Several members of the New York City Council have introduced a bill that would require the Department of Correction to enhance its reporting process and provide more transparency regarding the deaths of inmates under their custody. This proposed legislation aims to establish more oversight and accountability for the department when it comes to reporting such incidents.
This year, eight individuals have lost their lives either while in custody or shortly after their release.
Council Members Carilina Rivera, Lincoln Restler, and Tiffany Cabán, along with Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, are introducing the legislation.
In May, the DOC made a controversial decision to stop disclosing the deaths of inmates, which partially inspired the bill.
The passing of the DOC would entail the implementation of definite protocols to be adhered to in the event of a person’s death while in custody. The department would be obligated to promptly inform the medical examiner, the defense attorney of the deceased, and the general public.
A crucial factor that couldn’t be overlooked is the prompt notification of the family. Tamara Carter, who lost her son, Brandon Rodriguez, while in custody in August 2021, believes that receiving information about his death took a week, causing her immense pain and distress. Therefore, swift communication with the family is imperative in such cases.
“All the proof that we had to show and executorship and all that stuff, I just think it’s absolutely ridiculous. Yet, they quote in the news they send their condolences to me, yet they never notified me,” said Carter.
As per the proposed law, the Department of Corrections (DOC) would be obligated to provide all pertinent records to facilitate death investigations. Additionally, a Jail Death Review Board would be established to examine the systemic problems related to fatalities in DOC facilities.
“We just know that the conditions inside the jail system are really unacceptable for the incarcerated and officers alike. And so, while we want more transparency and public accounting, we had to codify this change and notification process, and I’m glad we’re able to do that in the next few weeks,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera, who is sponsoring the bill.
According to Rivera, her colleagues in the City Council are likely to show their strong support for the legislation. She expresses confidence in the widespread acceptance of this legal measure.