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Rikers Inmate Dies After Being Denied Food, Water and Medicine, Suit Says

By Eddie Small | September 12, 2014 4:05pm | Updated on September 15, 2014 8:56am
 Rikers Island is located between the South Bronx and northern Queens in the East River.
Rikers Island is located between the South Bronx and northern Queens in the East River.
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DNAinfo/Theodore Parisienne

RIKERS ISLAND — An inmate who was confined to his cell for a week after dancing provocatively in front of a guard died covered in his own feces and vomit after being denied adequate food, water and desperately-needed medical careaccording to a lawsuit.

A nurse entered Bradley Ballard's cell just one time during his seven days of confinement, and he did not receive the medicine needed to control his diabetes and schizophrenia, according to the complaint, which was filed Wednesday in Manhattan Federal Court.

The suit is the latest in a series of complaints about inmate mistreatment against the Department of Correction and Corizon Health, medical provider for the city's jails.

The complaint alleges that the city has a habit of abusing its mentally ill inmates and that Ballard's death was not an isolated case.

"The incidents involving Mr. Ballard are part of a pattern of incidents of similar inhumane and illegal treatment of mentally ill inmates by Rikers Island correction officers and medical and mental health providers," the complaint reads. "And it is neither the first nor the last such incident that resulted in death."


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According to the suit, filed by Ballard's mother Beverly Ann Griffin, Department of Correction employees illegally confined her son to his cell in the jail's mental health observation unit for seven days in 2013, from Sept. 4-10.

The suit claims that Ballard was neglected for days and eventually found covered in his own feces, with a rubber band tied around his genitals.

"Instead of making the obviously necessary interventions, multiple staff members inexplicably watch[ed] this man suffer, then walked away," reads the complaint.

According to court documents, Ballard was confined to his cell for dancing suggestively in front of a female correction officer.

"He took off his shirt, twisted it up in his hands, and thrust it up and down as he danced," the complaint reads, adding that the officer "took offense at the phallic shape of Mr. Ballard's rolled up shirt and the sexual nature of his movements."

Ballard was forced back to his cell as punishment, where he stayed for a week without adequate food, water and medical care, court documents say.

On the sixth day of his confinement, the now severely-weakened Ballard took off all his clothes and tied a rubber band around his genitals, but he still received no help from city employees, court documents say.

Medical staff eventually came to Ballard's cell close to midnight on Sept. 11, 2013 but were unwilling to touch his body, now covered in feces and vomit, and he passed away around 1:30 a.m. that day, court documents say.

The lawsuit refers to the city's actions during Ballard's confinement as "contrary to law, contrary to sound medical practice, and contrary to the norms of a civilized society."

The city and Corizon have recently faced multiple lawsuits regarding their treatment of inmates, including one on behalf of 46-year-old Carlos Mercado, who lapsed into a diabetic coma and died after not receiving medical treatment at Rikers, court documents claim.

Corizon also faces a lawsuit over 19-year-old Andy Henriquez, who died in April 2013 due to a tear in his aorta in a solitary confinement cell, the medical examiner's office said.

Additionally, the mother of inmate Jerome Murdough plans to sue the city for $25 million after her son was found dead on Feb. 15 in a 100-degree cell, according to a notice filed with the city comptroller's office.

The comptroller and Corizon declined to comment, and the DOC referred comments to the city's Law Department.

The Law Department will review the suit, according to an agency spokesman.