Four Rikers Island guards were suspended after they allegedly failed to stop an inmate from harming himself in a jail cell, according to a New York Times report Tuesday. The Times, relying on four people who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, reported that some of the guards involved watched before intervening as an inmate attempted to hang himself.
The people told the Times that the guards took seven minutes to intervene. Department of Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann said that three officers and a captain were suspended.
“The claims being made here are extremely troubling,” Brann said in a statement, adding that an investigation is underway.
The inmate, identified by the Times’ sources as 18-year-old Nicholas Feliciano, was reportedly placed in a medically induced coma at a hospital Tuesday.
Feliciano allegedly attempted to hang himself last week in an area of the notorious New York City lockup that was in view of a guard desk where officers can monitor activity through video feeds. The actions of the officers were recorded by a separate camera, the people told the Times.
Elias Husamudeen, the president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, said in a statement that the officers would “be given the best legal representation possible to ensure their rights are fully protected under the law.”
The video, which was described to the Times, reportedly shows an officer going into the jail cell where Feliciano was, opening the door, closing it without going inside and then walking away.
Feliciano was in the Elmhurst Hospital Prison Ward on Tuesday, according to city jail records.
He was on a respirator with no brain activity, the Times reported. He was arrested on Nov. 19 on a parole violation.
New York City lawmakers voted in October to close the Rikers Island jail complex, which has become synonymous with violence and neglect, and replace it with four smaller jails intended to be more modern and humane. The plan has been met with pushback from communities where the new jails would be located, CBS New York reported.
Rikers Island has housed jail inmates since the 1930s and has long been known for brutality. In 2016, “60 Minutes” correspondent Bill Whitaker reported that a lack of adequate training and a rising mentally ill population have made an already bad situation in the jail worse.
The jail complex saw hundreds of stabbings each year during the 1980s and early 1990s.
More recently, a 2014 Associated Press investigation detailed dozens of inmate deaths including that of a homeless ex-Marine who essentially baked to death in a hot cell.
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