NEW YORK - A prisoner who was hospitalized in intensive care after guards reportedly failed to stop him from hanging himself on Rikers Island jail should be released, said New York’s Legal Aid Society Wednesday.
The inmate, Nicholas Feliciano, remained unconscious Wednesday, a week after he nearly died in his cell, according to the society, which represents him in court. A correction officer "sits at his bedside at all times," the society said in a statement. It said his family is only allowed approved visits during scheduled hours.
The society said correction officials should drop a parole violation against the 18-year-old.
At least four correction officers were reportedly suspended after they failed to act for seven minutes as Feliciano tried to hang himself in a holding pen. Some even watched the suicide attempt before intervening, according to the New York Times. Three officers and a captain were suspended after the incident was caught on the jail’s video feed.
The video reportedly shows one officer heading into the cell where the inmate was hanging, opening the door, then closing the door without entering and walking away.
Feliciano was arrested last month on a parole violation. He was moved from general housing to the intake cell block the day he attempted suicide after reportedly getting into a fight.
He reportedly remained on a respirator with no brain activity.
Legal Aid said Feliciano was being held despite his youth and history of previous suicide attempts in a system with a "poor track record" of managing suicide risks.
In a statement, Cynthia Brann, the city correction commissioner says an investigation is underway and, if warranted, the officers could face, “disciplinary action up to and including termination.”
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The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association said the suspended officers, “are innocent until proven guilty, just like anyone else in our justice system.”
The episode is the latest in a troubled history on Rikers Island.
A new, and separate, lawsuit now alleges correction officers are arresting visitors coming in with books claiming the pages are being soaked in synthetic marijuana.
Charges were dropped in all cases, but court papers showed the vistors were barred from visiting their loved ones for six months to a year as their cases played out.
In October, lawmakers voted to close the jail complex and replace it with four smaller jails intended to be more modern and humane.
With the Associated Press