Another Rikers detainee dies, marking 9th death in NYC correction custody this year
A cell block is seen at Rikers Island Correctional Center in the East River on March 9, 2021 in New York City.
A Rikers Island detainee died overnight on Wednesday, according to his attorneys and city officials.
The detainee, Manish Kunwar, was 27. His death marks the ninth death in New York City Department of Correction custody this year.
Kunwar was found unresponsive on Thursday morning and was pronounced dead at about 6:20 a.m., DOC spokesperson Frank Dwyer told Gothamist. The city’s medical examiner will determine the cause of death.
Kunwar was arraigned on Sept. 27 and had been in custody on Rikers for just seven days, according to his attorney Jane Remler, of the Legal Aid Society. He was detained in the Eric M. Taylor Center, which is where the jail complex’s new arrivals are typically held.
“Twenty-seven-years old, so young,” Remler said. “This is a tragedy.”
She said Kunwar was extradited from Delaware to face two bail jumping charges, one charge of robbery and one charge of grand larceny. She said he had spent five months in a psychiatric facility in Baltimore.
Remler said the news of Kunwar’s death was “awful” to hear, especially considering that deaths on Rikers are “not that unique.” She added that she saw Kunwar at the jail on Monday and he seemed calm.
In total, 28 DOC detainees have died since Mayor Eric Adams was inaugurated in January 2022, and the city’s jail system had its highest detainee death rate in a quarter-century last year.
The most recent death at Rikers before Kunwar’s happened less than six weeks ago. Donny Ubiera, 33, died in custody early on the morning of Aug. 22, in his cell at the George R. Vierno Center.
The Adams administration is currently fighting in court to stave off a federal takeover of Rikers. For years, the correction department has faced scrutiny over mismanagement of the jails and conditions that advocates and detainees have decried as inhumane and deadly.
In a statement, Legal Aid said Kunwar’s case highlights the harm of incarceration in lieu of support services.
“If our client had access to the services he needed and stable housing, today’s tragedy could have been avoided,” the organization said. “The carceral system is no place for people struggling with mental or substance abuse issues, and all criminal legal system stakeholders must pursue alternatives that prioritize community-based resources over the confines of a cage.”
It called for a full investigation into the circumstances of Kunwar’s death.