Rikers Island

15th Inmate Dies in 2021 Amid Crisis in New York City Jails

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A New York City jail inmate died Friday at a hospital after experiencing a medical issue, the city’s Department of Correction said. It is the 15th death of a city inmate this year, tying the total for 2016.

Malcolm Boatwright, 28, was taken from the city’s troubled Rikers Island jail complex to Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan on Thursday and was pronounced dead at the hospital just after 5:30 a.m., officials said.

Boatwright had been at the jail since Nov. 12, following his arrest on sexual abuse charges. He had a court appearance scheduled for Monday and was also due to be sentenced in a 2013 case, both in Brooklyn, court records show.

A message seeking comment was left with Boatwright’s lawyer. Officials said they will release further details after the conclusion of an investigation.

Correction Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi said in a statement that Boatwright’s death “is a heartbreaking loss at the end of a very difficult year. My deepest sympathy goes out to Mr. Boatwright’s loved ones.”

The city’s jail system, troubled by years of neglect, has spiraled into turmoil during the coronavirus pandemic with a spike in inmate deaths, violence, self-harm and staff absences.

There were seven inmate deaths in 2020, three in 2019, eight in 2018 and six in 2017, according to the Department of Correction.

Of this year’s deaths, at least one man died soon after being granted compassionate release from jail. Another was taken off life support after attempting to hang himself in a holding area at Manhattan Criminal Court.

This week, the union representing city correction officers filed a lawsuit, seeking to block the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for municipal employees. Jail workers faced a Nov. 30 deadline to get at least one vaccine dose or face suspension without pay.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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