NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio has named the head of Maine’s corrections department to head New York City’s jails.

Joseph Ponte was presented as the new commissioner of the nation’s second largest jails system at a City Hall press conference Tuesday.

“Every resident of this city deserves to be treated with dignity and respect,” Ponte said about New York. “We need to end the culture of excessive solitary confinement and unnecessary force, and bring a new mentality of respect and safety to our wardens, officers and inmates alike.”

In Maine, Ponte has headed a state system of about 2,100 inmates in six adult facilities and two juvenile ones.

“Commissioner Ponte has done an excellent job for the State of Maine,” said Gov. Paul LePage in a statement. “He will be difficult to replace, but we wish him well in his new position.”

That’s much smaller than New York City’s, which has about 12,000 inmates. Most of them are housed at the 10-facility Rikers Island complex.

Ponte has been widely praised by advocates and others for reducing the use of inmate solitary confinement in Maine.

In New York, officials have started the process of changing the rules that govern when solitary can be used for adolescent and mentally ill inmates.


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