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 around 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.
Garcia was sent to Rikers on Oct. 31, 2019, after being arrested for first-degree robbery in Manhattan. He also may have been held under a state parole warrant, Correction Department records indicate.
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 Vera Institute of Justice, a non-profit aimed at transforming the criminal justice system, 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 #HALTsolitary 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, a total of 1,026 people had been held in Rikers pre-trial for more than a year, according to the Vera Institute.
Eighteen deaths in the jails in one year is the most since 2013, when there were 24, but at that time, the total jail population was substantially smaller than it is now.
Last year’s jail death toll included Brandon Rodriguez, 25, who hanged himself in the 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 a locked shower stall.
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