Another person detained on Rikers Island died early Saturday, pushing this year’s death toll among people held in custody or shortly after release to another significant milestone — higher than the number of deaths last year.

Erick Tavira, 28, was being held at the George R. Vierno Center. He was pronounced dead shortly after 2 a.m. on Saturday, the city Department of Correction announced. Tavira’s death was first reported by The New York Times.

Tavira is the 17th detainee to die this year in custody or shortly after being released. The city's Department of Correction puts its tally lower, excluding from its count people who received compassionate release shortly before their deaths.

Tavira’s relatives were told by correction officials that he died by suicide, according to a lawyer representing his family, M.K. Kaishian. At least five other detainees in city custody died by suicide this year.

Tavira was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia as a teenager, but repeated efforts to move his legal case to mental health court — and therefore secure his release from Rikers Island, where he had been held for 15 months — were opposed by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, Kaishian said.

Kaishian said Tavira was initially arrested at Metropolitan Hospital Center, where he was seeking admission at the start of a mental health crisis. But he got into an altercation with a police officer stationed at the hospital, resulting in his arrest. And while out on supervised release for that case, he was charged with a misdemeanor for another altercation with a stranger. Unable to post bail, Tavira had been at Rikers ever since.

Half of those in city custody suffer from mental illness.

“He was described by his family as big-hearted and loving, affectionate and playful,” Kaishian said. Tavira’s family filed a notice of claim for a $50 million lawsuit against the city.

In 2010, the New York Times profiled the Taviras and their struggles with poverty.

As of Monday, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner had not yet determined a cause of death, a spokesperson said.

“We take the health and safety of everyone in our custody seriously, and we are conducting a preliminary investigation into this death,” said city Department of Correction Commissioner Louis Molina in a statement.

The conditions faced by Rikers detainees have long been a subject of scrutiny. Recent deaths and reporting by Gothamist showing images of what people in custody are subjected to have intensified calls for reform at the complex.

"Mr. Tavira's case underscores the inevitable outcome when incarceration is used in lieu of treatment," said the nonprofit Legal Aid Society in a statement. "Had Mr. Tavira had access to programming, today's tragedy could have been completely avoided."

Comptroller Brad Lander this month became the highest-ranking city official to call for the city to be stripped of its control over Rikers. A federal judge approved the city’s reform plan in June, temporarily staving off the possibility of a federal takeover through an appointed receiver.

The Adams administration continues its legal battle to maintain control, and is poised for another court date in November.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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