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Civil rights probe launched into death of Rikers Island inmate

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Zach McAuliffe is a University of Dayton alumni with degrees in journalism and English. He wants to present people with all the facts they need to make informed decisions on the world around them. He also enjoys Shakespeare and long walks on the beach with his puppy Lily.

The death of an inmate at the New York prison Rikers Island has caused a watchdog agency within the state to seek for the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the death.

Bradley Ballard, 39, was being housed at Rikers Island when he was found dead in his cell on Sept. 11, 2013. At the time of his death, Ballard was found naked in his cell, covered in fecal matter, and had an infection brought on by a piece of cloth tied to his genitals.

According to the Huffington Post, Ballard was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic as well as a diabetic, but he had been denied his insulin medication for six days which was one reason Ballard had died. Reports also say for those six days, Ballard was also denied food and water.

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A report by the New York State Commission of Corrections, which has not been made public yet, reportedly says gross incompetence on the behalf of medical and prison staff brought about the circumstances leading to Ballard’s death.

According to Reuters, the prison warden, guards, and other staff visited Ballard’s cell 57 times over the six day period but did nothing to assist Ballard. The smell of infection though caused one guard to take notice of Ballard’s cell long enough for the guard to spray deodorizer outside the cell, but the guard never went in the cell.

Correction commissioner, Joseph Ponte, told the New York Times, “We continue to investigate and have adjusted our practices to ensure that a similar tragedy does not happen again.” Ponte would not say whether any officers were being disciplined for the death however.

The medical examiner ruled Ballard’s death a homicide since his death could have been prevented if he were given his medication. The official cause of death is said to be diabetic ketoacidosis which results when a person’s body does not have enough insulin and the body begins to breakdown fat instead.

City officials have released a statement saying since Ballard’s death, jail staff and medical workers have undergone more training on how to communicate better with inmates.

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