Watch CBS News

Mayor De Blasio Announces Changes To Intake At Rikers Island After Isaabdul Karim's Death, 12th In Last 12 Months

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- More has been learned about the latest inmate to die in custody on Rikers Island.

This as more law enforcement officials take tours to see the deteriorating conditions for themselves, CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas reported Tuesday.

As Mayor Bill de Blasio's motorcade left Gracie Mansion, advocates chanted, demanding more action on Rikers Island, just days after inmate Isaabdul Karim died in custody.

Karim's partner, Felicia Bullock, told CBS2 via text that he called to complain about conditions saying, "He told me people were dying, and in a panic saying he had to get out of there."

The Department of Correction said the 42-year-old died of natural causes.

The Department of Correction said 42-year-old as Isaabdul Karim died shortly before 7:30 p.m. Sunday in the infirmary.

He was being held on a non-violent parole violation, had numerous medical conditions, and was in a wheelchair. Bullock said he caught COVID-19 while languishing in the overcrowded intake area for more than one week.

"They set him up to fail and he did," Bullock said.

"Yesterday, new intake spaces were opened at Rikers, two clinics and an additional housing unit," de Blasio said.

The mayor, who was just seven miles from Rikers with no immediate plans to visit, outlined new initiatives to address the crisis.

That happened while Attorney General Letitia James, and district attorneys Eric Gonzalez, Darcel Clark and Melinda Katz went to the jail complex for three hours to see the conditions first hand.

When asked if there is an investigation that her office will be doing into the inmate deaths, James said, "So, again, it begins with me basically observing for myself, and that's why I'm here."

Meanwhile, district attorneys said they're reviewing cases of detainees in custody, all while calls have mounted for them to help reduce the jail population.

"In my office, we only ask for bail in violent cases or repeat offenders," Gonzalez said in response to a question about people being sent to Rikers in the first place.

"I need to have the partnership of the city to make that place safe and humane for those who end up there because of the fact that they have to be there on bail," Clark added.

From improving cleaning to fixing broken cell doors, the group observed some progress being made.

Still, the attorney general said she is examining all legal options to address what she calls a dire situation.

Karim was just days shy of qualifying to be among the nearly 200 parolees Gov. Kathy Hochul ordered to be released on Friday. According to the DOC, 165 parolees have been released so far, in an effort to address overcrowding, deaths, increased violence and severe staff shortages.

Karim's record was set to be reviewed this week. His partner said he should've been in a hospital, not on the island.

Twelve inmates have died in the past 12 months on Rikers Island. The Legal Aid Society filed a new letter with the courts seeking intervention regarding the conditions.

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.