NYC Defenders Decry Another Senseless Death on Rikers Island

Segundo Guallpa passed away on Monday, August 30th of an apparent suicide while in Departement of Correction (DOC) custody on Rikers Island, as reported by the Queens Daily Eagle.

The news comes just weeks after Brandon Rodriguez was found dead in his cell on Rikers on August, 10th, the cause of death was also reportedly suicide. Mr. Guallpa is at least the ninth person to die in DOC custody in 2021.

The two deaths are indicative of a larger crisis unfolding on Rikers Island tied to Department of Correction employees not showing up for work. According to The New York Times, staff members failed to report for 2,300 shifts in the month of July without providing any notice.

Earlier this month, The Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Defender Services, The Bronx Defenders, New York County Defender Services, Queens Defenders and Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem called on Mayor Bill de Blasio, Governor Kathy Hochul, DOCCS Commissioner Anthony Annucci, and DOC Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi to remedy the untenable conditions in New York City jails.

“The jails simply cannot house people safely, their letter reads in part. “In addition to the increasing spread of COVID-19, a mass wave of staff absenteeism has created an extraordinarily dangerous disruption to both security and basic services for people in custody. For this reason among many other complex factors, the New York City Department of Correction cannot presently maintain basic levels of health, safety, and security in the jails.”

“We demand that our elected leaders address this crisis; ask prosecutors and judges to use their discretion to reduce the number of people sent to jail and release people currently held in the city jails; and urge the DOC to use its power to release people currently held in city jails and to treat those who remain in custody with basic human dignity,” the attorneys wrote in a new letter following Mr. Guallpa passing.

The Board of Correction echoed that sentiment, issuing their own letter which reads: “The Board will work with criminal justice stakeholders to expeditiously decarcerate. As long as the population steadily rises and the staffing crisis continues, persons in custody and those who protect and work with them are in an impossible position and these troubling conditions will persist. It is time for all stakeholders to come together to address this crisis.”