Inmate killed at Rikers marks seventh death at troubled NYC facility in 2023

July 24, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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An inmate was discovered dead in his cell on Rikers Island early Sunday morning. The death of 44-year-old Curtis Davis marks the seventh inmate fatality at the jail this year alone.

Davis, arrested on June 1 in Brooklyn on charges of assault and weapons possession, had been held on a $30,000 bond. His unresponsive body was discovered at the George R. Vierno Center facility on Rikers Island. Efforts to revive Davis proved futile and his cause of death remains unclear, pending an investigation by the medical examiner.

“The department has made all necessary notifications, including the next of kin, the federal monitor, the State Attorney General, DOI, the Board of Correction (BOC), the State Commission of Correction (SCOC), and the OCME,” a spokesperson for the Department of Correction (DOC) confirmed.

This distressing incident adds to the ongoing controversy surrounding Rikers Island, already under scrutiny for its high rate of in-custody deaths. The DOC reported 19 such deaths in the previous year. In an alarming policy change, the department has now ceased alerting the public to prisoner fatalities.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

This policy shift came to light after accusations by a federal monitor, alleging the DOC failed to report five in-custody incidents, including both deaths and injuries.

Despite the persistent problems plaguing Rikers Island, Mayor Eric Adams has resisted federal takeover of the city’s jail system, arguing that New York City is making significant strides in reforming the facility.

Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, sees the situation differently. Asserting that there has been no “substantial progress” regarding the harsh conditions at Rikers, he has advocated for federal intervention.

Former Mayor Bill de Blasio had previously established an agreement with the City Council to close down the infamous East River complex and replace it with larger jails in every borough except Staten Island by 2027. Current Mayor Adams has been less committal about closing Rikers.

The alarming news of the death of Curtis Davis, an inmate at Rikers Island, has reignited concerns over the escalating crisis within the New York City Department of Correction (NYCDOC). Activists and campaign leaders are now urging immediate intervention from city and state officials to address the mounting death toll in NYC jails.

Victor Pate, Co-Director of the #HALTsolitary Campaign, expressed his outrage at the ongoing situation.

“God damn,” Pate said. “How can New York City and State political leaders let these terrible tragedies continue? Is NYCDOC going to be given another opportunity to do nothing again and continue to kill?!”

“New York City’s jails have killed four people in the last three weeks alone, 26 people since Mayor Adams took office and 42 people since 2021,” he continued. “These state imposed deaths are policy choices, and this horrific crisis must stop now.”


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