Four New York City correction officers have been suspended after failing to stop a teenage detainee from attempting suicide at the Rikers Island jail complex, The New York Times reports.
On Tuesday, Nicholas Feliciano, 18, was hospitalized after hanging himself in his empty holding pen. The teen is in a medically-induced coma, relying on a respirator and has no signs of brain activity.
Four individuals, three officers and one captain, have been suspended as the city investigates the incident.
According to the newspaper, the suicide attempt was captured on a video stream that officers are tasked to monitor. In one video, a guard is seen opening the cell door where Feliciano was hanging and then closing it without ever entering the room. Witnesses say several people idly stood by and watched the video stream before intervening. Seven minutes passed before Feliciano was relieved of the self-tied noose.
Cynthia Brann, the city correction commissioner, told the Times the officers could face “disciplinary action up to and including termination.”
Legal Aid Society, the group who represented Feliciano in court, said, “Nicholas’ tragedy illustrates the dangers and horrors of relying on our broken parole and correctional systems to address a mental health crisis.”
Feliciano, who was arrested on November 19 due to parole violation, has a history of mental health issues and suicide attempts.
On October 17, The New York City Council voted to close this infamous complex with a disturbingly long history of inhumane acts and replace it with smaller, borough-based jails throughout the state. The $8 billion plan to close the facility is aimed for completion in 2026.
According to New York City Department of Correction records obtained by Brooklyn Eagle, more than 370 people have died in their jails as a whole since 2001. In a deep-dive investigation by the Associated Press and the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service on preventable jail deaths and suicide attempts, Aaron Fischer of Disability Rights California said, “These are people who had families, people who had dreams and strengths and weaknesses … humans placed in an extremely harsh and punitive setting and denied care that they needed, leading to a death that didn’t need to occur.”
Feliciano is in the Elmhurst Hospital Prison Ward undergoing treatment.