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Advocates Call 3rd Rikers Island Death In July “Sickening”

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By: Coral Murphy Marcos via Patch

QUEENS — A 47-year-old man died at Rikers Island over the weekend after having spent nearly four months in the custody of city jails, according to a Department of Correction spokesperson.

William Johnstone was found unresponsive in his cell in the George R. Vierno Center at about 1:50 p.m. on July 15, according to the DOC spokesperson. Johnstone was taken to Mount Sinai Queens, where he was later pronounced dead about 3:50 p.m.

Johnstone had been in custody since March 24, 2023, according to the Department. The cause of death is unknown, officials said.

The 47-year-old marks Rikers Island’s third death this month, both due to medical emergencies.

“It’s sickening,” said Melanie Dominguez, lead organizer of the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice. “The conditions in the city’s jail system are horrific and life-threatening.”

Activists and attorneys have been urging federal judge Laura Taylor Swain to appoint a receiver — an independent manager — to take over the city jails amid several reports revealing the security and health issues that many have labeled a “humanitarian crisis.”

Earlier this month, a report by a court-appointed monitor detailed the gruesome sanitary conditions at Rikers Island this year.

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