Rikers Inmate Found Dead Despite Ordered Suicide Watch

nyc rikers island

A mentally ill inmate apparently hanged himself on New Year’s Day in a Rikers Island jail cell, although he was supposed to be placed on suicide watch, according to city officials.

A jail psychiatrist saw Fabian Cruz on Wednesday and ordered Cruz be transferred to an observational unit in a different Rikers facility so he could be placed under constant watch. Cruz told a guard at the clinic that he did not want to be transferred, so he was sent back to his jail cell, according to CBS News.

An anonymous official said allowing Cruz to return to his cell was a violation of Department of Correction protocol, as inmates do not get to choose where they are housed. The guard also failed to contact a supervising captain after the suicide watch was ordered.

Cruz, 35, was discovered on Thursday and pronounced dead. The correction officer who took him back to his cell from the clinic was placed on modified duty.

At least four times when clinicians went to the new supervision unit to give Cruz therapy, he was not there, because he was never moved or put on suicide watch.

The suicide underscores dysfunction at the Rikers Island jail that New York City officials have scrambled to fix amid greater scrutiny by the Justice Department, which recently sued the city alleging widespread abuse and neglect of inmates, according to the New York Times.

[quote text_size=”small” author=”– Joseph Ponte” author_title=”Correction Commissioner”]

Far too often inside correctional institutions, violent sentinel events occur that could have been avoided.


In October, city officials secured a $400,000 federal grant to review suicides in jails to identify breakdowns in the system that allowed them to occur. The announcement came after a report in June that found that in 9 of the 11 inmate suicides since 2009, established protocols to prevent inmates from hurting themselves were not followed, according to the Huffington Post.

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