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Suicide of Rikers Island inmate sparks wrongful death lawsuit

The mother of a man who hanged himself while in solitary confinement in a cell in Rikers Island in 2013 has filed suit against New York City for her son's death. The inmate tied a sheet to an overhead vent after being taunted by a guard and encouraged to kill himself. He died days later.

His mother's attorney alleges that the man was suffering from mental illness and needed to be treated instead of ignored by the guards on duty. He reported being suicidal more than once to corrections officers. He was serving the first weeks of a four-year sentence for attempted robbery. According to documents regarding the case, the final time that he told a guard he was suicidal, the reply was, "If you have the balls, go ahead and do it."

His suicide was one of nine that occurred in the four-year period between 2009 and 2013 that were found to have occurred when safeguards to protect suicidal inmates were ignored by personnel.

The civil suit was filed Feb. 9 in Bronx Supreme Court and seeks unspecified damages. However, in August of last year, the plaintiff's attorney filed preliminary petitions seeking $25 million in damages. The litigation is currently under review by attorneys for the city, according to a Law Department spokesman.

Officials with the city have pledged reforms to the Rikers Island complex that houses about 11,000 inmates. Of that total, roughly 40 percent suffer from some type of mental illness.

Losing a loved one to suicide is never easy, but when the loved one dies in police custody after allegedly being ridiculed and ignored, it is especially difficult to accept.

If you think that you may have a cause of action for a civil suit, seek professional legal advice.

Source: The New York Times, "Mom Sues After Suicidal Inmate Son Kills Himself at Rikers" Feb. 11, 2015

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