Last year, a mentally ill inmate named Bradley Ballard died while in solitary confinement on Rikers Island. He'd been placed there seven days earlier after allegedly making lewd gestures at a female guard, but despite being diagnosed with both diabetes and schizophrenia, he received barely any medical attention. He was found in his cell covered in feces and with a rubber band tied tightly around his genitals, and the medical examiner ruled his death a homicide.
One year after his death, Ballard's mother, Beverly Ann Griffin, filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging in grisly terms that Rikers was responsible for her son's death.
Though medical and health personnel were required to visit Ballard twice a day, a nurse only ventured inside once, the documents allege. Moreover, Ballard was reportedly denied his regular medication to manage both his schizophrenia and his diabetes. "Rather than provide the critical care required, corrections officers and medical staff essentially stood by and watched as Mr. Ballard languished, deteriorated and ultimately died," the lawsuit says. Further:
"Because of the extreme vulnerability of individual's with mental illness to the pathogenic effects of solitary confinement, City regulations require that an individual like Mr. Ballard, who is being treated for mental disorders, be placed in solitary seclusion only for therapeutic, and never for punitive reasons, and only at the direction of a psychiatrist."
If an inmate is to enter solitary confinement, the city mandates that he or she be observed every half an hour, and that they won't be held for more than four hours.
The day after Ballard entered solitary, his cell flooded. A plumber was summoned to turn the water inside off, but no further steps were taken to remedy the situation. He was not offered food, water or medical attention for the rest of the day. Various wardens stopped by his cell, peering in to observe, but despite being "acutely aware" of Ballard's deteriorating condition, no steps were taken to remedy them.
On the fourth day of Ballard's internment, he was given his medication by a nurse allegedly did not stick around to ensure that he took it.
On September 10, the day before Ballard's death, wardens stopped by his cell to deposit a tray of food. They noticed that Ballard had vomited and defecated on himself, and despite one officer covering his face to block the stench, did not offer any assistance.
Finally, on September 11, after several more passes by Ballard's cell, medical staff were called. They saw that Ballard was naked, lying on the floor too weak to move, covered in food, feces and other assorted filth. Rather than rush to his aid, they summoned two other inmates to enter the cell and lift Ballard into the corridor.
At this point they noticed that Ballard had tied a rubber band around his genitals, the pressure of which had caused the skin around his penis to rot off. "This horrific, excruciating, and ultimately fatal injury was an utterly foreseeable consequence of the neglect and isolation that the Officer and Medical Defendants inflicted on Mr. Ballard, knowing that they would aggravate his tendency toward self-injurious behavior," the lawsuit says.
Ballard was eventually taken to Elmhurst Hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after arriving. Doctors who treated him said that he perished from complications from diabetes, which could have been easily avoided had Ballard been properly cared for.
His mother, Beverly Ann Griffin, said yesterday that Rikers personnel are at fault for her son's death. “You are there to correct the inmate, not to destroy him," she said during a tear-filled news conference.
A protest will be held today at 1 p.m. outside the Bronx district attorney’s office.