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How a Prison Guard Found Out His Brother Had Died at Rikers Island

 John Loadholt holds a picture of he and his twin brother as children.
John Loadholt holds a picture of he and his twin brother as children.
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DNAinfo/Rosa Goldensohn

DNAinfo New York broke the news Monday that the city plans to not renew the contract for Corizon, the private medical provider that cares for inmates in the city's jails.

At least a dozen Rikers inmates have died after care that was deemed inadequate, as DNAinfo and the Associated Press have reported over the last year.

Each of these people had a story. I wrote about the heartbreaking tale of one man in depth for 219, the magazine at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.


John Loadholt died from an asthma attack at Rikers Island in circumstances the state deemed preventable. Because the state did not release their report publicly, his twin brother, Ken, never saw it or got an explanation of his death.

Here's an excerpt from the 219 story, which picks up after I showed him the report:

"When I visited Ken’s house in Vineland, an Army flag waved in the driveway. Mary ironed in the den, a scarf tied around her head. John, in a T-shirt and shorts, sitting on a bed, smiled down from a photo hung in the living room. Ken slowly turned the pages of the State Commission of Correction report, learning the details of John’s last minutes.

He read aloud from the report. 'Loadholt’s asthma was inadequately managed by Prison Health Services, Inc. (PHS, Inc.), a business corporation holding itself out as a medical care provider.'

He sat quietly, tucked in his chair in a dark corner near the door, reading random pages and sentences out of order. He was remorseful, remembering that his mother, from her deathbed, told him to care for John.

'I knew what she meant,' he said.

He thought his job as a corrections officer might have thrown him off the scent of the answers he sought eight years ago. Even though he had seen the worst of what happens in jail, he said, he wondered if some part of him defended it, too.

But he tried. When I asked to see the death certificate, he went into his office and emerged moments later with two copies in a crisp blue folder. He also held a black-and-white photo of the two boys, in Sunday best, 5 or 6 years old, 1968 or ’69. Maybe it was around when Bobby Kennedy died, or Martin Luther King.

Ken never knew what John thought of him. 'I mean, I never really asked him,' Ken said, 'but he, say if, you know like probably more times than I can recall, he would say, "You did good for yourself. You got out."'

'I don’t know why they refer to it as getting out,' Ken said.

And with that, he had to go to bed. He had worked two doubles in a row at the Cumberland County Jail, and would work another tomorrow."

All the state death reports I have obtained using Freedom of Information requests are available on DNAinfo's Scribd page.