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New York to Pay $28m to Settle Rikers Island Lawsuit

— April 12, 2024

The city will pay more than $28 million to settle claims that Rikers Island officers waited more than eight minutes to seek medical attention for an inmate who had attempted suicide.

New York City has agreed to pay more than $28 million to settle a lawsuit filed by a woman who claimed that her grandson was hospitalized after attempting to commit suicide while detained at Rikers Island.

According to CBS News, the complaint—filed on behalf of Madeline Feliciano—alleged that three corrections officers and a captain waited more than eight minutes before seeking medical attention for her grandson, Nicholas Feliciano.

In an internal report, the Correction Department Oversight Board noted that Nicholas was “left hanging” for about 7 minutes and 51 seconds. Attorneys for Madeline Feliciano say that the officers’ neglect caused her grandson to suffer significant and potentially irreversible brain damage.

All three of the officers were indicted on charges of reckless endangerment and official misconduct, with two later pleading guilty to misconduct.

On Monday, though, attorneys for both parties—the city, and the Feliciano family—filed a tentative settlement in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. Under the terms of the agreement, which has yet to be approved by the court, New York City will pay Madeline Feliciano about $28.75 million in compensation for her grandson’s injuries.

Image via Rennett Stowe/Flickr/Wikimedia Commons. (CCA-BY-2.0)

“This settlement will just help Nicholas with his medical condition and therapies for the rest of his life, [but] the damage is already done,” Madeline Feliciano said in a statement.

“It is not going to bring Nicholas back to who he was,” she said. “He has to live with this injury for the rest of his life.”

A spokesperson for the New York State Department of Corrections told The New York Times that the agency has since taken steps to reduce self-harm in its facilities, including the installation of fencing on multi-floor units and improved training for officers. State corrections officers will, for instance, now be trained to recognize signs of distress among inmates with mental health disorders.

Additionally, the Correction Department will assign specialists to detainees who have a history of trying to harm themselves.

“The settlement of this tragic case was in the best interest of all parties,” the New York Law Department said in a statement. “The D.O.C. is working to ensure the safety of all on Riskers, including those afflicted with serious mental illness.”

CBS News notes that, in 2019, the New York City Council approved a plan to close down Rikers Island in its entirety by 2026. If closed, the facility—long notorious for its violence and poor living conditions—would have been replaced by four smaller jails in Brooklyn.

However, N.Y.C. Mayor Eric Adams has since expressed opposition to the plan, questioning whether individual boroughs like Brooklyn have the resources needed to both prevent prisoner overcrowding and ensure the safety of local communities.


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NYC paying record $28M settlement to family of Rikers inmate left severely brain damaged after suicide attempt: report

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