A report has surfaced claiming that corrections officers at Riker’s Island neglected a 56-year old homeless man who died while in custody at the facility. Jerome Murdough, a mentally ill veteran, died while in a jail cell when the temperature in that cell climbed to at least 100 degrees. Murdough, who had been taken into custody for trespassing, basically “baked to death” (according to a statement obtained by the AP) in a shocking case of inmate abuse in New York‘s infamous prison. Murdough was on anti-psychotic and anti-seizure medication which may or may not have contributed to his death by making him more susceptible to the heat.
An investigation into the death uncovered faulty equipment that accidentally allowed the temperature in Murdough’s cell to climb dangerously high. A small vent in the cell (which can be opened by inmates) was found closed. The AP reports that persons familiar with the case who spoke under the promise of anonymity said the coroner would likely find that Murdough died of dehydration and/or heat stroke.
Murdough, a former Marine, was homeless and was (as family members note) simply looking for a warm place to sleep when he was arrested in the public stairwell of a housing complex. Sadly, nearly 40% of all the inmates at Riker’s Island have some sort of mental illness though officers at the facility aren’t adequately trained to handle the needs of such individuals. The unit in which Murdough’s cell was housed was supposedly a special observation unit specifically designed so officers could keep close watch on mentally ill inmates. Standard procedure at the unit is to check in on each inmate every 15 minutes but Murdough was dead for nearly four hours before his body was discovered.
In a tragic twist, the victim’s mother was not informed of her own son’s death until a month after the fact by reporters investigating the story.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of inmate abuse at Riker’s Island, including physical abuse, neglect, or abuses of your civil rights, call the Law Offices of Nussin S. Fogel for a free consultation at (800) 734-9338 or (212) 385-1122 to learn your rights.