Protesters in the Bronx pleaded for action on Oct. 19 as the inmate death toll on Rikers Island reaches horrendous heights.
When a slew of elected officials toured Rikers Island in September, they warned that more human beings would continue to perish if the prison’s deplorable conditions were not immediately addressed. This grim prediction has now come true with three incarcerated individuals dying since their visit, bringing the total number of fatalities to 14 this year alone.
For advocates who took their fight to the Bronx House of Justice on Tuesday morning, the humanitarian crisis reflects a lack of action by the city state, but more than that, they recognized that there are other victims of neglect on Rikers. Families of those lost on what many have dubbed “torture island” said as much in their demonstration Tuesday outside Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark’s office.
“This is the problem that we’re facing today, our leaders don’t care. This whole America is all about money. There are people dying in Rikers Island,” said Melania Brown, whose sister died in 2019 while in a Rikers Island solitary confinement unit. “Well, DA Clark said in a meeting with the BOC (Board of Correction) and the DOC (Department of Corrections) for eight hours, and the words that came out of her mouth… I’ll never forget. ‘Some people in Rikers deserve to be treated as human.’ So, my question to her is: When did you become God? When did you get to choose who lived, or who suffers? When did you become God?”
Brown joined with fellow demonstrators by demanding District Attorney Clark stop pushing for a cash bail many can’t afford to pay, a system they believe leads to a death sentence. With signs reading, “How many more?” and “Rikers is a death sentence!” the family of Nicholas Feliciano shared that there are more human rights violations than the deadly number 14.
Madeline Feliciano, the grandmother of Nicholas Feliciano, told the harrowing story of how her grandson was left hanging in his cell for nearly 8 minutes until he received medical attention. She wept while clutching a photograph of the young man.
“This is Nicholas, he is currently at the hospital because he suffered anoxic brain damage due to neglect from officers,” Feliciano said. “They watched for 7 minutes and 52 seconds and didn’t do nothing to help him. We ask today: Why nothing has been done? Why are these officers still at Rikers Island working? Justice needs to be served, not only for Nicolas but all the lives that have been lost. I mean this is something that continues to happen. So, either they got terminated, they get charged or what’s gonna happen? Are they gonna continue to work in this corrupted system, where lives are taken away?”
With deaths and life-changing injuries continuing to occur at an alarming rate, the advocate groups consisting of #HaltSolitary Campaign, the Freedom Agenda, and more called for the prison to be decarcerated before the number reaches 15.
amNewYork Metro reached out to District Attorney Clark’s office for comment, and is awaiting a response.