Rikers Island might just have a problem with inmates who are mentally ill. A 39-year-old man was found naked and unresponsive on the floor of his cell after being left there, alone, for seven straight days, while being denied some of his medication, an AP report out today reveals. Bradley Ballard was confined to his cell after making a lewd gesture at a female guard. During that confinement last September Ballard, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, clogged his toilet so that it overflowed, stripped naked, and tied a rubber band around his genitals. When he was found, those genitals were swollen and infected. He was taken to the hospital, but died a few hours later, most likely from that infection.
Guards looked in on Ballard dozens of times during that week, but none ever ventured into his cell. A mental health provider spoke to him for 15 seconds through the cell door after he clogged the toilet, after which the cell's water was cut off. A city investigation has found multiple missed opportunities to help Ballard—mental health staffers, for example, failed to make the required rounds of the unit, and guards hadn't gotten their required mental health training. "He didn't have to leave this world like that," Ballard's mother says. "He was a caring young man." The incident occurred five months before another inmate in the unit "baked to death" in his cell, prompting promises of reform. For more on that story, click here.