To the Editor: Eric Adams, even before he became Mayor, continued to exhibit "the temptation and corruption of self-delusion." He's a politician "who rests too comfortably in [his] sense of authority."

A recent example involves the ongoing crisis of senseless violence and high COVID infection rates at Rikers Island and other city jails, with security, management and staff deployment ridiculously inadequate.

The systematic and institutional failures go back decades. They include: a dysfunctional, racially biased criminal- justice system that has led to mass incarceration; policies carried out by previous Mayors; and actions by the leadership of the correction union and some of its members. Two of these have been misuse of seniority and abuse of sick days.

It should be noted that Mayor Adams has received support from correction unions, as well as police unions. The failures of our penal system can also be seen even after prisoners are released from jail. New York has a recidivism rate of 43 percent, and over 50 percent of the released prisoners are sent to city shelters.

When Adams introduced Louis Molina, the new Correction Commissioner with some of the union leaders by the Mayor's side, he vowed to revive solitary confinement. Adams called it "punitive segregation." No mention was made of alternatives that would not be as isolating.

In response, nearly 60 percent of a diverse incoming City Council wrote him a public letter. They urged Adams to reverse his position on solitary confinement. They pointed out that the UN, human rights groups and experts in medical and mental health consider it to be "a form of torture." The letter said there were alternatives to solitary, such as days of "programming and engagement" out of cells, which increase safe conditions.

Instead of meeting with the Council Members, Adams—in an outburst that would make former Mayor Rudy Giuliani proud—lashed out at them.

He accused the Council Members of wanting to be "disruptive" and "romanticizing this issue." He claimed that their position would result in dangerous inmates not being held accountable, and advised them to "do a week on Rikers" and see it for themselves. Finally, he pointed out, "I wore a bullet-proof vest for 22 years and protected the people of this city. And when you do that, then you have the right to question me on safety and public-safety matters."

Given the Mayor's mindset, hopefully a person with the same police background as Adams will step forward and remind him that to replace the jail complex on Rikers Island with smaller jails in the boroughs, there must be a major decrease in the incarcerated population. The opposite would likely occur under his law-and-order strategies, which include reinstating the Anti-Crime unit terminated because of its abusive tactics; tightening bail laws, and selecting "tough-on-crime" Criminal Court Judges.

HOWARD ELTERMAN


The writer teaches Sociology at Hunter College, and worked for 20 years as a Home Instruction Teacher for the city Department of Education

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