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Negligence at Rikers Island: NYC agrees to $2.6m settlement in death of inmate

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New York City has reached a settlement amounting to $2.6 million in response to a lawsuit filed concerning the death of Robert Jackson, a 42-year-old inmate, who succumbed to a heart attack while detained at Rikers Island’s Anna M. Kross Center on June 30, 2021.

The lawsuit, alleging negligence, points to Correction Officer Samson Fadipe’s purported failure to carry out his duties, leaving his post unattended.

An investigative report by the Correction Department revealed that following Fadipe’s departure, there was a staggering 15-hour period with no floor officer present in the housing unit.

During this period, Correction Officer Troy Smith assumed the post, yet reportedly spent the initial hour of his shift engaged in leisure activities such as watching television, reading the newspaper, and conversing, despite signs of Jackson’s deteriorating health.

When Smith eventually encountered Jackson, the detainee was already displaying signs of distress. However, it wasn’t until 8 p.m. that Smith contacted the clinic for medical assistance, and even then, no immediate response was provided.

As Jackson’s condition continued to worsen, Smith made subsequent calls for medical aid, eventually commencing chest compressions on his own as Jackson became unresponsive.

Medical personnel finally arrived at 9:23 p.m., but tragically, Jackson had already lost his pulse. Despite efforts to resuscitate him, he was pronounced dead at 9:55 p.m. The investigative report further revealed that medical staff failed to mobilize until 9:20 p.m., a delay that potentially cost Jackson his life.

According to attorney Kelner representing the family, had the medical response been prompt, including the availability of a defibrillator, Jackson’s life might have been saved. However, the city Medical Examiner’s report attributed his death to heart disease.

The Correction Department’s investigative report also implicated Fadipe, alleging that he remained stationed in the unit’s command post despite claiming to be conducting tours. This revelation underscores a series of oversights and failures within the correctional system that ultimately led to the tragic loss of life at Rikers Island.

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