Press Statements

VOCAL-NY Responds to the Death of Elijah Muhammad, the 10th Person to Die on Rikers Island This Year

July 14, 2022

CONTACT: Mariah McGough, 


Interviews Available With VOCAL-NY Members Who Are Currently Detained on Rikers, and Those Who Have Been Detained There in Recent Years

See Media From Today’s Rally to #CloseRikers Here and Here

NEW YORK — In response to news of Elijah Muhammad’s death on Rikers Island and following a rally today to #CloseRikers, VOCAL-NY released the following statements:

“I don’t want to die here on Rikers Island. It is a place where you want to hurt yourselves or others. We are left unsupervised for hours on end. We are being manipulated into acts of violence while the COs responsible cover it up. This has been going on for decades and it won’t end until Rikers ends,” said Aamir Burnett, VOCAL-NY Civil Rights Union Member who is currently detained on Rikers.

“As someone who was recently detained on Rikers, my heart is saddened by this news. It feels like the COs have given up on their duty to keep people safe. I experienced this first hand while I was on Rikers in June — I almost died from a diabetic ulcer that went untreated for 10 days. The death of Elijah Muhammad and everyone else who has died in DOC custody lies at the feet of Mayor Adams and City Council, who continue to pour billions of dollars into systems designed to kill. These problems on Rikers are not unsolvable, but they can only be solved if the people in charge care about us. Our elected leaders don’t have the moral authority to detain people they can’t care for. Rikers Island must close,” said Ibrahim Ayu, VOCAL-NY Civil Rights Union Leader.

“As a survivor of Rikers, and the torture that it brings, including solitary confinement, the death of Mr. Muhammad does not surprise me. But I am angry. Solitary confinement is torture and the NYC DOC continues to break the law. Mr. Muhammed should not have been in solitary confinement at all! One officer’s firing doesn’t even begin to address the horror of Rikers Island. Every corrections officer and civilian DOC employee that is responsible for his illegal detainment in solitary confinement has his blood on their hands,” said Eileen Maher, VOCAL-NY Civil Rights Union Leader.


Elijah Muhammed’s death on Sunday was just the latest in an alarming number of deaths of detained individuals on Rikers Island. In the past 18 months, nearly 30 people have died while detained in Rikers. In response to the City’s mismanagement of the jail, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York has threatened to remove control from the Adams administration’s Department of Correction, and put it into the hands of the federal government


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