Family blames ‘disabled’ Rikers Death row inmate Christopher Cruz in solitary confinement as guards ‘Abuse’

The family of a New York City man who died last year in solitary confinement at Rikers Island after not being able to post $1,000 guarantee filed a lawsuit Monday blaming the city for killing the 27-year-old through his own negligence.

At approximately 9:30 a.m. on October 9, 2020, Christopher M. Cruz was found unresponsive in his cell at the Rikers Anna M. Kross Center, an extensive facility for pre-trial detainees. He was declared dead 45 minutes later.

According to a copy of the suit obtained by The Daily Beast, Cruz suffered from asthma and schizophrenia. However, Rikers employees refused to provide Cruz with “a reasonable accommodation for his disability,” which directly led to his death, the allegation in the filing not specifying Cruz. how to die.

As of October, Cruz’s relatives said they had not yet had any answers.

“Mr. Cruz, like too many of our clients, could not afford bail, and as a result, he spent his final days in a cage,” said Legal Aid Association. said in a statement at the time of Cruz’s death. “This is an all-too-common tragedy, the inevitable product of an unjust cash-guarantee system that outrages all New Yorkers… The lack of information his family has ever received so far. from the City about his untimely death is disturbing and only serves to create suspicion. “

A spokesman for the Department of Corrections (DOC) declined to provide further information to The Daily Beast about the circumstances surrounding Cruz’s death.

“We have no public record as to why this individual is being held,” DOC spokesman Patrick Rocchio said in an email.

In a separate statement to The Daily Beast, Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for the NYC Law Department, said, “The death of any person in DOC custody is tragic. We will review the legal case. ”

The Cruz family’s attorney, Clifford Ryan Tucker, told The Daily Beast he was not authorized to discuss additional details on the matter. Members of Cruz’s family could not be reached for comment on Monday.

At least 15 prisoners died while locked up at Rikers in 2021. Rates of suicide and self-harm have skyrocketed recently, hit a multi-year high. At the same time, the shortage of personnel has created favorable conditions for some have called a humanitarian crisis. The Oversight of the Correction Department criticized Rikers officials for minimum standards violation on issues such as hygiene and the length of time new detainees are kept in detention facilities.

The lawsuit over Cruz’s death, filed in Bronx County Superior Court, claims Cruz “has complained about asthma and schizophrenia” from the day he was brought to the Rikers home. Cruz was prescribed medication for both of these conditions, according to the lawsuit.

“Constricted housing inmates, which often include those with severe mental and physical health problems, are sequestered in their cells for most of their waking hours,” the filing continued, added that Cruz was “frequently… left alone in a cell for hours at a time.” Ten corrections officers at Rikers, identified in the lawsuit as “John Does 1-10,” walked by. through Cruz’s cell “and didn’t verify it [he] alive. ”

“Has he been properly placed; he will be kept in a conspicuous cell and will be alive,” it wrote.

When Cruz was finally taken to a doctor, officers were “negligible, careless and reckless in the use of excessive force,” the lawsuit says. Cruz was handcuffed and physically restrained before and during medical treatment, all while prison staff should have known that “such excessive use of force, handcuffs, ties and / or physical detention, and solitary confinement, on [Cruz] will aggravate, accelerate and trigger medical injuries [Cruz] suffered at the time of the incident. ”

The NYC Department of Corrections does not properly train its officers to handle inmates with physical and psychological disabilities, and has “a long history of [of] do not obey [the] Americans with Disabilities Act,” the lawsuit states.

It cites a December 2014 report that the Legal Aid Association submitted to the city “providing extensive information about the dangers prisoners face in confined or isolated housing, including the extreme dangers faced by prisoners with serious medical and/or mental problems. No appropriate action has been taken to address and remedy the dangers that prisoners with severe mental illness and serious medical problems face in an unsupervised prison. “

Taken as a whole, the situation shows “a conscious indifference to the apparent risk of serious injury and death to [Cruz] that shakes the conscience,” the lawsuit continued.

“The actions of the city were so shocking and outrageous that they exceeded all reasonable limits of politeness; the act of causing [Cruz] it concludes. “[Cruz] were also forced to endure physical intimidation and abuse; as a direct and foreseeable result of these actions, [Cruz] fear for his physical safety; as a direct and foreseeable result of these actions, [Cruz] suffered until his death due to severe mental breakdown and actual damages must be determined at trial. ”

Upcoming New York City Mayor Eric Adams, former NYPD captain, told NYC Council last week that he would not accept their request to end solitary confinement in the city’s prison. Family blames ‘disabled’ Rikers Death row inmate Christopher Cruz in solitary confinement as guards ‘Abuse’


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