Guards at Rikers Island are supposed to check on mentally ill inmates every 15 minutes. But when Jerome Murdough was booked for sleeping on a housing project roof, he was left unattended long enough to keel over dead from overheating, the AP revealed today. The former Marine was left alone in a cell at 10:30pm on Feb. 14 that, thanks to some malfunctioning equipment, reached at least 100 degrees. He was found slumped over dead at 2:30am.
The 56-year-old had apparently failed to open a vent in his cell, as other inmates had, and he was especially susceptible to heat because of his anti-psychotic and anti-seizure medication. "He basically baked to death," one official says. The AP's report comes the same day that the New York Times published a look at the problems caused by Rikers' growing concentration of mentally ill inmates, who say they've suffered abuse from guards and other prisoners. The Times links the trend to a surge in violence not seen in decades; at least 12 inmates have been slashed or stabbed already this year.