Closing Rikers: 18th Jail Death Leads to 18-hour Protest

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By Tandy Lau, Amsterdam News Staff, Report for America Corps Member

Body bags and names of those who died in DOC custody this year (Tandy Lau)

Gilberto Garcia is the 18th person to die in—or shortly after—Department of Corrections custody this year. The 26-year-old man was found dead in Rikers last Monday, Oct. 31. This news comes just nine days after 28-year-old Erick Tavira was also found dead in the notorious jail.

Last Thursday, Nov. 3, advocates held a rally at City Hall Park demanding Rikers’ closure: 18 hours for 18 deaths. And 18 mock Department of Corrections (DOC) body bags were lined up across the sidewalk. Organizers included Freedom Agenda, VOCAL-NY and the #HALTsolitary Campaign. In the late morning, they sounded off for a rally alongside elected officials. 

“2022 has become one of the deadliest years in the history of NYC Department of Corrections,” said Freedom Agenda co-director Darren Mack. “The dysfunction, chronic staff absenteeism, and lack of accountability has intensified. Advocates have been sounding the alarm and calling for urgent action from the City.”

“This is not about safety,” said Councilmember Tiffany Cabán. “This is about interest. And so again, I am here to condemn every single actor that has played a role in this brutal, f–king crisis.”

“Eighteen people didn’t have to die this year,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “Eighteen families didn’t have to face the deep, unimaginable grief of a loved one lost to our criminal legal system. The injustices and neglect at Rikers must and can be stopped.”

Learn about the organizer’s demands.

From slavery to medical experiments, prisoners have long been subjected to subhuman conditions.

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