New York City reached a $5.7 million settlement with the family of Bradley Ballard, a mentally ill Rikers Island inmate who died in 2013 after being locked in his cell for six days without care or medication.
The agreement was announced on Tuesday by the Legal Aid Society Prisoners' Rights Project and the family's lawyers, who said it was largest settlement ever paid by the city to settle a lawsuit over an inmate death in city custody.
Ballard, a 39-year-old paranoid schizophrenic with diabetes, died shortly after a doctor finally went into his cell and found him naked, covered in feces and badly infected from a piece of cloth he tied tightly around his genitals. The city medical examiner later ruled Ballard's death a homicide.
A review by the New York State Commission of Correction, obtained by The Associated Press, said the lapses by the city and its medical provider, Corizon Health Inc., violated state law and "were directly implicated in his death."
The review found that dozens of jail guards and health workers passed by Ballard's cell but none helped.
"This was a total system failure," said Jonathan S. Abady, a lawyer who represented the family along with the Legal Aid Society. "I don't think anyone can recall a case where the abuse and mistreatment was more egregious."
The city's correction commissioner, Joseph Aponte, called Ballard's death a tragedy.
"We have zero tolerance for the mistreatment of any inmate," Ponte said in a statement. "The vast majority of our officers carry out their duties with care and integrity, and we are taking many steps to ensure that all staff adhere to the highest professionalism."
A spokesman for the city's Law Department, Nicholas Paolucci, called the settlement "fair and in the best interest of the City." He also confirmed it to be the largest settlement paid by city regarding an inmate death in city custody.
The AP first reported the details of Ballard's death soon after it reported another mentally ill inmate, Jerome Murdough, died after he was left unattended for hours in a cell that sweltered to 101-degrees because of malfunctioning heating equipment.
The two cases prompted calls for reform, an oversight hearing and contributed to Mayor Bill de Blasio's pledge to spend $130 million over four years to divert people with behavioral disorders to treatment instead of Rikers.