Man dies while in custody on Rikers Island; 16th death at jail this year

A report issued Sept 12 on six suicides and four overdoses in the jails in 2021 found a range of staffing breakdowns contributed to those fatalities


By Thomas Tracy
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — Another inmate has died on Rikers Island, the New York City Department of Correction said Saturday, the 16th prisoner to die in custody this year.

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

Rikers Island is pictured from the Bronx on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, in New York. Erick Tavira, 28 died at the George R. Vierno Center on the island about 2:15 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 22.
Rikers Island is pictured from the Bronx on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, in New York. Erick Tavira, 28 died at the George R. Vierno Center on the island about 2:15 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 22. (Theodore Parisienne via TNS)

An autopsy has been slated to determine how Tavira died. The state Attorney General and the city Department of Investigation will also be launching probes into his death.

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

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

He was shipped to the jail on June 15, 2021, after he was arrested for assault in Manhattan. Facing assault and strangulation charges, Tavira was ordered held on $20,000 bail, court records show.

The last person to die in custody was Gregory Acevedo, 48, who climbed a fence and crawled through razor wire at the barge — formally called the Vernon C. Bain Center — before he jumped roughly 50 feet from the rooftop recreation yard on Sept. 20.

Among the most recent deaths, Kevin Bryan somehow got into a staff bathroom off-limits to detainees and hanged himself Sept. 14.

Michael Nieves, 40, cut his own throat Aug. 30 with a Correction Department-issued shaving razor that staff failed to take back from him.

Ricardo Cruciani, a 67-year-old doctor convicted of sexually abusing multiple patients, hanged himself Aug. 15 in general population — after having repeatedly threatened to take his life. His death deprived his many victims of the opportunity to confront him at sentencing.

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

Board of Correction report issued Sept 12 on six suicides and four overdoses in the jails in 2021 found a range of staffing breakdowns that contributed to those fatalities.

Tavira’s death comes ahead of a key federal court hearing that may decide whether the jails remain in the city’s control or are turned over to a federal receiver approaches. The city is trying to install its “action plan” to fix the jails ahead of the hearing.

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