Watch CBS News

Death of Rikers Island detainee Joshua Valles raises more concerns with Department of Correction

NYC Department of Correction won't tell media when inmates die in custody
NYC Department of Correction won't tell media when inmates die in custody 02:22

NEW YORK -- There is controversy surrounding a 31-year-old man who died this weekend after being released from custody on Rikers Island.

On Thursday, the Department of Correction said it will no longer notify the press when someone dies in custody.

There was an impassioned plea at a rally outside City Hall that included former Rikers Island inmates and family members.

"You have a right to human rights, a right to medical care. If a commissioner hides the truth, he should be removed," said Dt. Victoria A. Phillips of the Jails Action Coalition.

READ MOREQuestions surround death of Rikers Island detainee Joshua Valles

The call for DOC Commissioner Louis Molina to be removed comes after Joshua Valles was taken off life support at a hospital Saturday, a week after being released from custody.

The federal monitor wrote to a judge on Wednesday, saying that DOC's legal counsel said an autopsy revealed Valles died as a result of a fractured skull, which comes in stark contrast to the headache previously reported.

"What we've seen is a lack of transparency," said Stan German, attorney for Valles.

A DOC spokesperson told CBS2 the medical examiner has not determined the cause of death and there is an active investigation.

The advocates say Valles is now part of roughly two dozen inmates that have died since Mayor Eric Adams took office.

One mother said her son died at Rikers in 2021.

"I'm going to die fighting and getting justice for my son. My son didn't go there with meningitis," said Lezandre Khadu, mother of Stephan Khadu.

The latest controversy comes days after Valles' sudden hospitalization was highlighted in the monitor's report, raising concerns about safety and transparency at Rikers.

Responding to questions about the report Thursday, the mayor said he supports the work the commissioner is doing.

"He did not violate any of the rules on what he was supposed to report on -- not one item, not one -- but if you would have read the report you would have thought just the opposite," Adams said.

The Point: Department of Correction Commissioner Louis Molina on fixing Rikers Island

Valles' attorney says he is now asking federal authorities to investigate his death, and the city comptroller is now calling for a federal receiver to manage the jails.

The mayor said Molina has brought down violence in the jails, adding he supported the DOC's decision Thursday to no longer announce deaths of inmates to the press.

A DOC spokesperson said required notifications would still be made to six outside parties, including four with investigatory powers.

A judge has ordered the DOC provide more information on Valles' death by next Thursday.

A hearing is scheduled for June 13.

The DOC released a statement saying, in part, that the commissioner believes in following the rules, and the department is in compliance with all rules and laws -- and that practice has never stopped.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.