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16th inmate dies in 2021 amid crisis in New York City jails

December 15, 2021 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) — An inmate died Tuesday at New York City’s notorious Rikers Island jail complex after he was found in his cell in medical distress, the city’s Department of Correction said.

The death of 55-year-old William Brown is the second of a city inmate in the last five days and the 16th this year in the city’s troubled jail system — the most since 2013.

Officers activated a medical emergency upon finding Brown and attempted to resuscitate him with CPR. Brown was pronounced dead around 11:46 p.m. Tuesday, officials said.

A 28-year-old inmate, Malcolm Boatwright, died Friday at Bellevue Hospital after experiencing a medical issue.

Brown had been at the jail since Nov. 14, following his arrest on charges of larceny and possession of stolen property. Court records show he had several other pending cases.

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In a statement, Correction Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi said: “I am devastated to know that another person entrusted in our care has passed away. We will work diligently to determine the circumstances surrounding his death. My deepest sympathy goes out to Mr. Brown’s loved ones.”

The Legal Aid Society, which was representing Brown, said his death was “unconscionable and could have been prevented had those in power listened to the calls from defenders and others to decarcerate” the city’s jails, referring to a push to limit pretrial detention, find alternatives to incarceration and largely empty jails.

The city’s jail system, troubled by years of neglect, has spiraled into turmoil during the coronavirus pandemic with a spike in inmate deaths, violence, self-harm and staff absences.

Of this year’s deaths, at least one man died soon after being granted compassionate release from jail. Another was taken off life support after attempting to hang himself in a holding area at Manhattan Criminal Court.