Another detainee dead at Rikers Island, possibly due to drug overdose

·2 min read

Yet another detainee has died at Rikers Island, officials said Tuesday, announcing the 10th inmate death in the troubled city jails system since December.

Correction Department officials identified the man as Esias Johnson, 24, without detailing how he died. Sources said he possibly died of an overdose of a mixture of the synthetic drug K2 and fentanyl.

Correction officials said Johnson was discovered unresponsive Tuesday morning and declared dead about 9:45 a.m.

Johnson was arrested in Queens on a misdemeanor menacing charge on Monday. Correction officials said he was being held on a fugitive arrest warrant out of New Jersey for making terroristic threats.

Word of the death emerged as Correction Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi prepared to hold a press conference on Rikers Island.

“The circumstances surrounding this death will receive a full investigation. We have been in touch with Esias Johnson’s next of kin, and extend our deepest condolences,” Schiraldi said.

Last week, detainee Segundo Guallpa died by suicide in his cell in the North Infirmary Command on Rikers.

Brandon Rodriguez, 25, hanged himself on Aug. 10 in an intake area in the Otis Bantum Correctional Center.

Jail reform advocates have decried “an explosion of death” at city lockups. The Correction Department is reeling from an ongoing staffing crisis that has resulted in limited programming and medical treatment for inmates, among many other problems.

During the press conference, Schiraldi said the crisis is not due to lack of uniformed jail staff. Instead, it is caused by correction officers calling in sick at a rate in August nearly three times that of August 2019.

He said 1,416 officers were out per day on average in August, compared with 555 in August 2019.

“Staff are the heart and soul of our operations,” Schiraldi said. “We cannot improve safety until we are fully staffed. When staff do not show up to work, every aspect of our operations suffer — so do the employees who pick up the slack and people in custody.”

He argued that current staffing levels are adequate. In 2014, there were 9,000 officers for 11,000 detainees. Currently, there are 8,400 staff for 6,000 detainees.

Correction officers’ union President Benny Boscio said Schiraldi was “demonizing” the staff.

“City Hall’s negligence has created the crisis we now face,” he said. “The reality is that triple shifts are happening because in just one year, the inmate population has doubled and Mayor de Blasio has refused to hire a single correction officer.”

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