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Mother of Mentally Ill Rikers Island Inmate Sues City for Wrongful Death

Mother of Mentally Ill Rikers Island Inmate Sues City and Medical staff

Beverly Ann Griffin, the mother of Bradley Ballard, and her husband, Curtis Griffin, on Wednesday in Manhattan as lawyers announced the filing of a federal lawsuit.
Credit: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Beverly Ann Griffin, the mother of a mentally ill Rikers Island inmate who died last year, announced Wednesday that she has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against New York City and its private jail health services contractor.

Bradley Ballard suffered a gruesome death last year under the watch of prison guards at Rikers Island.

According to legal documents obtained by The Associated Press, Ballard was allegedly locked inside a jail cell for seven days.

Ballard’s family believes he was denied food, water and medical attention during this time.

Things took a turn for the worse when Ballard reportedly started self-mutilating, vomiting and defecating on himself.

According to investigative documents, the guards checked on Ballard dozens of times but never went inside the cell to see if he needed medical attention.

By the time the guards did enter the cell, Ballard was unresponsive, naked, covered in feces and had a rubber band tied around his genitals.

He was rushed to the hospital where he later died.

“Multiple staff members inexplicably [watched] this man suffer, then walked away,” the papers claim.

Griffin’s lawyers, Jonathan Abady and Jonathon Chasan, said what Ballard experienced was the “functional equivalent of torture.”

“The level of abuse, indifference and misconduct at the heart of this case is stunning and unconscionable,” the lawyers wrote. “Over a seven-day period, Bradley Ballard was subjected to mistreatment so extreme that it was the functional equivalent of torture.”

Griffin said that the authorities at Rikers Island not only caused her son to pass away, but they also caused a piece of her to die as well.

“When you took my son away from me, part of me died, too,” the 61-year-old mother said when she announced the lawsuit. “I will never be the same again.”

Ballard suffered from schizophrenia and was also diabetic.

A medical examiner ruled Ballard’s death a homicide after finding that the main cause of death was diabetic ketoacidosis, which causes the liver to break down fat when the body does not have enough insulin.

Legal documents allege that this could have been avoided if Ballard had received proper medication.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time a mentally ill inmate has died at Rikers Island.

Ballard’s death only adds to a list of inmates who have died while being held at Rikers Island, thus adding more fuel to the discussion of the prison’s standards and practices.

Roughly six months before Ballard died in September 2013, another mentally ill inmate was placed in a 101-degree cell in a similar observation unit as Ballard was in.

The inmate eventually died in the sweltering heat.

Then there was former Marine Jerome Murdough.

The 56-year-old inmate was found dead in February in a 100-degree jail cell that overheated due to malfunctioning equipment.

While officials from Rikers claim Murdough was being checked on frequently during this time, sources told CBS 2 that Murdough was not checked on for over four hours.


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