The city of New York has agreed to pay $5.75 million to the family of a mentally ill inmate who was found dead while in custody at the Rikers Island jail complex, the New York Times reports.
According to the Times, the settlement in the death of Bradley Ballard is reportedly the largest the city has ever paid to settle a lawsuit over the in-custody death of an inmate.
The State Commission of Correction concluded that Ballard's treatment by the city's Correction Department and Corizon Health, a city contractor, was "so incompetent and inadequate as to shock the conscience."
The commission discovered that Ballad had been deprived of medication for his diabetes and schizophrenia, and that he was even denied running water in his cell.
“Had Ballard received adequate and appropriate medical and mental health care and supervision and intervention when he became critically ill, his death would have been prevented,” the commission ruled, the Times notes.
“This was a total system failure,” Jonathan S. Abady, an attorney with the firm Emery Celli Brinckerhoff and Abady, which represented the family, told the Times. “I don’t think anyone can recall a case where the abuse and mistreatment was more egregious.”
Ballard's death was ruled a homicide by the city medical examiner.
As the Times notes, Ballard was arrested in June 2013 on a parole violation after failing to report an address change. A month later, he was sent to the psychiatric prison ward at Bellevue Hospital Center, where he stayed for about 38 days before being sent back to the mental-health unit at Rikers.
On Sept. 4, Ballard was locked in his cell for reportedly dancing in a way that offended a female correction officer.
"Not a single nurse, doctor or other medical or mental health provider entered his cell" while he was locked in there, the lawsuit claimed.
“Rather than provide the critical care required,” the lawsuit read, “[medical staff and correction officers,] who knew that Mr. Ballard could not survive without medication, essentially stood by and watched as Mr. Ballard languished, deteriorated and ultimately died.”
“The settlement of this tragic case was fair and in the best interests of the city," Nicholas Paolucci, a spokesperson for the city's Law Department, said.
“Bradley Ballard’s death was a tragedy, and our hearts go out to his family. We have zero tolerance for the mistreatment of any inmate," Joseph Ponte, the city's correction commissioner, added in a statement.
Read more at the New York Times.