Another detainee has died while in custody at Rikers Island on Friday, making this the third death at the jail complex so far this year and the second one this week, according jail officials.
Herman Diaz, 52, died while jailed at the Eric M. Taylor Center, according to a release sent out by the city Department of Correction late Friday. Diaz died a day after another detainee, 49-year-old George Pagan, died from an unknown cause while in Rikers custody. He had been detained at Rikers for eight day before he passed. It's unclear what led to Diaz's death. The city medical examiner's office is expected to determine a cause of death.
“Every person matters and every death is tragic. We are particularly mindful of this today after suffering another terrible loss yesterday," DOC Commissioner Louis Molina said in a statement. "We are heartbroken for this person’s family and loved ones and working with our sister agencies on full investigations into both losses.”
Records show a person listed as Herman Diaz had been in custody since Feb. 27 on a menacing and robbery charge. They were also in violation of their parole. Diaz's incarceration began the same day as Tarz Youngblood, a 38-year-old detainee who was found unresponsive inside his cell. Youngblood was rushed to Elmhurst Hospital where he was pronounced dead, becoming the first detainee to die while in city custody this year.
Diaz's death adds to the ongoing crisis inside Rikers Island, where a troubling report released this week by the federal monitor overseeing reforms found that staff absences, brutal violence and lack of transparency continue to fester at the jail complex. The latest report declared that the "first few months of 2022 have revealed the jails remain unstable and unsafe for both inmates and staff."
City jails reported 16 deaths last year, the highest recorded number since 2013.
“Is this going to be a repeat of 2021, where we’re going to keep counting the death toll to the end of the year and beyond? This makes no sense," Anisah Sabur, an activist with the #HALTsolitary Campaign, wrote in a statement. "This is the new death penalty."
The state attorney general's office and city Department of Investigation plan to investigate the deaths.