Yet another Rikers Island detainee dies, bringing NYC jail death toll to 18 this year

Yet another Rikers Island detainee dies, bringing NYC jail death toll to 18 this year

A 26-year-old man held at the troubled Rikers Island jail complex died Monday — the 18th such death in 2022 — exactly three years to the day from the start of his pretrial detention in the city jails.

Gilberto Garcia went into some kind of medical distress in the Anna M. Kross Center about noon before he was found by city Correction Department staffers, according to agency sources and records. He was declared dead just before 1 p.m.

Investigators were looking into whether he died from a drug overdose, sources said. If confirmed, it would be the sixth such case so far this year in the jails.

Garcia was sent to Rikers on Oct. 31, 2019, after being arrested for first-degree robbery in Manhattan.

His next court appearance had been scheduled for Dec. 9.

Garcia was the 18th person this year to die in jail or Correction Department custody. The grim tally follows the deaths of 16 people in 2021.

The city medical examiner will determine Garcia’s cause of death.

“We send our deepest condolences to Mr. Garcia’s loved ones and family at this difficult time,” Correction Commissioner Louis Molina said in a statement. “As with every death that occurs in custody, we will conduct a preliminary investigation into the cause and circumstances.”

The HALTsolitary Campaign slammed the city over Garcia’s death.

“Although this administration has been given countless opportunities to turn things around, they have only made things worse and people continue to die,” said Victor Pate, a former Rikers inmate who now co-directs the campaign.

“This is not about being tough on crime and it’s certainly not about improving community safety. This is about racism, dehumanization and a deliberate indifference to precious human life.”

As of Friday, 1,026 people have been held at Rikers pretrial for more than a year, according to the Vera Institute. Roughly 256 of those had been held two to three years, figures show.

Eighteen deaths in the jails so far this year is the most since 2013, when there were 24 in the whole year. But the current jail population is substantially smaller — about half the size — that it was back then.

Last year’s jail death toll included Brandon Rodriguez, 25, who hanged himself in a caged shower stall on Aug. 10, 2021. His mother, Tamara Carter of Westchester County, learned about his death on Facebook.

“I don’t know if Mayor Adams realizes that every time this happens, every time I learn that another mother is mourning their child who died on Rikers, it’s like a punch in the gut,” Carter said Monday. “How many more families have to suffer this heartbreak before he does something?.”

Carter is suing the city, alleging that Correction Department officials failed to treat Rodriguez’s mental illness and then left him in a squalid intake pen for days, where he was beaten and left in the locked shower stall.