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Society

Another Inmate Dies at NYC’s Troubled Rikers Island Jail

September 20, 2021

NEW YORK — An inmate died at New York City's Rikers Island jail complex, bringing the death toll at the troubled facility to 11 this year, authorities said.

The inmate died at a jail infirmary just before 7:30 p.m. Sunday, the Department of Correction said in a news release. 

The city medical examiner's office will determine the cause of death for the inmate, whose name was not immediately released. Correction Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi said the death "appears to be natural." 

The death came days after both Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced plans to improve conditions at Rikers Island, where longstanding problems have worsened during the coronavirus pandemic.

De Blasio's planned reforms include requiring absent jail guards to get a doctor's note if they're out for more than a day. Hochul signed a bill on Friday that largely eliminates the practice of incarcerating people for technical parole violations.

At least 10 inmates have died at Rikers this year, several of them by suicide.

Shiraldi said that although Sunday's death appears to be natural, "there is nothing natural about what is happening in our jail system right now."

He said he was "heartbroken that we have seen yet another death of a human being entrusted to our care."

De Blasio said the inmate who died was not on a list to be transferred out of Rikers under the new state law. "But we are investigating everything related to that tragedy," the mayor said. "It's horrible. We want to know what happened here and why."

Speaking at his daily briefing on the pandemic, de Blasio said dozens of correction officers have been suspended for being absent with no explanation and more face possible suspension if they do not report for scheduled shifts.

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