A 20-year-old became the sixth person in the city’s jail system to die in 2022, the Department of Correction said Saturday.
Just after 4 p.m., a correction officer found Emanuel Sullivan dead in his bed at the Robert N. Davoren Center on Rikers Island, officials said.
“Enough is enough. I am so tired and devastated to hear about the death of Emmanuel Sullivan. It is beyond heartbreaking that we continue to hear about the many fully preventable deaths that have and continue to happen on Rikers Island," said Victor Pate in a statement. Pate is a former Rikers inmate who is now the co-director of the #HALTSolitary Campaign, an effort to end solitary confinement in New York jails and prisons. "We do not need more committees, more task forces, or more long overdue plans to address conditions, which are well documented and deadly. We need action to decarcerate and we need our electeds to make decisions that will keep incarcerated people, and staff, alive, safe, and healthy.”
The cause of death is under investigation by the city’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. As is the case in all deaths in city jails’ custody, the state Attorney General and city Department of Investigation will also be looking into the circumstances of Sullivan’s death.
“The housing area was staffed and all tours were conducted throughout the day,” the correction department said in a statement. Oversight officials and Rikers’ court-ordered federal monitor found in their reports this year that correction officers and medical staff are often the last to respond to inmate deaths, in part because of a daily staffing crisis on the island.
A Board of Correction report released earlier this month concluded inmates were the first to respond in each of this year’s first three deaths in correction department’s custody, calling the late responses by officers in each case “a chronic and life-threatening issue.”
One inmate, 52-year-old Herman Diaz, collapsed in March as he choked on an orange. With no officer on the floor of the housing unit and the only officer observing the unit from a separate room barred from interacting with detainees, it was left to Diaz’s fellow inmates to respond to the medical episode. No officer intervened as Diaz died, the report found.
On Tuesday, a federal judge gave the city less than three weeks to come up with a finalized plan to reform Rikers as a federal takeover is being considered by the court.
Sullivan was placed in DOC custody on Feb. 8, held on second-degree murder and first-degree robbery charges, the city said. His next court date was scheduled for Wednesday, according to the correction department website.
Fourteen people in DOC custody died in 2021.