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Rikers Island Reports First Inmate Coronavirus Death

Prison fence
Prison fence Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Rikers Island, which has been hit hard by COVID-19, had its first coronavirus-related inmate death, that of a 53-year-old ex-con who’d been transferred to Bellevue Hospital 10 days earlier.

Michael Tyson, who reportedly was arrested on a parole violation on Feb. 28, was one of 273 inmates at Rikers who tested positive for the virus, according to the New York City Department of Corrections.

A total of 321 correctional staff members – including four officers who died -- and 53 health professionals in the New York City jail system have died from COVID-19, the department reported.

Tyson was released from a New York State prison last year after serving time for drug dealing, then was sent to Rikers for an unspecified parole violation. He was transferred to Bellevue on March 26 and died Sunday, according to multiple reports.

“This tragedy would have been entirely avoidable if only Governor Cuomo had directed [the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS)] to act decisively from the outset of this epidemic to release incarcerated New Yorkers who, like Mr. Tyson, were especially vulnerable to the virus,” Tina Luongo, the attorney-in-charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at the Legal Aid Society said in a news release.

The governor’s office couldn’t be immediately reached for comment Monday.

The society filed a suit in Bronx Supreme Court last Friday on behalf of 100 inmates, including Tyson, arguing for the release of inmates being held for non-criminal technical parole violations.

All were older or had underlying health issues, attorney said.

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