A litany of human rights organizations rallied Thursday outside of City Hall to demand immediate solutions amidst a rising death toll inside New York City jails.
Thirty-one-year-old Elijah Muhammad has the unfortunate distinction of being the 10th person to die while incarcerated in 2022, the 9th inside the notorious Rikers Island, and the 26th since 2021. This grim tale of numbers has left many on the outside struggling to comprehend how and why so many human beings are left to lose their lives under the city’s care.
Organizations Freedom Agenda, #Halt Solitary, NYC Jails Action Coalition, and more who fight for the rights of those incarcerated gathered with one plea above all others–the immediate closure of Rikers Island.
“I don’t even really know what to say. We come out here over and over and over again and it’s the same thing,” Andre Ward, Associate Vice President of the David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy said. “No progress has been made on Rikers Island in changing the conditions there. Another death, Mr. Elijah Muhammad, he did not have to die.”
According to reports emerging from the penal island, Elijah Muhammad died from a fentanyl overdose and remained unresponsive for several hours before being discovered by a correction officer. The circumstances surrounding Muhammad’s death has become eerily familiar to so many before him, leaving supporters to wonder how this keeps happening?
“It’s supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, not innocent until found dead in a cell on Rikers,” Brian Carmichael of the Freedom Agenda said.
The demonstrators lifted black cloths inscribed with the names of the individuals who lost their lives behind bars, including Muhammad–the latest name added to the long list. Those at the rally also called for the decarceration of Rikers Island, especially for those who have yet to face a trial and therefore be found guilty in the eyes of the law. Unless this is done, speakers say they will regrettably find themselves back out in front of City Hall mourning the 11th death.