Rikers detainee dies playing basketball, in first detainee death of 2024, officials say

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By Dan Sears

A Rikers Island detainee died Thursday morning while playing basketball, city officials said.

The person’s name and age are being withheld while his next of kin is notified.

The man had been playing basketball for about an hour with a group of detainees at the Eric M. Taylor Center, where the jail complex’s new arrivals are typically held, when he collapsed at about 9:45 a.m., Department of Correction spokesperson Annais Morales said in a statement.

The detainee received immediate medical care from staff and medical professionals, but was ultimately pronounced dead, she said.

Morales added the department will conduct a full investigation.

The news marks the first death on Rikers Island this year, and the first death under new correction commissioner Lynelle Maginley-Liddie, who replaced Louis Molina in December.

Last year, nine people died in DOC custody. In 2022, 19 people died in the department’s custody, the highest detainee death rate in a quarter-century.

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The city is currently facing a potential federal takeover due to rising levels of violence in the jails, including deaths, and a lack of transparency with the federal monitor overseeing the jails.

The DOC said it will notify the federal monitor, the state Attorney General, the NYC Department of Investigation, the Board of Correction, the State Commission of Correction, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and the media of the latest detainee death.

Notifying the media about a detainee death indicates a shift in policy for the department. Last May, the DOC said it would no longer inform the media of deaths in custody.

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