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 Another Person Dies at Rikers, the 21st Death in City Jails Under Mayor Adams 

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Contact:  Yonah Zeitz, yonah@katalcenter.org | (347) 201-2769

Follow on Twitter @KatalCenter | #CloseRikers #CutShutInvestNY

Another Person Dies at Rikers, the 21st Death in City Jails Under Mayor Adams 

Latest Death Comes as Adams Seeks to Cut Core Services, House Asylum Seekers in Jails, and Evade Transparency and Oversite of City Jails 

New York, NY:  Today, news broke that yet another incarcerated person died at the Rikers Island Jail Complex. This is the 21st person to die in city jails since Eric Adams became mayor. 

Statement from gabriel sayegh, Co-Executive Director of the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice:  “As expected under the administration of Mayor Eric Adams, yet another human being has died at Rikers – Rubu Zhao, aged 52, held in the most heavily-staffed psychiatric units on Rikers. He’d been jailed since December, awaiting trial. We send condolences to Mr. Zhao’s family. 

What’s happening at Rikers is a horrendous, nonstop disaster. And Mayor Adams is working overtime to make it worse. Mr. Zhao was the 21st person to die in New York City jails under Mayor Adams. The mayor has proposed cutting vital reentry and other service programs for people jailed at Rikers, even though these programs are essential to public safety. The mayor is proposing to house asylum seekers – who are pursuing their legal right to apply for asylum – in a decrepit, currently-closed jail facility on Rikers. The mayor has worked to undermine the oversight role of the Board of Correction, including by appointing a new chair who is doing the mayor’s bidding to hinder the board from functioning at all.

And that is all from just the last 48 hours. Since Adams became mayor, he’s made it a top priority to send even more people to Rikers, and the jail population has continued to rise. This is a clear indication that Adams has abandoned the 2019 city plan to close Rikers. For this mayor, cops and jails are his preferred response to nearly every problem in our city, as reflected in his latest budget proposal which cuts funding to libraries, childcare, food for seniors, CUNY, and mental health services, while continuing to richly fund the NYPD and the Department of Correction. For this mayor, cruelty is the point. 

This is madness. It’s a scandal happening right out in the open. If Adams has his way, Rikers will remain open forever and the city’s entire social safety net will be dismantled. It’s sickening. This is why organizations and communities groups all across the city, representing a wide-range of issues, are fighting back against the mayor’s regressive and draconian agenda. Katal joins our allies in calling on the City Council to use its power in the budget process to hold this mayor accountable. The city must cut the jail population, shut down Rikers, and invest in true public safety: housing, health care, education, and jobs.”

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