‘Enough is enough:’ City Hall rallygoers rail against rising death toll at Rikers Island

Activists hold up the name of the recently deceased Curtis Davis at a City Hall rally.
Photo by Dean Moses

Activists continued to demand sweeping change at Rikers Island on Tuesday, after the fourth detainee died on the penal island this month.

Curtis Davis, 44, was found unconscious in his George R Vierno Center cell at around 5 a.m. on Sunday morning. He was pronounced dead just over 30 minutes later; the cause of death has yet to be determined.

Davis was the seventh person to die on Rikers Island this year — and the fourth this month.

Davis’ death comes at a particularly critical juncture for Rikers Island. Earlier this month, a court-appointed monitor urged a judge to begin contempt proceedings against New York City over conditions at the troubled complex, setting the stage for a potential federal takeover of the jail system. All the while, While Mayor Eric Adams looks to maintain control of the embattled facility.

Pressure is also continuing to mount from advocates, who charge that the loss of life is shocking and should be immediately addressed. Standing outside City Hall on Tuesday, the Jails Action Coalition and Freedom Agenda demanded that the public take notice and that the city act.

Chaplain Dr. Victoria A. Phillips (Dr. V). Photo by Dean Moses

“Enough is enough. We all have jobs and lives to live. We don’t want to be out here screaming. We don’t want to have to galvanize emergency situations,” Chaplain Dr. Victoria A. Phillips (Dr. V) said. “We do it because if we don’t do it, who’s going to do it? I don’t see an elected official.”

Speakers at the rally turned their ire directly to the mayor, noting that Davis is the 26th person to perish on Rikers Island since Adams took office.

“Mayor Adams does not care. He does not care about the human beings or torture island,” one former inmate, Edwin Santana, charged. “He doesn’t care about the families of those who lost their lives and their loved ones to the torture island. And he certainly doesn’t give a damn about none of us right here.”

Santana went on to charge that, “Rikers Island cannot be reformed. Rikers Island cannot be fixed.”

Meanwhile, Adams maintains he is the best person to hold the reins of the jail, stressing that the facility has seen vast improvements since Louis Molina took over as commissioner of the Department of Correction.

A City Hall spokesman told amNewYork Metro that Adams is working with the community to keep youngsters out of the jail system.

“Mayor Adams remains laser-focused on keeping New Yorkers safe while pursuing upstream solutions to keep young people out of the criminal justice system wherever possible,” the spokesperson said. “We are working closely with community members around all four borough jail sites to advance these projects with minimal disruption. As Mayor Adams has said repeatedly, this administration will always follow the law.”

Davis had been in DOC custody since June 1 for allegedly stabbing a man in the eye during an argument.