Rikers Guards Reportedly Stood By for Minutes as a Teen Tried to Hang Himself

It took seven minutes before jail officials intervened.
It took seven minutes before jail officials intervened.

A teenage detainee at Rikers Island, New York City’s infamous jail complex, attempted suicide last week while at least four guards reportedly failed to intervene for several minutes.

The 18-year-old was reportedly under active video feeds that are supposed to be monitored by guards in the jail when he tried to hang himself. At one point, security footage even captured one officer entering his cell block to see him hanging, four anonymous jail officials told the New York Times. The teen survived the suicide attempt but is now at a prison hospital in a medically induced coma and on a respirator.


The officers who failed to stop the teenager’s suicide attempt, including three guards and a captain, have since been suspended, according to WABC, New York City’s ABC affiliate. Cynthia Brann, the New York City correction commissioner, told the Times it’s possible they’ll face “disciplinary action up to and including termination.”

The injured man entered Rikers last month for a parole violation. The suicide attempt occurred Thursday, according to CNN.

The young man attempted suicide in an empty intake area after he had been in a fight earlier that day, according to the Times. After the fight, he was moved from a general holding area to the intake block. That’s where he tied one end of a piece of clothing around his neck and the other end around a ceiling pipe. He then stood on a half-wall separating the bathroom area from the pen and stepped off, according to surveillance footage described to the Times. It took seven minutes before jail officials intervened.

City officials voted to close the problem-plagued jail complex in October, and the jail is expected to be shuttered within the next seven years.

The jail complex, long plagued by fights and brutality, has also seen its share of inmate deaths. Layleen Polanco, a transgender inmate, was found unresponsive in her Rikers cell last June, causing widespread outrage among advocates who said the jail failed to protect her. It was later determined that she died of complications relating to epilepsy. At least 372 people have died in the city’s correction custody since 2001, according to records seen by the Brooklyn Eagle.

Cover: In this March 16, 2011, file photo, a security fence surrounds the inmate housing on New York's Rikers Island correctional facility in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)