Yet another Rikers Island inmate dies in custody – the third since August

A jail on Rikers Island
A jail on Rikers Island.
Photo by Dean Moses

For the 14th time this year, an inmate died while in the Corrections Department’s custody on Rikers Island, the agency announced Wednesday.

Kevin Bryan, was found and pronounced dead at the Eric M. Taylor Center on Sept. 14 at 7:44 a.m. It was the third inmate death reported there since August. Bryan entered DOC custody on Sept 8 on 2nd degree burglary charges.

While the Corrections Department said the cause of the Sept. 14 death is under investigation, pending confirmation from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), the Freedom Agenda — an activist group seeking the closure of Rikers Island — claimed the inmate was found hanging from a pipe in a staff bathroom.

“We are very distressed to hear about the death of another person in custody,” said DOC Commissioner Louis A. Molina in a statement. “Our deepest condolences go out to this individual’s loved ones. We will conduct a preliminary investigation into the circumstances surrounding this death for which we grieve.”

This most recent death comes in the wake of a public meeting with the Board of Corrections, a jail oversight group, to discuss how incarcerated people were suffering at city jails due to poor treatment, lack of resources and medical treatment; and two days after several elected officials paid an unannounced visit to Rikers Island. 

“They made complaints about mold in the showers, worms in the showers, flies, food being shoved under their cell doors – essentially they were being treated like animals,” said Assemblymember Kenny Burgos following the Sept. 12 visit. “They complained that they were not getting haircuts and just basic medical care.”

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams also spoke out about the most recent death in DOC custody.

“Fourteen lives lost in city custody this year, thirty in less than two years,” said Williams. “Whatever changes are being made, they are clearly not far or fast enough to save lives, they do not begin to approach a standard of decency, safety, or humanity. How much harm must continue before leadership puts our city’s stated values over this systemic violence, or concedes that the city can’t do so alone?”

The reported death was met with outrage from some civil rights groups, including the Freedom Agenda. One member, Tamara Carter, lost her son Brandon Rodriguez last year after he was held in solitary confinement at Rikers Island.

“It’s now been just over a year since my son’s death in that place, and three more people have taken their own lives in the past month alone,” Carter said in a statement. “I don’t know what the Mayor is waiting for to do something. Does he even care? What are we going to have to do? Do they want us to film each funeral to see the families’ pain up close and personal? The Board of Correction just reported the gruesome findings of many of last year’s deaths. Doing nothing equals more death. The humans on Rikers are screaming for help. Is anybody going to help them?”

Sixteen inmates died while in custody on Rikers Island in 2021.

Last updated 9/14/2022 2:34 p.m.