to the old way of doing things.
Mayor-elect Eric Adams ripped into City Council lawmakers on Tuesday who are once again pushing a bill that would bar the use of solitary confinement in city jails — as he promises to revamp the practice.
“I am not going to be in a city where dangerous people assault innocent people, go to jail and assault more people,” Adams told reporters after an unrelated press conference in front of Rockefeller Center. “You cannot have a jail system where someone sexually assaults a staffer, slash an inmate and then say it is all right.”
He then rebuked the 29 members of the City Council who signed a letter sent Tuesday that demanded passage of the legislation, arguing they were “romanticizing this issue.”
Adams says that his plan for “punitive segregation” of disruptive prisoners will be more humane than that current solitary confinement but hasn’t explained how. He also used a line that cops routinely use to deflect from criticism when they do bad things to dismiss their criticism.
The city council and others disagree.
Reform advocates have often pointed to the case of Kalief Browder, who spent years in solitary confinement on Rikers while awaiting a trial that never came on a charge that he stole a backpack. He was ultimately released, and committed suicide in 2015.
The mother of 25-year-old Brandon Rodriguez, who died in solitary at Rikers this year, wrote in the New York Daily News this month begging for the practice to be eliminated forever.
“How many more people must die? How many more promises have to be made and broken? Solitary confinement is torturous and deadly. It also makes everyone less safe. No human being should ever be locked in solitary confinement, let alone solitary in a shower cell.”
The City Council must pass legislation this term to finally end solitary confinement, in all forms and by all names,” she wrote.