Isabdul Karim was being held on parole violations when he died on Sunday, becoming the 11th person jailed this year to have died.
When Governor Kathy Hochul announced Friday that nearly 200 people over minor parole violations at the Rikers Island prison complex would be released immediately, Isabdul Karim was not on the list.
Ms Hochul’s order, which was designed to ease a crisis inside the infamous prison, ordered the release of those whose violations were considered technical like Mr Karim’s. But only prisoners who were detained for 30 days as per Ms. Hochul’s order; Mr Karim was then jailed for 29 years.
On Sunday, his 31st day at the Rikers, Mr Karim died minutes after suffering a medical emergency, and what his lawyers and longtime partner said were weeks without medical and mental health care. He was the 11th person to die in the custody of New York City’s prison system this year.
The death of Mr Karim, a 42-year-old father of two children, underscored the combined crisis affecting Rikers Island – largely due to staff absenteeism and a surge in coronavirus cases – which officials, detainees, lawyers and staff have said created inhumane conditions. happened. Serious deficiencies in medical and mental health care for those living in and on the prison premises.
Mr Karim, who used a wheelchair and had high blood pressure, diabetes and a history of epilepsy and mental problems, contracted the virus while in prison, according to his lawyers, although an official cause of death has not been determined. Is. It is not clear whether the release would have kept Mr Karim alive.
Prisons commissioner Vincent Shiraldi said in a statement: “Providing the safety of those in captivity is our main mission, and I am saddened that we have witnessed another death of a human assigned to our care.” To be natural, “but that doesn’t change the fact that there are serious issues in our prisons.”
Ms Hochul signed a new law on Friday in an effort to reduce the prison population by ending the practice of imprisoning people with minor breaches of parole. In keeping with the standards set by law, it ordered the release of 191 people from Rikers, of whom 165 had been released by Monday afternoon.
Under the law, which goes into full force in September of next year, imprisonment would be abolished for most people accused of technical parole violations – such as breaking curfew or missing an appointment. But some minor violations can result in up to 30 days in prison.
The list of detainees on Rikers, who met the 30-day criteria, was drawn up on 16 September – a day before the order and two days before Mr Karim would be eligible.
“He should have been released,” said Lorraine McVillie, director of the Parole Revocation Defense Unit at the Legal Aid Society. “This is an example of a life-or-death situation when people are locked in on a parole violation.”
But Thomas Mealy, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, said Mr Karim’s case would have been reviewed this week, and that he had missed the cutoff for release by days, not hours. Future releases, he said, will continue on a rolling basis.
Mr Karim, who was released from prison in June 2018 after being convicted of selling cocaine to an undercover officer, was ordered to complete his two-year supervised release, according to his lawyers and state records.
But by January 2020, Mr Karim had stopped meeting with his parole officer, and a warrant had been issued for his arrest, state officials and his lawyers said.
Then, in August, Mr. Karim was captured by the Department of Corrections and the Office of Community Supervision’s Office of Special Investigations, which took him to Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx for medical treatment. His longtime partner, Felicia Hough Bullock, said in a phone interview on Monday that Mr Karim had been stabbed in an altercation.
He was admitted to the hospital overnight. He was sent to Rikers on 18 August.
His lawyers and Ms Huff Bullock said Mr Karim was placed in an intake cell for 10 days. He said he had little access to food and was denied medicine. Prison and correctional health officials did not immediately respond to questions about the allegations.
“‘They’re not feeding us,’” Ms. Huff Bullock recalled telling him during a phone call. “‘I don’t know what’s going on. They’re treating us like animals; worse than animals.’”
At her preliminary hearing on the parole violation on 31 August, Ms McVillee said her lawyers asked for an early release, citing her deteriorating health. After Mr Karim suffered an asthma attack, he said, hearing was reduced. He was scheduled to return to trial on 27 September.
But advocates for those in jail said Mr Karim should never have been detained.
“He should have been in the community with his family, friends and network, and not in a prison suffering from an ongoing humanitarian crisis,” said Tina Luongo, the attorney in charge of the Legal Aid Society’s criminal defense practice. “Technical violations – including marijuana use and failing to report Mr. Karim’s remand due to non-criminal charges – should not amount to the death penalty.”
In the days before his death, Mr Karim had slipped and later complained of chest pain, Ms Huff Bullock said other detainees told him. She said the doctors had planned to do an X-ray, but didn’t. By Sunday, Mr Karim had complained that he had increased pain in his chest, Ms Huff Bullock said. He died at a medical clinic of the North Infirmary Command at 7:25 pm
“They were actually playing Russian roulette with him,” said Ms. Huff Bullock through tears. “They let him die.”
He blamed Mayor Bill de Blasio and prison officials for not doing more to protect Mr Karim and rebuked corrections officials, some of whom have been accused of being too sick to avoid work. About a third of the prison system’s officers are sick or unable to work with detainees.
“These people are being paid for nothing,” said Ms. Huff Bullock. “Someone has to stand, and no one is standing.”
The city responded to absenteeism on Monday by filing a lawsuit against the union representing its prison officers, saying the staff absenteeism that has caused a crisis at Rikers amounted to an illegal strike that killed employees and detainees. equally endangered.
And on Monday evening, lawyers behind a civil rights lawsuit that sparked widespread abuse at Rikers — and led to a 2015 agreement to appoint a federal monitor to oversee the prison — filed an emergency motion, seeking to deal with the detainees’ face. “Extraordinary danger” was cited. Fall in prison functions. Lawyers called for an emergency court hearing and possibly the release of the detainees.
Mr. Karim’s half-sister, Dhuha Abdul-Karim, 41, from Long Island, said she was devastated when she learned of her brother’s death on Monday morning. Ms. Karim said the two had not spoken in nearly six years because of Mr. Karim’s continued involvement in “criminal activity”.
Ms Karim said she tried to contact him after seeing a news story that said she had attempted suicide and SwallowingEd keyed a battery while being held at Rikers in 2016, but was unable to reach it.
“I don’t know what happened to him when he left my house,” she said.
Jonah E. Bromwich And precious fondren Contributed reporting. Kitty Bennett Contributed to research.