A corrections officer at Rikers Island died after jumping off the Verrazano Bridge on Friday, in an incident that has renewed concerns about the staffing and safety crisis at the notorious New York prison.
Edward Roman, 38, jumped from the Staten Island side of the 700-foot-tall suspension bridge just after 6:30am, police confirmed on Friday afternoon.
The Staten Island Advance reported that the officer had survived the initial fall and was alive when first responders pulled him from the water, but later died after being taken to Staten Island University Hospital.
Roman, a resident of Long Island, had been employed by the Department of Corrections (DOC) for more than a decade, where he was assigned to the North Infirmary Command, a jail at the notorious New York prison.
‘Edward Roman served this city and this department honorably as correction officer for 10 years,’ DOC Commissioner Louis Molina said Friday following news of the officer’s death.
‘Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and loved ones. We had been praying for his recovery, and now this tragic loss will be felt across the agency.’
Edward Roman, 38, jumped to his death on the Staten Island side of the suspension bridge just after 6:30 am, cops said Friday afternoon
New York Police Department divers were subsequently deployed into the bay, where they pulled the from the water, an NYPD spokeswoman said.
The incident saw two lanes on the bridge’s Brooklyn-bound portion shut down for more than an hour, with one Staten-Island-bound lane also blocked for a time, sources said.
All lanes were reopened at about 8:08 am.
Benny Boscio, the president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, blamed the suicide on the worsening conditions being experienced at Rikers, which has seen its staff dwindle in recent years.
‘Correction Officer Roman was well liked and respected by his fellow officers. He had his whole life and career ahead of him,’ Boscio said.
Witnesses told police that Roman parked his vehicle near the middle of the nearly 700-foot-tall bridge’s lower level before jumping to his death
‘This tragedy is also a solemn reminder of the enormous stress correction officers face on a daily basis. The worsening conditions in our jails doesn’t just affect the inmates.
‘Our officers go to work every day not knowing if they will return home the same way they left. They go to work every day not knowing if they will miss time with their loved ones because they are forced to work a double or triple shift.’
Staffing at Rikers – along with dangerous conditions for both inmates and DOC officers – has been a concern for years but worsened during the coronavirus.
As a result, the prison, which houses more than 5,000 inmates, has since been plagued with escalating violence, detainee deaths, and widespread staff absences.
On Thursday, the day before Roman’s death, Mayor Eric Adams created a task force to address those issues.
‘Rikers Island has been mired in dysfunction and plagued by parallel crises for decades. We cannot – and will not – allow that to continue,’ Adams said in a statement announcing the group.
Staffing at Rikers – along with dangerous conditions for both inmates and DOC officers – has been a concern for years, with the surfacing of the coronavirus in 2020 amplifying the issue
Chaired by Chief Counsel Brendan McGuire and Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Phillip Banks, the force seeks to implement reforms to fix ‘dysfunctional government and agencies operating within silos’ of the prison, that have led to ‘dangerous conditions.’
The group will also work to address the numerous unstaffed posts and extra work for staff currently employed by the prison. Inmates are said to be lacking basic services and medical treatment.
The announcement comes after an inmate committed suicide in the prison Saturday – the fourth to do so so far this year, suggesting that federal intervention could be the next step if conditions do not improve in the near future.
In 2018, the DOC opened a wellness center for civilian and uniformed staff, with then-Commissioner Cynthia Brann dubbing it a ‘place of respite.’
The DOC said it was also offering counseling to staff in need.