Legal Aid Society


Crisis on Rikers: Tenth New Yorker Dies in Custody

The situation on Rikers Island continues to spiral out of control with the death of yet another young man. Esias Johnson, a 24-year-old client of The Legal Aid Society, was pronounced dead on Tuesday after being found unresponsive in his cell, as reported by CBS 2 New York.

“He was a beloved son and brother. We mourn alongside his family, and we join their call for answers,” reads a statement from Legal Aid.

Mr. Johnson is the latest victim of a New York City jail system in crisis. Segundo Guallpa died on Rikers Island on August 30th, and Brandon Rodriguez passed while in custody on August 10th. Esias is at least the tenth person to die in Department of Correction custody in 2021.

In addition to the increasing spread of COVID-19, a mass wave of staff absenteeism has compounded long-standing problems to create an extraordinarily dangerous environment for people in custody. Legal Aid is calling on City Hall, the District Attorneys, the courts, and every stakeholder in the criminal system to take immediate steps to remove people from this dire situation.

“The Department of Correction continues to demonstrate that it cannot house people safely. Mr. Johnson is at least the third person to die on Rikers in the last 30 days,” Legal Aid’s statement continues. “Reducing the jail population is the only way to avoid further deaths and swift action is desperately needed.”