Four NY House Democrats call for closing of Rikers Island after 11 deaths this year at jail facility

Inmate who died Sunday reportedly was ill and taken to Rikers' infirmary.

Updated: September 22, 2021 - 2:29pm

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Four New York Democratic House members are demanding that inmates from New York City’s troubled Rikers Island jail complex be closed and inmates removed, after the recent death of another inmate. 

Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jerry Nadler, Jamaal Bowman and Nydia Velázquez called the facility’s conditions “deplorable and nothing short of a humanitarian crisis,” in a letter Tuesday to Gov. Kathy Hochul and City Mayor Bill de Blasio, according to the Associated Press.

The demand followed the 11th death reported at Rikers Island this year, an inmate who reportedly died Sunday after being taken to the Riker’s infirmary for not feeling well.

Hochul and de Blasio had already announced plans to improve conditions at Rikers Island, exacerbated by the pandemic.

Hochu’s office says the governor “took swift action to release hundreds of people incarcerated in Rikers and improve justice and safety,” and promised further steps, the wire service also reports. 

De blasio doesn’t appear to have responded. 

The House members said the jail has failed to provide inmates with basic services and protection against the spread of COVID-19, and lawmakers on a recent visit to the facility found conditions that were “life-threatening and horrific.”

It’s not clear from the letter whether the House members were calling for all inmates, including those being held for violent crimes, to be immediately released or for some to be transferred to other facilities.

Ocasio-Cortez’s office said the congresswoman believed that inmates should be released. Messages seeking additional information from the offices of the other House members were not immediately returned, the Associated Press also reports.