12th inmate dies as New York prison crisis worsens

An inmate on a New York prison barge died Wednesday after an apparent medical emergency, officials said

NEW YORK – An inmate on a New York prison barge died Wednesday after an apparent medical emergency, the city’s Corrections Department said. It is at least the 12th death of a city inmate this year and the second this week amid what some elected officials and activists have called a “humanitarian crisis” in the city’s prisons.

The Corrections Department said in a statement that the inmate at Vernon C. Bain Center, a Bronx floating prison across the East River from the Rikers Island prison complex, appeared to be in medical distress and had was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead at around 10:50 a.m.

Corrections Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi said he was “devastated that we have yet another death in custody and determined to end this heartbreaking trend.”

“We are doing everything we can to remedy the unprecedented crisis we are experiencing in our prisons. My thoughts and prayers are with those close to the person, ”said Schiraldi.

The Department of Corrections did not identify the inmate by name, pending notification from the next of kin. The cause of death is under investigation by the city’s medical examiner’s office.

The Bain Center, a five-story prison stacked on a 625-foot (190.5-meter) barge, opened in 1992 to temporarily relieve the city’s overcrowded prisons. Since then it has been criticized for its overpopulation.

The city’s prison system, troubled by years of neglect, has become a turmoil during the coronavirus pandemic with an increase in inmate deaths, violence, self-harm and staff absences.

Most of the problems have focused on Rikers Island.

Rikers inmate Isaabdul Karim, 42, died in a prison infirmary on Sunday after saying he was not feeling well, officials said. He received CPR, but was later pronounced dead.

At least five Rikers inmates have died by suicide this year, the highest number since 2005.

The chaos has led to growing calls to overhaul or immediately close Rikers Island, which the city says will be closed by 2027.

On Tuesday, Democratic Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jerry Nadler, Jamaal Bowman and Nydia Velázquez sent a letter to New York Governor Kathy Hochul and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio demanding the release of the detainees and the closure of the complex.

They called the conditions in the prison “deplorable and nothing short of a humanitarian crisis”.

Last week de Blasio announced plans for reform, including requiring a medical certificate if a prison guard is absent for more than a day and suspending guards for 30 days without pay if they fail to show up. at work. Hochul signed a bill largely eliminating prison for technical parole violations.

Meanwhile, the city and the prison union continue to fight over staff absences. On Monday, the city sued the union, alleging it tolerated or encouraged employee sick leave, constituting an illegal strike.

Union President Benny Bocio Jr. called the trial “without merit” and “without fact” and said it was “de Blasio’s last desperate and pathetic attempt to blame himself for the humanitarian crisis it created on Rikers Island and the mess it created throughout the city. “

The union also opposes de Blasio’s plan to send private security guards to Rikers so that 150 correctional officers who currently guard the compound’s perimeter can be moved inside the prisons.

The union says such a move would violate a union-backed state law that prohibits the city from replacing public prison workers with private guards. De Blasio said it would only be a temporary emergency solution.

“This is an emergency dynamic,” de Blasio told reporters on Wednesday. “Until that moment is over, we will be using whatever tools are necessary to keep people safe.”


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