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Brooklyn political leaders went to Rikers following 17th death this year

"Unless there are swift and dramatic changes, more people are going to die."

October 24, 2022 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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RIKERS ISLAND – Following the 17th death of an inmate on Rikers Island, Brooklyn lawmakers made an unannounced visit to the George R. Vierno facility on Monday. The most recent death, which occurred on Saturday, surpasses the 16 people who died while incarcerated at Rikers in 2021. It was the sixth suicide inside Rikers Island this year.

The center has been the subject of scrutiny from the federal government for decades. Repeatedly, the facility had undergone lockdowns lasting several straight days, with reiterative lockdowns for up to 25 consecutive hours.

“We have already lost 17 New Yorkers this year to New York City’s jail system. Based on what we saw and heard today, unless there are swift and dramatic changes, more people are going to die,” said U.S. Representative Nydia Velazquez, Assembly Member Karines Reyes, Councilmember Sandy Nurse, Councilmember Jennifer Gutiérrez, and Councilmember Lincoln Restler in a joint statement.

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“People are being locked in their cells for extended and dangerous periods of time, denied basic and urgent medical care, denied some of their meals, denied programming and subjected to as many as twice daily strip searches. Even officers we spoke to said the units were calm before the lockdowns, and the lockdowns themselves were causing, not staunching, violence in the facility.”

“The officers reported that people were frustrated because they did not understand why they were in ‘the box,’ or solitary confinement, when they should have been in the general population. Also, the units we went to were in a disgusting state, with dirty water and garbage all over the floor.”

The Rikers Island jail complex. AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Erick Tavira, 28, was found after he killed himself in his cell through strangulation, the New York Post reported Saturday. Tavira was found hanging by a sheet and unresponsive in his cell around 2 a.m.

Tavira had been in custody since June 15 of 2021 on charges of second-degree strangulation involving an attack on a 14-year-old. He had been held in custody since on cash bond. At the time of his death, the Corrections Department did not disclose the details in the original statements, saying only that it was under investigation.

“DOC is violating people’s most basic constitutional and human rights and making everyone less safe,” the statement continued.

“The solution to violence in communities and jails alike is not dehumanization and abuse. All evidence shows that isolation and deprivation increase violence, while meeting people’s needs and providing opportunities for people to thrive improves safety for everyone.”

“We call on the Department of Correction to stop these mass lockdowns and ensure that all people in GRVC and all jails have access to routine and urgent medical care, out-of-cell group programming, and sanitary and safe conditions. We also urge the City Council to pass Intro. No. 549 to end solitary confinement and ensure all people have access to the minimum standard of out-of-cell time in the jails. Finally, we urge our colleagues at all levels of government to work with us to provide people with mental health needs the care they deserve in the community, rather than incarcerating them, to expedite use of therapeutic units at outside hospitals in the interim, and more generally to invest in real community safety, rather than incarceration.”

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