THE BRONX, N.Y. (PIX11) — Another Rikers Island inmate died on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Department of Correction said, just one day after the agency submitted a plan to a federal judge with proposals on how to improve conditions at the beleaguered jail complex.
Mary Yehudah, 31, is the fifth Rikers inmate to die in DOC custody so far this year, according to officials. Yehudah was in custody at the Rose M. Singer Center and died at Elmhurst Hospital early Wednesday morning, per the DOC.
Her cause of death was under investigation, pending confirmation from the city medical examiner’s office. Yehuda’s death will be investigated by the state Attorney General’s Office and the NYC Department of Investigation.
Yehudah had been an inmate at Rikers since Feb. 12, according to the DOC. She was facing a first-degree robbery charge.
“Ms. Yehuda’s passing fills us with sadness, every life here is precious. Our thoughts are with her family and loved ones,” DOC Commissioner Louis A. Molina said in a statement Wednesday.
A federal judge is considering whether there should be a federal takeover of the jail complex, which has for years been riddled with problems that created unsafe conditions for both inmates and staff. In the last 18 months, 20 New Yorkers have died in the city’s jails.
In the new action plan filed on Tuesday, the Department of Correction said they would evaluate officers who go out on sick leave for more than 30 days. The department will also develop additional plans to deal with violent inmates.
Criminal justice advocates on Wednesday expressed sadness and outrage in response to Yehuda’s death. Sharon White-Harrigan, the executive director of the Women’s Community Justice Association, called her death “infuriating and heartbreaking.”
“No one belongs at Rikers, especially women and gender-expansive individuals when there is a clear and viable alternative that would end the decades of torture and suffering,” White-Harrigan said. “Gov. [Kathy] Hochul and Mayor [Eric] Adams must act quickly to transform the dormant Lincoln Correctional site at West 110th Street into a first-of-its-kind trauma and healing justice center. This new center can and must replace the Rose M. Singer facility.”
PIX11’s Ayana Harry contributed to this report.