Brandon Rodriquez Died Inside Rikers, He Should’ve Gotten Bail

"Brandon Rodriguez is yet another New Yorker to lose their life on Rikers Island
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Tuesday's death of Brandon Rodriquez inside the Rikers Island jail facility is another troubling reminder of the awfully deadly circumstances inside America's prisons and jails.

Rodriquez death follows the recent deaths of Robert Jackson and Jose Mejia Martinez.

Initially, Rodriquez faced multiple charges before most of them were dropped leaving but one misdemeanor charge. However, because of the $15,000 bail he was placed under he remained imprisoned inside Rikers Island. Rodriquez's case highlights why bail reform remains an important issue, despite all of the unsubstantiated claims that police advocates have been making attempting to link it to the nationwide upsurge in crime during the once-in-a-lifetime crisis of COVID-19.

Rodriquez's lawyer addressed the bail issue that kept him in jail.

“My office is still investigating the circumstances of this awful tragedy,” said lawyer Sharon Covino, to the Advance/ earlier this week. “Our hearts go out to Mr. Rodriguez, his family, but this is just another example of the importance and necessity of bail reform.”

“Mr. Rodriguez is being prosecuted on misdemeanor charges and yet he was incarcerated on $15,000 bond over my objection,” added Covin.

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams also released the following statement on the death of Brandon Rodriquez:

"Brandon Rodriguez is yet another New Yorker to lose their life on Rikers Island - I pray for peace and comfort for his family. Without a trial, he received a death sentence - a sentence also suffered by Robert Jackson, Jose Mejia Martinez, and too many others in just the last few months. We need a thorough investigation of these incidents, and we need transformational change of the systems that tacitly and overtly permit it.

"As we move forward efforts to close Rikers and decarcerate across the city, that work must be paired with a focus on maintaining humane conditions for people who are incarcerated. It has long been clear that mismanagement, misplaced priorities, and missing resources have created an environment that harms both corrections staff and incarcerated individuals, an environment in which humanity and health of those inside are disregarded, with too often tragic results."

The Brooklyn Defender Services, The Bronx Defenders, The Legal Aid Society, Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, and New York County Defender Services also issued the following statement regarding Mr. Rodriguez’s death:

“We are deeply saddened by Mr. Rodriguez’s death in DOC custody, and demand the immediate decarceration of New Yorkers currently held in unacceptable conditions on Rikers Island and in all New York City jails. As advocates, we have been raising the alarm about substandard care and inhumane treatment in these locations for many years, yet the conditions have continued to deteriorate. The pandemic has both exacerbated and exposed the deplorable circumstances in which our incarcerated neighbors are forced to live.

"While we are still learning the specific circumstances of Mr. Rodriguez’s death, it comes at a time when COVID-19 and already-dangerous conditions are wreaking havoc in the jails and increasing the threat to incarcerated people’s lives in myriad ways. Rikers Island is dangerously overcrowded. The jail population has surged past pre-pandemic levels, while the failure of DOC staff to report to work has left many of our clients without adequate food, medical attention, or access to basic services that the City is legally required to provide.

"Meanwhile, jails are growing more crowded by the day and COVID-19 infection rates are ticking back up as the highly-contagious Delta variant spreads. 5,902 people were held on Rikers as of August 6, 2021, more than the 5,557 people caged there on March 16, 2020, the early days of the pandemic, when the virus raged through the jails. The situation is particularly dangerous given the findings of the bombshell Board of Correction report we obtained in March, which concluded that overcrowding in city jails contributed to the death of three people in DOC custody last year.

"The solution is obvious: The City must reduce its jail population immediately or callously risk more deaths in DOC custody.

"There is simply no reason for prosecutors to continue to seek bail, which amounts to a potential death sentence on pending charges. We call on the City’s District Attorneys and the courts to recognize the role their position on bail plays in exposing people to life-threatening conditions and human rights abuses. The City must use every tool at its disposal to release people from Rikers and all its jails. It is a matter of life and death.

"As we mourn Mr. Rodriguez, we will continue to fight for the freedom of our neighbors and safe conditions for all incarcerated New Yorkers.”

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