28-year-old man dies while in custody at Rikers Island; 16th death in prison this year

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NEW YORK — Another inmate has died at Rikers Island, the New York City Department of Corrections announced Saturday, the 16th inmate to die in custody this year.

Erick Tavira, 28, died at the George R. Vierno Center on the island around 2:15 a.m., DOC officials said who did not disclose the circumstances of his death.

An autopsy has been scheduled to determine how Tavira died. The state’s attorney general and the city’s investigative department will also launch investigations into his death.

“Our deepest condolences go out to Mr. Tavira’s family, friends and loved ones during this time of grief,” DOC Commissioner Louis Molina said in a statement. “We take the health and safety of everyone in our care seriously and are conducting a preliminary investigation into this death.

Tavira is the 16th inmate to die on Rikers Island this year.

He was sent to prison on June 15, 2021, after being arrested for assault in Manhattan. Facing charges of assault and strangulation, Tavira was ordered to post $20,000 bond, according to court records.

The last person to die in custody was Gregory Acevedo, 48, who scaled a fence and crawled through barbed wire at the barge – officially called the Vernon C. Bain Center – before jumping about 50ft from the playground onto the roof on September 20. .

Among the most recent deaths, Kevin Bryan somehow entered the off-limits staff washroom and hanged himself on September 14.

Michael Nieves, 40, cut his throat on August 30 with a corrections-issued razor that staff failed to retrieve.

Ricardo Cruciani, a 67-year-old doctor convicted of sexually abusing multiple patients, hanged himself on August 15 in the general population – after repeatedly threatening to kill himself. His death deprived his many victims of the opportunity to confront him at sentencing.

Mary Yehudah, 31, died on May 18 of complications from diabetes after medical staff failed to do a basic urine test to screen her, according to a complaint filed by her family.

A Board of Corrections report released Sept. 12 into six suicides and four overdoses in prisons in 2021 revealed a series of staff breakdowns that contributed to those deaths.

Tavira’s death comes ahead of a key federal court hearing that could decide whether the prisons remain under city control or are handed over to a federal receiver. The city is trying to put its “action plan” in place to fix the jails before the hearing.

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