Rikers Island Inmate Stephen Khadu Died After Experiencing Medical Distress At Vernon C. Bain Center In The Bronx
THE BRONX, NEW YORK (September 23, 2021) – A Rikers Island Jail complex inmate identified as Stephen Khadu has tragically died after experiencing some type of medical distress while in custody at the Vernon C. Bain Center.
New York City police officials are saying that the incident took place on Wednesday, September 22nd. Stephen Khadu was an inmate at the Vernon C. Bain Center, which is across the East River from the main part of the Rikers Island jail complex.
Jail staff are saying that the inmate was experiencing some type of medical distress. Stephen Khadu was taken to a local hospital where he later died around 10:15 a.m. on Wednesday.
This marks the 12th death so far this year at the Rikers Island jail complex. As such, there have been more calls for reform and some advocates want the prison shut down all together.
The Rikers Island jail has a long history of reports of inmate abuse, inmate death, self-harm and staff shortages. This year alone, at least five inmates have died due to suicide.
A full investigation into the inmate death at the Rikers Island jail remains ongoing at this time.
Liability In Inmate Deaths At The Rikers Island Jail Complex
Rikers Island is one of New York City’s most notorious jails. According to one report from New York Magazine, “Simply put, Rikers is a dangerous place for adolescents and a pervasive climate of fear exists.” There was one incident in 2012 where two correctional officers took an inmate to the ground and continued to beat him. The inmate was kicked in the head and had a tooth knocked out. There have been other disturbing reports about:
- The abuse of mentally ill inmates.
- The use of excessive force on inmates.
- The neglect of certain inmates.
Every inmate in New York has a constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. According to the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” Inmates have a legal right to be housed in a reasonably safe and secure environment.
Inmates also have a right to reasonably adequate health care. When a jail is deliberately indifferent to the serious medical needs of an inmate, they could be liable if the inmate is injured or dies. For example, if an inmate is experiencing signs of an overdose, they should be given prompt medical care. Overdose deaths are largely preventable with timely intervention and the use of drugs like naloxone.
Consider, for example, the case of Black v. State of New York. A prisoner was suffering from “spinal stenosis” and was in need of emergency surgery to prevent paralysis. Instead, the prison physician referred the inmate to an expert for a neurological consultation. While waiting for the appointment, the inmate fell and re-injured their cervical spine.
The Appellate Division, Fourth Department held, “In sum, the record supports the opinion of decedent’s expert that the MRI report, coupled with “the accelerating nature of [decedent’s] symptoms,” demanded immediate action, which the prison physician neglected to take (see Larkin, 84 AD2d at 445).” There are a number of steps that should be taken after an inmate dies in custody.
- Eye witnesses should be interviewed.
- Surveillance camera footage and body camera footage should be sought.
- Medical records should be preserved.
- Jail records should be sought.
The family of any victim that died at Rikers Island jail may be able to seek justice through a wrongful death claim. Damages in a civil claim can help cover lost wages, medical bills and funeral costs. In order to win any civil claim plaintiffs will typically have to demonstrate negligence. A wrongful death attorney can examine all of the unique facts of your case free of cost and let you know what your legal options are.
Investigating Inmate Deaths At The Rikers Island Jail Complex
We at Gersowitz Libo & Korek, P.C. extend our deepest condolences to the family of Stephen Khadu. Any person that may have information about what happened should reach out to authorities. There needs to be a thorough review of the safety of inmates at Rikers Island.
This incident also raises a number of important questions. Are the inmates at Rikers Island given proper medical attention? Is the jail adequately staffed? Could this death have been prevented? Every life in New York City is precious. All inmates should be treated fairly and have their constitutional rights protected.
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