When Visitors Were Banned From Rikers Island, Even More Drugs Showed Up


Last April, Thomas Earl Braunson III was found dead in his cell on Rikers Island. The 35-year-old had struggled with addiction throughout his life, family said, and in the end that battle proved fatal. 

Braunson, who had become a father just three months earlier, succumbed to a deadly dose of fentanyl, heroin, and PCP, according to the city Medical Examiner.

Department of Correction investigators are still trying to determine how that contraband got to Braunson behind bars. But his access to drugs was hardly an outlier during the height of New York City’s pandemic when social programs were shut down and visitors were not allowed on the island.

In fact, internal jails numbers suggest that in that period — when only corrections officers, staff, and eventually certain contractors and service providers could enter — detainees may have had even greater access to drugs. 

Between April of 2020 and May of 2021, correction department authorities seized banned drugs inside city jails more than 2,600 times, according to data obtained by THE CITY.

That’s more than double the number of such seizures made during the same time period from 2018 to 2019 when the jail population was larger and there were more people coming and going, Correction department records show.

Source: The City