Rikers Inmate Dies after Suicide Watch Ignored

Jail abuse in New York City claimed the life of Rikers Island inmate at the turn of the New Year, potentially foreshadowing a troubling trend for the struggling jail. Rikers Island has been plagued with inmate deaths for years-usually as the result on inmate-on-inmate violence or neglect by corrections officers who have a history of jailer abuse-but one recent case is so shocking that it has civil rights advocates calling for an immediate change at the notorious jail.

The Times originally reported that Fabian Cruz committed suicide in his jail cell after he told a clinician that he planned to harm himself. The clinician asked that Cruz be moved to a mental observation unit but that recommendation was never followed up. In fact, the clinician went to the mental observation unit four times to visit Cruz but the man had never been moved. Just hours later he was found hanging in his cell with a bed sheet tied around his neck.

A corrections officer, who spoke to Times a reporter under the condition of anonymity, said that the guard who had failed to put Cruz on suicide watch had been placed on "modified duty" and was prohibited from working directly with inmates pending results of the official investigation of the death.

Standard procedure is to place potentially suicidal inmates on round-the-clock watch and a specially designed "observation unit" was created for that very purpose. This death, the Times reports, "underscores the dysfunction that continues to pervade the Rikers Island jail complex even as New York City officials scramble to fix it. . ."

The Federal Justice Department is currently suing the City of New York because of the conditions at the jail complex.

If you or a loved one has suffered abuse or neglect at the hands of corrections officers in the Rikers Island facility, contact a New York City jail abuse attorney to discuss whether you may be entitled to financial compensation for your pain and suffering. Call the Law Offices of Nussin S. Fogel for a free consultation at (800) 734-9338 or (212) 385-1122 to learn your rights.

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