On February 15, Jerome Murdough, a 56 year-old African-American homeless Marine Corps veteran, was found dead in his cell at the Rikers Island jail complex eight days after his arrest. Last Friday, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer announced that the city will pay $2.25 million to resolve the wrongful death claim filed by Murdough’s mother, Alma Murdough.
Murdough was arrested and charged with criminal trespass when he was found in a stairwell in a Manhattan public housing project.
Alma’s lawsuit that she filed in May claimed that the temperature of her late son’s cell was 103 degrees Fahrenheit and his body temperature was 103 degrees three hours after he was found. The New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner ruled Murdough’s death an accident caused by “hypothermia due to environmental exposure to heat.”
Stringer released a report in October that revealed over the past seven years violence had increased at the prison even while the inmate population was decreasing. The Department of Corrections announced that the chief of the department, William Clemons, would be stepping down.
“What seems clear is that Rikers is broken and in dire need of that reform,” Stringer told Yahoo News. “We must do everything in our power to avoid future tragedies.”
Due to the system’s ignorance of the conditions in Murdough’s cell, he became another victim of the penitentiary system. It’s been just over a year since two other African-Americans died because of neglectful personnel in prisons.
In 2013, Deundrez Woods, an African-American inmate at the Madison County Jail in Huntsville, Al, died of a blood clot in a gangrenous foot. One of the lawsuits stated that he was hallucinating and unable to communicate with correction and medical personnel on August 6. The lawsuit also claims that a Taser was used on Woods on the 6th, 9th and14th of August and that he was naked and didn’t eat from August 14 until the 19th when he finally was taken to the hospital. Two days later, his mother had him taken off of life support.
Two months later in the same jail that Woods died in, Tanisha Jefferson died “as a result of complications related to a bowel obstruction most likely caused by an extended period of constipation,” according to the lawsuit filed by her family. Jefferson filed a medical grievance on October 25th and requested a doctor on the 28th. The lawsuit says that she hadn’t had a bowel movement in 13 days. On October 31st she died.