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A view of Riker's Island penitentiary co

The deaths of inmates at New York City jails – including Rikers Island – will no longer be reported to media outlets, causing considerable outrage among advocacy groups and inmates’ families.

According to reports, the New York City Department of Corrections will no longer notify the press when an incarcerated individual dies and has stopped the practice immediately. It had been in place for two years since being enacted under then-Mayor Bill de Blasio in response to public concerns. “That was a practice, not a policy,” new DOC chief spokesperson Frank Dwyer said. In a statement to WPIX 11, the DOC said: “The Commissioner wants to respect those who have transitioned while also continuing to be as transparent as possible.”

The lack of notification was discovered after it was realized that the recent deaths of two inmates on Riker’s Island and three other cases were not reported. These incidents were the focus of a blistering report filed by Steve J. Martin, a federal monitor assigned to oversee the infamous prison complex. “There is significant cause for concern about the imminent risk of harm to people in custody,” wrote Martin of Rikers Island, New York City’s largest jail.

The news was met with outrage directed toward the DOC. In a statement, the Legal Aid Society said of the move: “This is another lowlight in the Department of Correction’s campaign to keep outside eyes away from the catastrophe that is the city’s jail system and the harm it inflicts daily on New Yorkers trapped inside its deadly walls.” The group is the largest source of public defenders for the city’s justice system. 

Mayor Eric Adams also received criticism from observers and those who’ve been working with inmates and advocacy groups, who have noted that real-time video surveillance access from Rikers Island and other correctional facilities has been blocked. When questioned by the press, he said he supports Commissioner Louis Molina “to do the job I hired him to do.” 

“This administration is going back to the way in which jails were managed decades ago. They are closing ranks,” said Stanley Richards, head of the nonprofit organization Fortune Society. They have to fix this problem, and hiding it is not fixing it,” said Lezandre Kahdu, whose son died in a city jail in 2021. A court hearing has been set for June 13 to address the issues that were highlighted in the federal monitor’s report, issued on May 26.


Deaths At NYC Jails No Longer Being Reported To Media  was originally published on