Rikers Island reports death of detainee Tarz Youngblood, 1st of 2022

Rikers Island reports death of detainee Tarz Youngblood

NEW YORK -- The death of another detainee on Rikers Island has intensified calls for the immediate release of detainees at the troubled jail complex.

On Monday, public defenders, politicians and advocates gathered again and demanded action, CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas reported.

Chants for decarceration have become a common refrain outside the gates of Rikers, but this time the urgency hit a crescendo, after another detainee died in custody while awaiting trial.

The loss is all too familiar to Lezandre Khadu, whose son, Stephan, was the 12th out of 15 detainees to die last year.

"Like they called him 'casualty 12.' There's a casualty 16. Is it going to be a casualty 69 before something happens? No more," Khadu said.

According to the Department of Correction, 38-year-old Tarz Youngblood was found unresponsive Sunday and pronounced dead at Elmhurst Hospital. He had been on Rikers Island since Sept. 5 after being unable to make bail on a slew of charges, including stalking and assault.

He was homeless.

It's the first death under new Commissioner Louis Molina, who said, in part, "We will work aggressively to determine the circumstances surrounding Mr. Youngblood's death."

Meanwhile, former attorneys said Youngblood died because, "He was unable to receive necessary medical treatment in a timely manner due to logistical ineptness..."

It's a concern current detainee Melvin Collins shared with Cline-Thomas last week.

"I ended up have a seizure because nobody came to escort me within a timely fashion," Collins said. "There's no type of help and it's getting absolutely worse."

Protestors say the city can't wait for Rikers' scheduled closure in 2027, in favor of smaller borough-based jails, to address ongoing crisis.

"If they have any intention of conducting those jails the way they conduct this one, those would not help, either, and I wouldn't support it," said Olayemi Tolulope Olurin of the Legal Aid Society.

Mayor Eric Adams' administration has not indicated what, if any, changes will be made.

As for detainee Youngblood, attorneys said he was a father. There was no immediate word on his cause of death.

In a statement, Commissioner Molina said the poor conditions were part of the "failures and dysfunction" under the previous administration. He said he has identified numerous deficiencies that he's in the process of correcting.

To put it into perspective, there were 17 in-custody deaths in 2017, 2018 and 2019 combined. CBS2's request for comment from the mayor's office was not returned.

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