Rikers Island officers are accused of abusing mentally ill inmates. As detailed in an internal review, corrections officers “seriously injured” at least 129 inmates in a period of 11 months. A majority of those injured have been formally diagnosed as mentally ill.
The review was ordered following the deaths of two inmates, who were both classified as mentally ill.
On February 15, Jerome Murdough literally “baked to death” inside a 110 degree cell. Following a thorough investigation, authorities determined the 56-year-old man complained about the excessive heat on numerous occasions. Although several guards noted the unusually high temperature, the issue was never resolved.
As reported by Huffington Post, Officer Carol Lackner was tasked with monitoring the mentally ill inmate. However, she left her post without permission. Twenty minutes later — Murdough was found dead.
Murdough’s family blames prison administration, as Lackner was previous disciplined for abandoning her post. Although she was suspended for her behavior, she continued to work at the prison.
On May 22, a second mentally ill inmate died of apparent neglect. Authorities believe Bradley Ballard, age 39, suffered with an untreated infection for at least one week.
As reported by Daily News, Ballard attempted to mutilate his genitalia with a rubber band. According to reports, the inmate was discovered unresponsive in his cell. He was completely nude, covered in feces, and his genitals were swollen and infected. Authorities believe he died of sepsis.
In both cases, Rikers Island officers were suspected of abusing and neglecting the inmates. The internal review suggests Murdough and Ballard were among more than 100 inmates who were injured through neglect or blatant abuse.
As discussed by Huffington Post, up to 40 percent of inmates housed on Rikers Island are formally classified as mentally ill. The 2013 review identified 129 inmates who were “seriously injured” directly or indirectly by prison officers. Of those injured, 77 percent were mentally ill.
Former Director of Mental Health Services, Daniel Selling, said “there’s lots of brutality… horrible brutality” taking place on Rikers Island. However, few officers have been disciplined for their behavior.
Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte is tasked with identifying issues and formulating a plan of action. Although he admits the prison is “deeply troubled,” he denies an ongoing “culture of violence.”
Ponte said he and his colleagues are currently “working to address” accusations that Rikers Island officers are abusing mentally ill inmates.
[Image via New York Post]