This story is SO SO SO SAD!
A must read- all the way through.
On the day that he arrived at Rikers Island last October, Steven Morales was a major suicide risk.
He was just 17 years old, charged with murder, accused of suffocating his infant daughter. He was a product of the city's foster-care system, his mother having abandoned him at birth. He had no money, little or no ties to family, and few friends. His only solid relationship—with his girlfriend, the mother of the dead infant—was collapsing.
Morales's lawyer considered the suicide risk so great that he recommended to a judge that the teen be housed in protective custody—where, the lawyer presumed, someone would keep a closer eye on him.
Protective custody, where inmates are locked in their cells up to 23 hours a day, was introduced to Rikers by jails boss Martin Horn in 2005 to house dangerous or vulnerable inmates, who would be safer there than in the general population.
But on April 27, something went terribly wrong when Horn's supervision system broke down.
That afternoon, Morales spoke to his girlfriend on the telephone and learned that she was breaking up with him, severing his last tie to the outside world. Devastated, he returned to his cell, secured a towel to the top of his cell door, wrapped the other end around his neck, and ended his life.
The officers assigned to the unit didn't notice until one of their bosses visited the floor and found him. By then, of course, it was too late.
"Someone needs to be held accountable," says Morales's lawyer, Javier Solano, a former Brooklyn prosecutor. "Based on his history and the fact that this kid, at age 17, was accused of a horrific crime, there certainly should have been much more supervision. I don't understand how he was able to do it in that setting."
The suicide in the Robert N. Davoren Center— occurring in the very place where inmate safety is supposed to be the highest priority—raises new questions about security issues at the jails under Horn's supervision, which the Voice has been reporting on for several months.
While conditions in the jails are certainly better than they were at the height of the crack epidemic, documents and interviews have revealed that violence is still a problem in the system. A series of Voice stories, for example, disclosed a spate of cases of correction officers using inmates as enforcers.
Correction Department spokesman Steve Morello declined to comment on the suicide, pending the results of several investigations.
The city Health Department, which is supposed to oversee the jails' for-profit medical and mental-health contractor, Prison Health Services, also declined to comment, citing federal and state patient-confidentiality laws.
MUCH More -Pages 2+ +
village voice > news > A Short Life Ends on Rikers Island, in a Place Where Suicide Isn't Supposed to Happen by Graham Rayman