Because he had nowhere to sleep; because he was mentally ill; because he was forgotten; because, because, because.
But really because we, as a society, are perfectly fine dragging those most in need off to jail cells and forgetting about them.
Jerome Murdough was just looking for a warm place to sleep on a chilly night last month when he curled up in an enclosed stairwell ... where he was arrested for trespassing.
A week later, the mentally ill homeless man was found dead in a Rikers Island jail cell that... had overheated to at least 100 degrees...
The officials told The Associated Press that the 56-year-old former Marine was on anti-psychotic and anti-seizure medication, which may have made him more vulnerable to heat.
"He basically baked to death," said one of the officials.
Somehow the guards forgot to keep checking on him.
Murdough was locked alone into his 6-by-10 cinderblock cell at about 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 14, a week after his arrest. Because he was in the mental-observation unit, he was supposed to be checked every 15 minutes as part of suicide watch... But Murdough was not discovered until four hours later, at about 2:30 a.m...All this despite having an expert on heat-related deaths on staff or consulting...
... is internal body temperature and the temperature in the cell were at least 100 degrees. Those temperatures could have been higher before he was discovered because the cell had been closed for several hours...
Dr. Susi Vassallo... a national expert on heat-related deaths who monitors heat conditions at Rikers Island, said psychotropic medications can impair the body's ability to cool itself by sweating, making it retain more heat than it should. Exposure to intense heat for a couple of hours by someone on such medications could be fatal, she said.Right. Okay. So there's an expert who monitors heat conditions at Riker's Island, and yet someone in there dies of heat exposure. I'm not even sure what that says, other than "OMFG!" but it can't be anything good.
The article concludes with this astonishing statistic:
Of the 12,000 inmates who make up the nation's second-largest jail system, about 40 percent are mentally ill, and a third of them suffer from serious mental problems...And Wikipedia produces this even more amazing statistic:
The NYC IBO (Independent Budget Office) determined that the city is spending $167,000 per inmate annually.For comparison, it costs less than $50,000 per incarcerated person in California's state prisons.
At $167,000 per, one could hire a quarter time psychologist and two full time caretakers, and pay the rent on a small apartment for each one of those in Rikers who are mentally ill. As a bonus we could afford to send the guy in charge on a one-way, expenses paid visit to Omsk, Siberia.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Department of Correction Acting Commissioner Mark Cranston called Murdough's death "unfortunate"...And then perhaps no one else would end up baked alive.