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Inmate Found Dead On Rikers Island Amidst Calls For Reform At Correctional Facility

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Another inmate has been found dead on Rikers Island amidst calls for reform at the city's massive correctional facility.

Esias Johnson, 24, was being held on a fugitive arrest warrant and was found unresponsive in his cell around 9:45 a.m. Tuesday.

"An individual in custody passed away at the Anna M. Kross Center this morning," said Department of Correction Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi.

Johnson is the 10th inmate at Rikers Island to die in custody since December.

It highlights a deteriorating situation at the correctional facility that includes violence between inmates and against the staff.

"We're getting information about people not being fed three times a day," said Stan German, executive director of New York County Defender Services.

RELATED STORY: Rikers Island Employees Report Uptick In Assaults On Staff; Inmate Representatives Say They're Being Denied Basic Rights

The DOC says widespread sick calls from employees, some of whom are believed to be abusing their unlimited sick days, are creating a dangerous situation.

"People are sharing their vacation experiences on social media while they're out sick," Schiraldi said.

In August, 1,400 uniformed personnel called out every day. Add to that 2,700 times when employees just didn't call or show up for their shifts, which forces their colleagues who do to work doubles and triples.

The union has called on the department to hire 2,000 more officers.

In a statement, they added the commissioner is "shamefully demonizing our officers" while "inmate attacks against us are at an all time high," saying the problems are a result of the increased jail population with more violent offenders.

The DOC oversees about 6,000 inmates a day, nearly half of what it did back in 2014. But during that same timeframe the number of staff barely changed. Now, the employees outnumber the inmates -- that's if everyone came to work.

"What should we hold you accountable for?" CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas asked the DOC commissioner.

"I think that there will come a time when some mayor may look me in the eye and say you can't be commissioner anymore ... I don't know that three months in is the time to do that," Schiraldi said.

For now, Schiraldi pleads with employees to return but provides no real consequences if they don't.

In August, the federal monitor sounded the alarm about Rikers, calling its issues "pervasive and systemic."

Johnson's death is under investigation, and it prompted the call for an emergency meeting Wednesday with agency heads and the City Council.

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