New bill would bring more transparency to deaths in DOC custody
A new bill proposed by several members of the New York City Council would force more oversight and transparency for the Department of Correction when it comes to reporting the deaths of inmates in custody.
Eight people have died so far this year either while in custody or shortly after being released.
The legislation is being introduced by Council Members Carilina Rivera, Lincoln Restler and Tiffany Cabán, along with Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
The bill was motivated in part by a controversial decision made this past May in which the DOC announced it would no longer publicize when inmates die.
If passed, the DOC would be given specific procedures to follow after someone dies in custody. It would be required to notify the medical examiner, the deceased's defense attorney and the public in a timely fashion.
It would also have to quickly notify the family. It's a move that that could have saved Tamara Carter a lot of heartbreak. Her son, Brandon Rodriguez, died in custody in August 2021. She says it took a week to receive any information about his death.
"All the proof that we had to show and executorship and all that stuff, I just think it's absolutely ridiculous. Yet, they quote in the news they send their condolences to me, yet they never notified me," said Carter.
The law would also force the DOC to hand over all relevant records so death investigations could be carried out. Furthermore, it would require the creation of a Jail Death Review Board to look into systemic issues regarding deaths at DOC facilities.
"We just know that the conditions inside the jail system are really unacceptable for the incarcerated and officers alike. And so, while we want more transparency and public accounting, we had to codify this change and notification process, and I'm glad we're able to do that in the next few weeks," said Council Member Carlina Rivera, who is sponsoring the bill.
Rivera says she feels as though the legislation will be widely supported by her colleagues in the City Council.