Inmate at Rikers Island Basically Bakes to Death in Hundred Degree Cell

Christina Drill
March 19, 2014

Surely this terrible situation will shed light on the conditions at Rikers Island, especially those having to do with the mentall ill prisoners.

This week Jerome Murdough, a 56 year old former US Marine, was found dead in his jail cell where temperatures reportedly surpassed 100 degrees. He died because of the heat-- essentially, he baked to death.

Jerome was arrested a few years ago after trying to curl up and sleep in an area of New York City that forbade trespassers. Jerome has been classified as mentally ill and was homeless at the time of his arrest.

What's worse is that the man's 75 year old mother was not told of the death until a month after it happened. It was an AP reporter who broke the news to Murdough's mother after calling her to interview her for an article about her son's death. Imagine.

After waiting a few days for an official statement, The Times finally got one from the Acting Commissioner at Rikers Island. His statement says: “The safety of inmates and staff is our top priority, and the death of an inmate under our supervision is never acceptable. The department is conducting a full investigation of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Murdough’s unfortunate death, including issues of staff performance and the adequacy of procedures. While we cannot comment on the facts surrounding his death while the investigation is underway, preliminary information suggests there were unusually high temperatures in Mr. Murdough’s cell. The department accordingly has taken remedial action to correct any mechanical problems [...] particularly in areas housing vulnerable inmates.”

The jail cell Murdough lived in was a 6 by 10 foot cinderblock cell that had one vent, but the vent did not open. Murdough was being prescribed anti seizure and anti psychotic medication which Rikers Island officials suggest may have made him more susceptible to the temperature of the cell.

Still, nobody should be forced to live in those conditions-- especially a guy whose sentence was trespassing.

Very messed up I say.

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