Protesters demand jail closure after Rikers inmate dies
Last year, 16 inmates died on Rikers Island while in custody or shortly after leaving. Another man was reported dead Sunday, the first death in custody this year.
Tarz Youngblood, 38, was found unresponsive in his cell at the George R. Vierno Center on Sunday, according to the Department of Correction.
New Yorkers rallied Monday and called for the infamous prison to close.
“For them to sit here in the conditions that they are - any human being - it becomes an issue of human rights. It’s no longer a thing of right and wrong. The basic needs need to be met,” said Hope Sanders from Freedom Agenda.
The Department of Correction says it is investigating Youngblood’s cause of death.
Protesters say that jails don’t address the root causes of crime or help to prevent it. Local officials say the majority of people who are incarcerated on Rikers Island are people of color and come from low-income backgrounds. They say tackling issues of inequality is the way to reduce crime.
“For the last 30 years now, we’ve just been funding the NYPD, and it’s not solving the problem. We talk about high crime every chance we get to distract from the real issues of housing instability, food instability, mental health resources,” said Corey Provost, district leader of the 58th Assembly District in Brooklyn.
In a statement to News 12, the Department of Correction acknowledged the issues within the city’s prison system saying in part, “I am focused and committed to creating a safer and more humane environment for our staff and everyone in our custody … In my nearly two months as Commissioner, I have identified numerous deficiencies within the department that I am in the process of correcting.”