Civil Rights

NYC Department of Correction No Longer Notifying the Public of Deaths of Incarcerated People

July 3, 2023
Dimly lit prison hallway

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In June 2023, the Department of Correction (DOC) abruptly decided to no longer inform the public when an inmate at a NYC prison dies. In the last year alone, nineteen inmates have died in Rikers, raising concerns and questions about the DOC and the safety of the inmates that reside in their jails.

Within the last few weeks, the federal monitor stated that the DOC failed to inform the oversight team of five incidents of death or injury that had occurred in prisons despite the fact that a court order requires the DOC to report all deaths and injuries to a federal monitor that oversees local jails. In response, the DOC stated that they are not required to release this information and could stop at their own discretion.

The DOC's statement raises cause for concern because the federal monitor will no longer be able to identify trends in negligence and unsafe prison conditions. For example, two of the deaths that the DOC failed to report were likely of Rubu Zhao and Joshua Valles who both died in May. For Mr. Valles, the DOC outrageously claimed that he did not die in custody as he was “compassionately released” after he was taken from prison to the hospital. Yet the DOC also alleged that Mr. Valles passed away due to a heart attack and yet at the hospital it was revealed that he had severe brain injury and skull fracture. Given that the DOC made two conflicting statements about the death of the same individual, it is evident that there needs to be strict standards to hold these facilities accountable. Without proper disclosure, legal professionals and political activists are unable to properly assess potential dangers to inmates or how DOC facilities may be failing to maintain proper standards of care.

“Shattered teeth. Punctured lungs. Broken bones. Over a dozen years, New York State officials have documented the results of attacks by hundreds of prison guards on the people in their custody.”

Incarcerated individuals still have rights, the most fundamental being the right to safety. Although inmates are under the control of the DOC and do not have the freedom of movement while incarcerated, they still possess legal rights in prison.

If you or your loved one is an inmate in a NY Jail and are a survivor of assault, our attorneys can provide a discreet, confidential evaluation of your claim, and will aggressively fight to hold those accountable for their actions. We understand how difficult it is to speak up against the authorities, and value the insights and courage of those who do against all odds.

At the Jacob Fuchsberg Law Firm, our dedicated team of Lawyers for Inmates’ Rights represent survivors of jail violence, and we will help you get the best possible outcome for your claim. With a history of client success, including obtaining the largest known settlement against BOP for inmate sexual abuse, the Jacob Fuchsberg Law Firm will ensure that you get the representation you deserve.

We can help when the unimaginable happens.

Contact us today for a free consultation.