The death count on Rikers Island is up to 14 this year after Kevin Bryan committed suicide last Wednesday, Sept. 14, less than a week after the 35-year-old entered the Department of Corrections’ custody.
According to the NYC Office of Chief Medical Examiner, Bryan hung himself. He was held in the Eric M. Taylor Center on second degree burglary charges.
“We are very distressed to hear about the death of Mr. Bryan. Our deepest condolences go out to his loved ones,” said DOC Commissioner Louis A. Molina. “We will conduct a preliminary investigation into the circumstances surrounding this death for which we grieve.”
Bryan’s death marks the third Rikers death in a 30 day period. Just two weeks prior, 40-year-old Michael Nieves died after he was held at the Anna M. Kross Center. Three corrections department employees were suspended as a result of the death. On Aug. 15, Ricardo Cruciani was also found dead at the Eric M. Taylor Center after committing suicide. The disgraced neurologist was already convicted for rape and was awaiting his sentencing. He potentially faced life in prison. But unlike Cruciani, most of those who died recently in Rikers were not convicted of the crime they were held for.
“Rikers has been a death sentence for dozens during this crisis,” said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams in a statement. “The environment there, including solitary confinement by any name, is dangerous for everyone on the island—most of whom are still awaiting even a fair trial. 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?”
This week, another person died under DOC custody after jumping from a floating jail barge, according to nonprofit Campaign Zero. The New York Daily News reports 48-year-old Gregory Acevedo attempted to escape the maritime Vernon C. Bain Center by diving into the East River. He reportedly died this past Tuesday, Sept. 20.
Also last week were NYC Board of Correction findings of six suicides and four drug-related deaths under DOC custody last year. The report found insufficient rounding and supervision in eight of those deaths. Additionally, at least four of last year’s deaths involved instances of false or incorrect logbook entries. And staff failed to administer timely first aid in at least five of the 2021 deaths.
Also mentioned was an instance of a failed suicide watch—37-year-old Javier Velasco attempted suicide three days before his death while held at Anna M. Kross Center. He was placed on suicide watch, but was pulled 30 hours later. The Commission of Correction deemed the decision to remove Velasco premature and his death as preventable.
Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member and writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w