NYC mayor-elect Eric Adams said he’ll bring back solitary confinement at Rikers Island jail.
Solitary confinement has been called “torture” by the United Nations.
Rikers Island has a history of neglecting its inmates.
New York City mayor-elect Eric Adams said at a Thursday press conference that he will bring “punitive segregation” back to Rikers Island jail.
Adams, a retired New York Police Department chief, wants to reverse Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision this week to move inmates — in all city jails — from solitary confinement, also known as “punitive segregation,” back into the general population. De Blasio cited concerns over inhumane treatment and being low on staff, according to New York Daily News.
“So the mayor announced December 31 he’s going to empty out punitive segregation,” said Adams.
“They better enjoy that one-day reprieve because Jan. 1, they’re going back into punitive segregation if they commit a violent act,” he continued at the conference, announcing his pick for new Department of Correction commissioner, Louis Molina.
He argued that violent inmates must be separated from the general population except in extreme cases, in which case time in isolation should be limited.
“While you’re in jail, you commit a slashing on an inmate, [and] you don’t go to jail?” Adams questioned during the press conference. “I mean this is not making any sense. If you say to a violent person that slashed an inmate that nothing is going to take you out of [general] population so you don’t slash other inmates, that sends a terrible message.”
He said he aims for it to be “segregation without it being inhumane,” denouncing “the days of being in the hole.” He did not specify what changes would occur.
He called the facility an “embarrassment” — but plans to eventually shut it down, according to The New York Times.
“The Mayor-elect and I both want the same thing — a secure environment for our staff to work in and a safe setting for our inmates,” de Blasio said in a statement following Adams’ press conference.
“As part of our plan to end the current form of punitive segregation we created special units which keep inmates who commit violent acts separate from the general population,” he added.
In solitary confinement, prisoners are kept isolated and indoors for at least 22 hours per day, and it’s possible that inmates are exposed to inhumane treatment and abuse, according to the United Nations. In 2011, the United Nations recommended that all countries abolish solitary confinement.
UN Special Rapporteur on torture Juan E. Méndez called solitary “torture” and said that its possible effects — hallucinations, self-directed violence, PTSD, and lasting mental illness — are “contrary to rehabilitation, the aim of the penitentiary system.”
Critics such as Corey Stoughton, attorney-in-charge at the Legal Aid Society, say that Rikers Island is inhumane — citing a lack of access to toilets, showers, food, water, and medical care to the New York Mag’s Intelligencer.
“The incoming mayors plan on Day 1? Bring back torture,” tweeted councilmember Tiffany Cabán. “Solitary confinement is widely recognized around the world as a human rights violation. We need to #haltsolitary, not expand it.”
This year, 16 Rikers inmates have died so far — two of whom died within the past week. At least five deaths were suicides. Two inmates died just after a “compassionate” release, according to an email by the New York City Department of Correction.
About 83% of Rikers Island detainees are there before their trial, according to NYC Open Data.
Adams, who will be the city’s second Black mayor and is also the co-founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, says he experienced police brutality as a teenager.
“I didn’t want any more children to go through what I endured, so I sought to make change from the inside by joining the police department,” he said in a New York Times column.
The United Nations, mayor-elect Eric Adams, and Mayor Bill de Blasio did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
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