NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York City has ended its longstanding practice of sending 16- and 17-year-old inmates to solitary confinement for breaking rules.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Correction Commissioner Joe Ponte made the announcement Wednesday while touring new juvenile facilities at Rikers Island.

“We have now ended all punitive segregation for 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds,” the mayor said.

They say all of the adolescent inmates were moved out of solitary confinement by Dec. 4. There were 91 adolescents there on Jan. 1, the day de Blasio took office.

As WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported, the mayor spoke to a 17-year-old who has spent 110 days in solitary and who was facing 166 more until the reforms put him in a second chance program– much like closely-supervised counseling.

“I talked to this young man and it is clear, he has had his problems, he has had his troubles. But being given this chance has fully registered with him if he wants to turn his life around, this is the chance to do it,” the mayor said.

The inmate knows he is running out of chances, 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported.

“Most of us are about to be 18, and there’s not going to be no more second chances,” he said.

In August, a scathing Department of Justice review concluded that New York City placed 16- to 18-year-old inmates in solitary confinement too often.

New York City’s juvenile jails are extremely violent and unsafe, the result of a deeply ingrained culture of violence in which guards routinely violate constitutional rights of teenage inmates and subject them to “rampant use of unnecessary and excessive force,” the federal government said in the report.

City officials said reforms are focusing on five areas: staff recruitment and training; custody management; educational services; program and re-entry services; and family engagement.

The mayor also said new policies have triggered sharp reductions in violence, Jones reported.

“There were 97 uses of force in January of this year; only 31 in November,” the mayor said. “That is an extraordinary reduction.”

After his tour, the mayor admitted that the physical plant at Rikers could use some work. But he said the program changes are cutting-edge.

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