Inmate dies in NYC DOC custody as 2021 total surpasses a dozen deaths

Local News

FILE – This March 16, 2011 file photo shows a barbed wire fence outside inmate housing on New York’s Rikers Island correctional facility in New York. New York City’s notorious Rikers Island jail complex, troubled by years of neglect, has spiraled into turmoil during the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

NEW YORK — An inmate in the custody of the New York City Department of Correction died Friday, according to the department.

The man, identified as Victor Mercado, 64, died at about 12:40 p.m. Friday at a hospital while in the custody of DOC. The cause of death is under investigation with confirmation pending from the medical examiner, officials said.

“I am heartbroken to learn of Mr. Mercado’s passing, and we mourn his loss together as a city,” said DOC Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi. “While city officials are working quickly to identify the cause of death, our department is more committed than ever to improve safety across the jail system for staff and detainees.”

A report by the federal monitor assigned to DOC released Thursday said 12 people died in the custody of the department in 2021; based on that data, Mercado’s death would be the 13th. Fifty-one people had died in custody in the last six years, according to the Thursday report.

Mercado’s death, preliminarily, appeared to be medical in nature, officials from DOC said. His family had been notified.

The city’s jail facilities have faced criticism for years, with calls to close the much-maligned Rikers Island complex becoming a key issue for New York City politics; but in recent weeks, the safety of inmates and staffers alike have shifted into the spotlight, with public servants, union officials and activists alike all calling for change.

The situation was even referred to as a “humanitarian crisis.”

In an interview with PIX11 News set to air on PIX on Politics Sunday morning, Schiraldi addressed a report from the New York Times claiming that detainees, not staff, were effectively running the prison.

The inmates are in control,” he said. “I’m not going to question the Times report.”

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