IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Three employees at Rikers Island suspended after inmate's death

At least a dozen inmates have died this year in the custody of the New York City Department of Correction.
A barbed wire fence outside Rikers Island correctional facility
A barbed wire fence outside inmate housing at the Rikers Island Correctional Facility in New York.Bebeto Matthews / AP file

Three staff members were suspended after an inmate died at New York’s Rikers Island jail complex this week, authorities said Wednesday.

Michael Nieves, 40, who had been in custody since June at the Anna M. Kross Center on Rikers Island on a first-degree burglary charge, died Tuesday at Elmhurst Hospital, the New York City Correction Department said.

No additional details have been publicly released.

“Losing a loved one who is incarcerated is traumatic, and we send our deepest condolences to Mr. Nieves’ family and all those he held dear,” Correction Department Commissioner Louis A. Molina said. “A preliminary review of this incident required we take immediate action and suspend three uniform staff members. Any death in custody is a tragedy, and we will be investigating the circumstances surrounding this incident.”

The employees have not been publicly identified.

The New York Times reported that Nieves was mentally ill and that he slit his throat with a razor at the jail last week. The newspaper also reported that two correction officers and a captain failed to act for at least 10 minutes.

Nieves was the 12th inmate to die in the custody of the Correction Department this year, officials said.

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Comptroller Brad Lander said in a joint statement that serious allegations have previously been made against Correction Department employees regarding an inmate's death.

They also said Nieves’ death is the 13th in city custody this year, disputing the Correction Department’s figure.

“This is not the first time that officers stood by passively during a suicide attempt. While some corrections staff are working intensely to improve health and safety on the island, others are actively undermining these efforts,” the statement said.

The statement added, “Our visit to Rikers earlier this week made clear to us that, despite some improvements from the nightmare we witnessed on the island a year ago, clearly conditions for people on both sides of the bars are neither safe nor sustainable." 

Williams and Lander called for city officials to “renew and expedite its efforts to close the jail facilities at Rikers.”

In August, Dr. Ricardo Cruciani, 68, a New York-area neurologist who was convicted in July of sexually assaulting his patients, died in an apparent suicide in the Rikers Island jail complex, his attorney and prosecutors said.