The New York Times published video Tuesday of a diabetic man arrested for selling drugs who died from diabetes complications at Rikers Island hours after arriving there. The incident highlights yet another facet of what Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara earlier this year called a "broken system" with "a decades-long culture of violence" within New York City's main jail complex.
The 2013 video shows surveillance footage from Rikers in which 45-year-old Carlos Mercado is seen moving erratically at times and shown collapsing when a Rikers guard opens up a holding cell door hours after Mercado was placed there. After his collapse, Mercado is left lying on the floor for three minutes, with a guard stepping over his body at one point.
Within 15 hours of being taken to New York City's main jail complex, Mercado died from what the autopsy report said was complications of diabetes.
Witnesses quoted in a report by the New York State Commission of Correction said that Mercado threw up "10 or 20 times" in a garbage bag and that he told guards he was a diabetic and that he wasn't feeling well only to be told by one of the officers that he was "withdrawing." The report said that a failure to refer Mercado to the medical unit was a violation of Department of Correction (DOC) protocol.
"Nobody should have to die like that," the victim's sister, Linda Mercado, told the New York Daily News. "All he was asking for was his medicine. That’s all he needed. He would be here today."
Mercado's family is in settlement negotiations with the city, the New York Times reported.
It's not the first time such incidents have occurred in New York City. In 2011, a woman arrested outside a Manhattan bar for smoking marijuana received a $125,000 settlement from the city after her blood sugar meter was taken away and EMTs found her sugar level to be four times the normal level, resulting in a trip to the hospital.
In 2010, a 43-year-old man arrested for a drug charge won a $17.5 million judgment from a Brooklyn jury after he was refused insulin for nearly 60 hours, causing him to suffer multiple seizures, according to the New York Daily News.
The revelation of the latest incident at Rikers Island comes months after the announcement of an agreement between the U.S. Justice Department and the New York City DOC (PDF) to "develop and implement myriad new practices, systems, policies and procedures designed to reduce violence in the jails and ensure the safety and well-being of inmates."
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Bharara said at the time of the announcement in June that the agreement framework requires the city "to implement sweeping operational changes to fix a broken system and dismantle a decades-long culture of violence."