08:31 GMT +317 October 2019
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    A sign at the entrance of Riker's Island Correctional Facility

    Rikers Inmate Commits Suicide Despite Warnings to Prison Officials

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    Prison officials in New York City dropped the ball on New Year’s Day when they let a mentally ill inmate go back to his cell instead of being transferred to a special unit where he would be on suicide watch.

    That inmate, Fabian Cruz, hung himself, and an autopsy ruled he did indeed die by hanging. He was found lying face up, with a bed sheet wrapped around his neck and tied on the other end to the toilet. 

    Prison officials says Cruz had been distraught about going to prison and had threatened to harm himself. 

    A Rikers Island psychiatrist had seen Cruz on December 31 at the prison clinic and ordered that he be transferred to a different unit within the prison where he would be under constant observation, but that order was never followed through. 

    A Corrections Department report says that when clinicians when to visit Cruz where they thought he was supposed to be, he wasn’t there. Cruz told the clinic guard that he didn’t want to be moved, and he was taken back to his cell, a breach of protocol because prison inmates have no say on where they are housed. The officer at the clinic has been placed on restricted duty and prohibited from working with inmates while prison officials investigate. 

    Cruz was at Rikers awaiting sentencing January 15 after pleading guilty to burglary and sexually abusing his girlfriend’s teenage daughter for several years. He was facing several years in prison and the requirement that he register as a sex offender. 

    New York City had recently received $400,000 in a federal grant to study suicides in city jails and look for ways to prevent them, but Rikers Island has been under increased scrutiny. Just last month, the U.S. Justice Department said it planned to sue the city, saying the federal government is dissatisfied with the city’s progress in improving conditions at the jail, and it found “rampant use of excessive force” and “overuse of solitary confinement,” among other glaring problems.

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