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September Death Of Mentally Ill Rikers Island Inmate Ruled A Homicide

Riker Island (file/credit: Getty Images)

Riker Island (file/credit: Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The death of a seriously mentally ill and diabetic inmate who sexually mutilated himself after seven days in a New York City jail cell has been ruled a homicide.

New York City Medical Examiner’s office spokeswoman Julie Bolcer said Monday the cause of 39-year-old Bradley Ballard’s September 2013 death on Rikers Island was diabetic ketoacidosis with a contributing factor of genital ischemia.

Ballard was found naked and unresponsive on the floor, covered in feces, a rubber band around his genitals.

The Associated Press reported Ballard was locked in his cell alone for seven increasingly agitated days in which he was denied some of his medication, clogged his toilet so that it overflowed, stripped off his clothes and tied a rubber band tightly around his genitals – leaving them swollen and severely infected.

“He didn’t have to leave this world like that. They could have put him in a mental hospital, got him some treatment,” Ballard’s mother, Beverly Ann Griffin, said from her Houston, Texas, home. “He was a caring young man.”

Documents obtained by the AP show Ballard was not given his medication for much of the time he spent locked in his cell in a mental observation unit. The documents show he was checked on dozens of times by correction officers but never taken out of his cell until he was found unresponsive.

Ballard’s death, detailed in documents obtained by The Associated Press and in interviews with two city officials on condition of anonymity, came five months before another Rikers inmate in a similar mental health unit died in a cell that climbed to a suffocating 101 degrees because of malfunctioning heating equipment.

In February, former Marine Jerome Murdough, 56, was found dead in a 100-degree jail cell that overheated due to an equipment malfunction. He had been in the psychiatric section of Rikers and was supposed to be checked on every 15 minutes, but sources told CBS 2 he wasn’t checked for four hours.

His mother filed a $25 million wrongful death lawsuit against the city and the Correction Department.

Earlier Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the creation of a task force that seeks to reduce the number of mentally ill inmates in the city’s jails.

“For far too long, our city’s jails have acted as de facto mental health facilities,” de Blasio said in a statement. “Everyone deserves access to quality medical and mental health care — and addressing these needs within the criminal justice system will improve public safety for all New Yorkers.”

About 40 percent of the city’s jail population has some form of mental illness. A third of those inmates suffer from serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

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