There is plenty of debate on how we should treat convicted felons while they are locked away as guests of the state. You have the contingent who feel that they broke the rules and deserve whatever punishment is dished out. Lock them up and throw away the key.
Then a story like this comes out, where a 56-year-old mentally ill inmate was basically “baked to death” inside of his cell, and you start to question the need for changes. From The LA Times:
A news report has raised questions about how New York City jail officials handle at-risk inmates after a troubled 56-year-old former Marine was found dead in a Rikers Island cell where the temperature at one point had reportedly exceeded 100 degrees.
“He basically baked to death,” one official with knowledge of Jerome Murdough’s death told the Associated Press.
The wire service reported that Murdough was mentally ill, homeless and had been arrested for trespassing after trying to curl up and sleep in an enclosed stairwell on a chilly winter night.
Murdough was supposed to be checked on every 15 minutes but was instead discovered four hours after being locked in his cell on Feb. 14, the AP reported. His 75-year-old mother didn’t learn of his death until a month later — when an AP reporter contacted her last week about the case.
I do believe that being baked alive is one of the worst ways a person can die, even if you don’t end up extra crispy. It’s up there with suffocation, eaten alive by feral badgers, and cancer as my official worsts.
Something clearly went wrong, be it neglect or mechanical failure with the prison heating system, and investigations are underway. All I know is that this is yet another reason to stay out of jail, especially Rikers Island where there have been nearly a dozen incidents since New Year’s.
If I learned anything from all my years watching Lockup and OZ, it’s that I’m far too delicate for prison life. Last thing I need is glass in my oatmeal and a shiv in my back.