Following a violent Rikers Island beatdown that left a corrections officer with bleeding on his brain and a fractured spine near his neck, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams today called for a reassessment of its recently instituted policy to do away with solitary confinement for violent criminals.
The brutal beating occurred Saturday when six inmates ambushed Corrections Officer Jean Souffrant, 39, at the George Motchan Detention Center on Rikers Island. All of the inmates involved in the beating are under 21 and were awaiting trial, including several on charges relating to violent crime. Four have also received additional charges related to the beating and have since been transferred to jails outside of the New York City jurisdiction.
Hours after Adams called for the reevaluation of Rikers Island procedures and policies, Mayor de Blasio announced a $4.5 million initiative to increase safety in jails, ignoring the outcry to reinstate solitary confinement. The money will fund extra tasers, additional emergency patrol units and gang intelligence sharing and training in conjunction with the New York City Police Department (NYPD).
But Adams, a 22-year veteran NYPD cop, said while a cash initiative is good, a re-look at procedures is still needed.
“Additional investment in personnel and equipment is a valuable addition to address safety in our corrections facilities, but we will not meaningfully combat violence that puts corrections officers, non-violent offenders, and the general population at risk without a meaningful reassessment of punitive segregation for violent offenders, as well as a greater examinations of the dangers that put New York’s Boldest in harm’s way,” said Adams.
Elias Husamudeen, president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association (COBA), who has been an outspoken critic of the mayor’s decision to remove punitive segregation for violent criminals, called the mayor’s initiative “malarkey.” Husamudeen noted that while he is happy to hear more emergency patrol units are coming back, they were initially defunded under the current administration.
In addition, Husamudeen said correction officers are already coordinating with NYPD Gang Intelligence Bureau and questioned how informed the mayor is about the correction’s operation.
“At the end of the day, more stun guns are not going to reduce violence inside the New York City jails,” said Husamudeen. “He has to address the core issue.”
An hour before the mayor announced the $4.5 million initiative to increase the safety of New York City jails, Adams and Husamudeen held a press conference calling on the administration to reassess solitary confinement for violent criminals regardless of age.
As early as 2015, the mayor announced the removal of solitary confinement for inmates 21 years or younger. The mayor’s decision came six months after, then-teenager Kalief Browder, committed suicide after spending nearly two years in solitary confinement on Rikers island.
“I refuse to accept an either-or proposition between justice and safety. The same people who try to make us choose between these two imperatives in our jails are the same who said we can only have better policing or safer streets,” said Adams. “We have to make jails safer for both corrections officers and non-violent offenders.”
Earlier at the press conference, Adams was clear to state he favors reform but not at the risk of public safety. The Beep also spoke to the inequities as it relates to crimes against NYPD and COBA officers, stating frequent ambushes of police officers would never be tolerated.
Adams rattled off stats to back his claims, and told the media over 200 correction officers have been assaulted by inmates since 2014.
“If we protect officers on the street block, we need to protect officers on the cell block,” said Adams.