Inmate Esias Johnson Died of Suspected Drug Overdose At The Rikers Island Jail
NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK (September 7, 2021) – An inmate identified as Esias Johnson has tragically died due to a suspected drug overdose in his cell at the Rikers Island Prison.
New York City correctional officers are saying that the death took place on Tuesday morning. A correctional officer found Esias Johnson unresponsive in his cell at the Anna M. Kross Center.
Medical staff were alerted and began life-saving measures. Sadly, Esias Johnson died despite life-saving measures.
An autopsy remains pending but Rikers Island jail officials suspect that the death may be linked to an overdose. This death comes just one month after the inmate was taken into Department of Correction custody.
Esias Johnson was awaiting trial prior to his death. City officials have been calling for reform at the Riker’s Island prison following a string of inmate deaths and numerous reports of self-harm by inmates.
A full investigation remains ongoing at this time.
Liability In Inmate Deaths At Rikers Island Jail
There is a long history of inmate abuse, death and official misconduct at the Rikers Island jail. The New York Times and Associated press did an investigation into the prison from 2011 to 2013. What they found is that there is a “deep-seated culture of violence” against inmates that included over 1,057 injuries. Just this year alone there have been 10 inmate deaths at the Rikers Island jail. There have also been reports of:
- Correctional officers forcibly taking inmates to the ground and beating them.
- Four adolescent inmates reportedly being beaten by multiple officers.
- Restrained inmates being punched by officers.
These reports and many others have led some officials and organizers to call for Rikers Island Jail to be closed. Depending on the circumstances of any particular incident New York City could face liability for inmate deaths or injuries that occur in city jails. For example, all inmates have a constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Inmates also have a right to medical care and to live in a reasonably safe environment.
When a jail is deliberately indifferent to the serious medical needs of an inmate they could be held liable in the event of an inmate’s death. Part of the problem is that many prisons across New York and the United States have been privatized. These privatized jails are incentivized in many ways to cut costs – which often leads to lapses for inmate security, safety and health. For example, staffing shortages and overcrowding pose a serious safety risk for inmates.
The NYPD Patrol Guide indicates that there should be an officer assigned to monitor inmates in their holding cells. This is typically done every 15 minutes. Though, inmates with known suicidal ideations may need additional monitoring for their own safety. Jail staff also need to do their best to prevent contraband (e.g., weapons and drugs such as fentanyl) from reaching inmates. But this does not always happen. When properly administered, naloxone can help reverse the affects of an opioid overdose. There are many steps that should be taken after any inmate died in police custody.
- Eye witnesses should be interviewed
- Surveillance footage should be sought
- Work records should be examined
- An autopsy should be performed
- A wrongful death attorney should be consulted
Correctional facilities must do their best to keep inmates safe and healthy. When they fail to do that they can be held to account. The family of any inmate that died in police custody may be able to seek justice through a wrongful death claim. Damages in a civil claim can help cover lost wages, medical bills and funeral costs. In order to win any civil claim plaintiffs must be able to demonstrate negligence. A wrongful death attorney can examine all of the unique facts of your case free of cost and get to the bottom of what may have caused an inmate’s death.
Investigating An Inmate Death At Rikers Island Jail
We at Gersowitz Libo & Korek, P.C. extend our deepest condolences to the family of Esias Johnson. Any person that may have information about what happened should reach out to investigators. There have been far too many deaths at the Rikers Island jail.
This incident also raises a number of safety concerns. If the inmate did die due to an overdose, how were they able to obtain the drugs ingested? Were correctional officers properly monitoring the victim’s cell? Drug overdoses at jails are largely preventable when the right safety measures are put in place. It is our sincere hope that city officials take action for the protection of all inmates in New York City.