Mentally ill inmate died after 7 days in NYC prison cell

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Mentally ill inmate died after 7 days in NYC prison cell
This December 15, 2010 photo provided by the New York State Department of Correctional Services shows Bradley Ballard in New York. In September of 2014, Ballard, 39, who was mentally ill and an inmate at the Rikers Island jail in New York, died a gruesome death there after being locked alone in his cell for seven days. Documents obtained by The Associated Press show Ballard was checked on dozens of times in his cell before he was rushed to a hospital, where he died hours later. Ballard, found naked, covered in feces with a rubber band tied around his badly infected genitals, was jailed in a similar mental health unit at Rikers Island where another mentally ill inmate died in a 101-degree cell in February. (AP Photo/New York State Department of Correctional Services)
This 1990 photo provided by Curtis Griffin of his step-son Bradley Ballard shows Ballard in Houston when he was 16. In September of 2014, 39-year-old Ballard, who was mentally ill and an inmate at the Rikers Island jail in New York, died a gruesome death there after being locked alone in his cell for seven days. Documents obtained by The Associated Press show Ballard was checked on dozens of times in his cell before he was rushed to a hospital, where he died hours later. Ballard, found naked, covered in feces with a rubber band tied around his badly infected genitals, was jailed in a similar mental health unit at Rikers Island where another mentally ill inmate died in a 101-degree cell in February. (AP Photo/Curtis Griffin)
FILE - In this May 17, 2011 file photo, a section of the Rikers Island prison is seen in New York. In September 2013, a mentally ill New York City inmate named Bradley Ballard died after he was found in his Rikers Island cell naked and covered in feces, with a rubber band tied around his badly infected genitals, after being locked alone in his cell for seven days. Documents obtained by The Associated Press show 39-year-old Bradley Ballard was checked on dozens of times in his cell in September before he was rushed to a hospital. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
FILE - In this May 7, 2011 file photo, a New York Department of Corrections Bus passes the sign at the entrance of the Rikers Island jail complex in New York. Four guards and several inmates were injured in a late night brawl Friday, Nov. 29, 2013 at the facility’s George Vierno Center. Rikers Island predominantly holds inmates awaiting trial or serving sentences of less than a year. About 12,000 inmates are housed there. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
FILE - In this March 16, 2011 file photo, inmate housing on New York's Rikers Island correctional facility can be seen on the other side of a fence topped with razor wire. The Independent Budget Office found it cost $167,731 in 2012 to house 12,287 daily New York City inmates, which is about $460-per-inmate-per-day. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)
FILE - In this March 16, 2011 file photo, inmates file out of the prison bakery at the Rikers Island jail after working the morning shift, in New York. A recent report issued by the Independent Budget Office found it cost $167,731 in 2012 to house 12,287 daily New York City inmates. New York City pays almost as much to jail an inmate in a year as it would to pay a student’s four years of tuition at a private college. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)
An undated photo provided by family showing Jerome Anthony Murdough is seen March 12, 2014, in the Queens borough of New York. Murdough, a mentally ill, homeless former Marine arrested for sleeping in the roof landing of a New York City public housing project during one of the coldest recorded winters in city history, died last month in a Rikers Island jail cell that multiple city officials say was at least 100 degrees when his body was discovered. Murdough, 56, was found dead in his cell in a mental observation unit in the early hours of Feb. 15, after excessive heat, believed to be caused by an equipment malfunction, redirected it’s flow to his upper-level cell, the officials said. (AP Photo/Family Photo)
In this March 12, 2014 photo, a picture of Jerome Murdough is held by his mother Alma Murdough left, and sister Cheryl Warner at Alma Murdough's home in the Queens borough of New York. Jerome Murdough, a mentally ill, homeless former Marine arrested for sleeping in the roof landing of a New York City public housing project during one of the coldest recorded winters in city history, died last month in a Rikers Island jail cell that multiple city officials say was at least 100 degrees when his body was discovered. Murdough, 56, was found dead in his cell in a mental observation unit in the early hours of Feb. 15, after excessive heat, believed to be caused by an equipment malfunction, redirected it’s flow to his upper-level cell, the officials said. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
This March 12, 2014, photo shows a letter to Alma Murdough from the United States Marine Corps announcing the promotion of her son Jerome Murdough to the rank of Private First Class, in the Queens borough of New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
In this March 12, 2014 photo, Alma Murdough holds a photo of her son, Jerome, at her home in the Queens borough of New York. Jerome Murdough, a mentally ill, homeless former Marine arrested for sleeping in the roof landing of a New York City public housing project during one of the coldest recorded winters in city history, died last month in a Rikers Island jail cell that multiple city officials say was at least 100 degrees when his body was discovered. Murdough, 56, was found dead in his cell in a mental observation unit in the early hours of Feb. 15, after excessive heat, believed to be caused by an equipment malfunction, redirected it’s flow to his upper-level cell, the officials said. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
In this March 12, 2014 photo, Alma Murdough and her daughter Cheryl Warner hold a photo of Murdough's son, at her home in the Queens borough of New York. Jerome Murdough, a mentally ill, homeless former Marine arrested for sleeping in the roof landing of a New York City public housing project during one of the coldest recorded winters in city history, died last month in a Rikers Island jail cell that multiple city officials say was at least 100 degrees when his body was discovered. Murdough, 56, was found dead in his cell in a mental observation unit in the early hours of Feb. 15, after excessive heat, believed to be caused by an equipment malfunction, redirected it’s flow to his upper-level cell, the officials said. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
FILE - In this May 17, 2011 file photo, a section of the Rikers Island prison is seen in New York. Jerome Murdough, a mentally ill, homeless former Marine arrested for sleeping in the roof landing of a New York City public housing project during one of the coldest recorded winters in city history, died last month in a Rikers Island jail cell that multiple city officials say was at least 100 degrees when his body was discovered. Murdough, 56, was found dead in his cell in a mental observation unit in the early hours of Feb. 15, after excessive heat, believed to be caused by an equipment malfunction, redirected it’s flow to his upper-level cell, the officials said. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
FILE - In this March 12, 2014, file photo, a picture of Jerome Murdough is held by his mother and sister in the Queens borough of New York. Murdough, a 56-year-old mentally ill inmate at Rikers Island jail, "baked" to death in his overheated cell during one of the coldest recorded winters in city history. According to documents obtained by The Associated Press, jail officials were aware of malfunctioning heating equipment and requested repairs the last day Murdough was seen alive, but the needed work didn't happen until it was too late because of a long holiday weekend. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow, File)
FILE - In this May 17, 2011, file photo, a man walks near the sign at the entrance to the Rikers Island jail in New York. Jerome Murdough, a 56-year-old mentally ill inmate at Rikers Island jail, "baked" to death in his overheated cell during one of the coldest recorded winters in city history. The mother of a mentally ill, homeless veteran who was found dead in a one-hundred-degree New York City jail cell plans to file a $25 million wrongful death lawsuit. Family attorney Derek Sells says he’ll ask the city to preserve all communications and 911 recordings regarding Jerome Murdough’s death on Rikers Island at a press conference Friday May 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
Attorney Derek Sells, left, listens as Alma Murdough speaks during a press conference on Friday May 16, 2014 in New York. Sells plans to file a $25 million wrongful death lawsuit against the city on behalf of Alma Murdough for the death of her son, Marine Jerome Murdough, who was found dead in a 100 degree cell on Rikers Island. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Alma Murdough, center, leaves with her granddaughter Lakisha Murdough, second from right, after a press conference detailing a $25 million wrongful death lawsuit against the city on behalf of her son Jerome Murdough, on Friday May 16, 2014 in New York. Jerome Murdough, a former Marine, was found dead in a 100 degree cell on Rikers Island. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Alma Murdough listens during a press conference detailing a $25 million wrongful,death lawsuit against the city on behalf of her son Jerome Murdough, on Friday May 16, 2014 in New York. Jerome Murdough, a former Marine, was found dead in a 100 degree cell on Rikers Island. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Andre Santiago, far left, Basilio Santiago, second from left, and Cheryl Warner, second from right, the nephews and sister respectively of former Marine Jerome Murdough, listen as attorney Derek Sellsb speaks during a press conference on Friday May 16, 2014 in New York. Sells plans to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the city on behalf Murdough's family for his death, after he was found dead in a 100 degree cell on Rikers Island. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Attorney Derek Sells, center, sets between between Alma Murdough, right, and Cheryl Warner, left, the mother and sister of former Marine Jerome Murdough, during a news conference on Friday May 16, 2014 in New York. Sells plans to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the city on behalf of Alma Murdough for the death of her son, who was found dead in a 100 degree cell on Rikers Island. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Attorney Derek Sells, listens as Alma Murdough speaks during a news conference on Friday May 16, 2014 in New York. Sells plans to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the city on behalf of Alma Murdough for the death of her son, Marine Jerome Murdough, who was found dead in a 100 degree cell on Rikers Island. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
FILE - In this March 12, 2014 file photo, a picture of Jerome Murdough is held by his mother Alma Murdough left, and sister Cheryl Warner at Alma Murdough's home in the Queens borough of New York. The homeless former Marine died in February in a Rikers Island jail cell that multiple city officials say was at least 100 degrees when his body was discovered.(AP Photo/Jason DeCrow, File)
Lakisha Murdough listens during a press conference detailing $25 million wrongful death lawsuit against the city on behalf of her father Jerome Murdough, on Friday May 16, 2014 in New York. Jerome Murdough, a former Marine, was found dead in a 100 degree cell on Rikers Island. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Lakisha Murdough, right, consoles her sister Victoria Murdough, both daughters of Jerome Murdough, during his funeral at the Cobbs Funeral Chapel, in the Queens borough of New York, Friday, April 25, 2014. A modest family funeral was held for 56-year-old Murdough, a homeless former Marine who was found dead more than two months ago in an overheated New York City jail cell. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Defense attorneys Paul Eckerstrom, Alicia Cata, and defendant Pamela Phillips, right, listen to Pima County attorney Rick Unklesbay during his closing argument in the case against Phillips, Wednesday, April 2, 2014, in Tucson, Ariz. Jurors have concluded deliberations for the day in the trial of Phillips, a once-prominent Aspen, Colo., socialite charged in the 1996 Tucson car bomb killing of her ex-husband. (AP Photo/Arizona Daily Star, Ron Medvescek, Pool)
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By JAKE PEARSON

NEW YORK (AP) -- The grisly deaths of two inmates - one who "baked to death" in his overheated cell, another who sexually mutilated himself while locked up alone for seven days - have raised new questions about the New York City jail system's ability to deal with a burgeoning number of mentally ill people.

The two cases - both exposed by The Associated Press - have prompted a city lawmaker to schedule oversight hearings next month.

"No inmate should be treated that way, especially those with mental health needs. The city has to do more to protect them," City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley said Thursday. "A lot of people who are in Rikers Island should be in a hospital, in a clinical setting, not in a jail."

Bradley Ballard, a 39-year-old inmate who family members said had been diagnosed as schizophrenic, died in September after he was confined to his cell in a mental observation unit at Rikers for seven days for making a lewd gesture at a female guard, according to interviews and documents obtained by the AP.

Denied some of his medication, the agitated inmate tied a rubber band tightly around his genitals. During that period, guards repeatedly peered through the window in his cell but didn't venture inside until it was too late, according to corrections officials' account.

Ballard was found naked and unresponsive on the floor, covered in feces, his genitals swollen and badly infected. He died at a hospital of what officials said appeared to be sepsis, an infection that has spread through the body.

In the other case, Jerome Murdough, 56, a former Marine who suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, died in February after a heating system malfunction caused the temperature in his cell to rise to 101 degrees. He, too, was in a special unit for the mentally ill.

He was taking psychiatric medication that experts say can make people more sensitive to heat.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has vowed to reform the 12,000-inmate Rikers Island jail, amid criticism for months about violence and erratic behavior among inmates, mostly the mentally ill, who make up 40 percent of the population.

As a first step, de Blasio has appointed a corrections commissioner, Joseph Ponte, who has a track record of reducing jail violence and the use of solitary confinement in Maine.

Also, mental health and jail officials have started shift-by-shift briefings on the most troubled inmates, and they are moving to make sure the officers who work with the mentally ill are steadily assigned to the task.

The Correction Department has also opened up two units where mentally ill inmates who have broken jailhouse rules get more intensive clinical attention, rather than being put in solitary confinement.

"I share Mayor de Blasio's belief that we must do better by inmates who suffer from mental health issues," Ponte said in a statement, "and by taking steps like improving coordination and information sharing between security staff and mental health staff, we will."

Following Ballard's death, Health Department officials said an investigation found workers missed multiple opportunities to treat him. The unit chief was transferred out, and staffers were retrained on how to do rounds.

Experts said some of these approaches don't address the real problem.

"Correctional institutions are such a poor substitute for mental hospitals, which is what they're basically functioning as in our society," said Dr. Bandy Lee, a Yale psychiatrist who once worked at Rikers. "The problem is the correction setting is not fit to deliver the proper care, and in fact many of the settings exacerbate their symptoms."

Nick Freudenberg, a professor of public health at City University of New York who ran programs at Rikers for 15 years, said the two graphic deaths highlighted various ways in which the city's criminal justice system fails the seriously mentally ill: by not having special courts for them, by not training police well enough on how to deal with them, and by not having better communication between jail guards and mental health professionals.

"The one level is who did what on what particular day in this facility for this particular inmate who died," he said. "Another level is the sorry state of mental health services in our society."

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