The number of prisoners who committed suicide while in the custody of the city’s Corrections Department in 2021 is higher than the past five years combined, according to data released Thursday by a federal observer.
From January to September this year, five people detained by DOC committed suicide, up from a total of four from 2016 to 2020, the federal monitoring team for troubled Rikers Island wrote in a filed situation report. in Manhattan Federal Court.
In a footnote, the surveillance team included the caveat that one of five suicides in 2021 occurred after the inmate was granted compassionate release and two others were still pending. being examined by the city’s medical examiner.
In the report, the monitors, led by Steve J. Martin, wrote that they remain “gravely concerned” about the dangerous conditions in the city’s prisons – and were not convinced that DOC leadership has the competence to. remedy the situation.
“The monitoring team remains concerned about whether the leadership of the department has the level of competence to manage prisons safely,” they wrote.
“Specifically, an island workforce that has very limited exposure to best practices is at a significant disadvantage in advancing reforms,” they added.
In their own situation report filed Thursday, city lawyers said they had deployed suicide prevention aids, who are also incarcerated individuals, in “various housing units” to prevent the deaths of inmates.
“As of October 7, 2021, there were approximately 88 SPAs in place in various housing units,” they wrote.
In September, Martin said in a court hearing that he reviewed an incident in Rikers when officers with a direct view of an inmate attempting to hang himself did nothing to prevent the attempted suicide.
The monitoring team recommended an external head of securities operations to help resolve what they considered a “state of emergency” on Rikers Island.
There have been a total of 12 deaths in custody at the city’s DOC so far this year, including five suicides, six health issues and one overdose, according to the Monitor’s data.
The security concerns and personnel issues that have plagued Rikers Island for years have exploded this year.
Governor Kathy Hochul and Mayor Bill de Blasio responded on Wednesday by pledging to move 200 transgender women and inmates to state-run prisons to help alleviate the problems.
“These actions will further help alleviate personnel issues, capacity constraints and improve the security of several hundred detainees until the city can identify and implement a permanent solution that will do justice to the situation in Rikers.” Hochul said.