Penny Hughes, 32, who had been at Rikers for 10 months, died on Dec. 4 after suffering a brain hemorrhage from a tumor, she family members said.
Ms. Hughes’s death is the latest in a series of particularly violent incidents at the jail that have brought violence to the attention of the U.S. Justice Department and elevated concerns about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration’s ability to reform the jail system.
A police officer on duty at Rikers was charged on Thursday with the April slaying of Kenneth Boss, a 53-year-old jail inmate. Mr. Boss died after allegedly being assaulted by fellow inmates and a correctional officer in the stairwell of his cells. The officer was seen in video footage aggressively striking Mr. Boss with his baton before sending him to the ground. The officer was removed from the jail after he was captured on video.
A man suffered a fatal stabbing on Nov. 11 inside the jail. The New York Post reported that Nassau County Assistant District Attorney Edward Burke said on Thursday that there was no evidence that Nassau County Jail inmate Safiya Farquhar had been purposely stoned to death by another inmate.
On Nov. 9, Victor Bastidas, 28, was fatally stabbed by other inmates during a fight at the jail, the New York Daily News reported.
Correction Department officials said on Friday that they were conducting an internal investigation into Ms. Hughes’s death. A spokeswoman added that the Correction Department had no comment.
Mr. de Blasio said in a statement that he was “shocked” by the news of Ms. Hughes’s death and added that he would be visiting Rikers to review the area where her death occurred and to “engage directly with the public and staff to learn what happened and improve.”
Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill also said that officers are required to investigate all force used in their custody.
“With the number of tragic incidents at Rikers increasing over the past year, we have added several additional full-time police supervisors to investigate incidents of alleged criminal use of force involving use of force by correction officers,” Mr. O’Neill said in a statement.
In 2017, 189 people died on Rikers Island, according to a report by the city’s Commission of Correction. A review of the jail’s 2016 by The New York Times found that the number of fatalities in the year had nearly doubled.
Rikers Island has been in the news a lot this year. The city brought a federal case against the federal Bureau of Prisons for allegedly ignoring systemic corruption within the jail. It’s been the subject of a documentary called “Jailhouse Lies” and of course, there was the recent beating of another inmate by a correction officer.
The circumstances surrounding Ms. Hughes’s death were not immediately clear.
“It’s a very difficult year. And this is just another ugly example of how this hasn’t been fixed,” Carl Korn, spokesman for Correction Officers Benevolent Association, told The New York Times on Saturday.