Another individual has died while in custody at Rikers Island, marking the seventh death this year at New York City’s troubled jail complex.
The cause of death is still under investigation, according to the Department of Correction in a press release sent out on Monday. The person was pronounced dead at approximately 1:31 a.m. at the George R. Vierno Center, one of about a dozen Rikers facilities.
The latest death comes amid ongoing staffing shortages and mismanagement that has given way to what many have described as dangerous and inhumane conditions for inmates. Medical personnel have also voiced concerns over the safety of their teams inside the city’s jail facilities.
The Department of Correction provided few details about Monday’s death. Officials said the name of the deceased was being withheld until a family member or designated contact was notified.
“We are saddened to hear of the passing of this individual. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones,” said Department of Correction Commissioner Louis Molina in a statement. “Every person in our custody is someone’s son, daughter, brother or sister, and it is an especially heartbreaking tragedy to learn that a loved one has passed away while incarcerated.”
Advocates have been demanding a federal takeover of Rikers, arguing that the situation has spiraled out of control. But earlier this month, a federal judge granted the city more time to implement a plan to fix the issues, which have included attacks on inmates and lack of prompt medical attention. Last year, 15 men died while in custody at Rikers.
On Friday, the NY Post reported the Otis Bantam Correctional Facility on the island will be closing "immediately," citing an internal memo sent by Molina.
Bobby Cohen, a doctor who is a member of the Board of Correction, recently said at a monthly meeting that he had seen a receiving room for inmates “packed with screaming people.” Some had been there for many days and were urinating on the floor due to lack of bathroom access, he added.
“This continuing humanitarian crisis can no longer be ignored by the city, by prosecutors and judges, and by lawmakers in every level of government,” said Victor Pate, a co-director of the #HALTsolitary Campaign. “We need decarceration now for the safety of our loved ones and neighbors.”