NEW YORK —Mayor-elect Eric Adams assailed members of the City Council on Tuesday after they sent him a letter asking him to reverse course on his support of punitive segregation, or solitary confinement, in the city's jails.

“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 during 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.”

This week, 29 Council members signed a letter in support of a bill that would ban the use of solitary confinement in city jails. The letter was signed by several incoming members of the Council including Tiffany Caban of Queens, Sandy Nurse, Shahana Hanif and Pierina Sanchez.

"Along w 29 council colleagues, I’m calling on incoming Mayor Adams to #HALTsolitary, & ensure dignity & safety for all our neighbors. NYC will never torture its way to safety," Caban wrote on Twitter. 

In response, Adams seemed to single out members of the Council who are seen as more progressive.

“There is a body of people that are coming into the City Council, they have no desire in moving our city forward,” Adams said. “Their desire is to be disruptive. What am I going to do? I’m going to ignore them. I’m going to stay committed, undistracted and I’m going to grind. If they like it or not, I'm the mayor."

As currently described by the city, punitive segregation or solitary confinement is a "restrictive housing area where people are locked in their cells for 23 hours of the day as punishment for a violent offense." In June 2019, the Department of Correction implemented certain reforms to the practice of punitive segregation, providing detainees in restricted housing with a minimum of four hours out-of-cell time every day.

Despite the changes, punitive segregation has been criticized by lawmakers and advocates who say there is little data showing isolating individuals does anything to prevent violence.

Faced with criticism from a majority members in the Council before he takes office, Adams found himself on the defensive, saying his position on the practice has been misconstrued since he first voiced support ​for it last week as he appointed his pick for commissioner of the Department of Correction. 

"When reporters report that I'm in support of solitary confinement, that is not right. I'm in support of punitive segregation," Adams said. "It's taking people out of these small jails cells, which is inhumane, and it's putting them in areas that is larger, giving them the services that they need."

Adams' position may put him in a collision course not just with the City Council but also the state legislature, which passed a bill last year to ban the use of solitary confinement in all New York jails and prisons. That law is set to take effect next year.


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