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NYC settles suit over Rikers inmate death for $5.75M

New York City has agreed to a $5.75 million settlement of a lawsuit brought by the family of Bradley Ballard, a mentally ill and diabetic Rikers Island inmate who died after being left in his cell for six days without care.

Ballard’s notorious 2013 death after he flooded his cell and wrapped a rubber band around his genitals but got no help, first reported by The Associated Press, was blamed by a state commission on gross incompetence by the city and its health contractor, and spurred reform efforts at Rikers.

Jonathan Abady, a lawyer for Ballard’s family, said the settlement was the largest in the history of New York City for a death in custody.

“For those of us working in the area of prisoners’ rights, I don’t think anyone can recall a case where the abuse and mistreatment was more egregious,” he said. “This was a total system failure, an astonishing display of inhuman treatment and misconduct that involved culpability at virtually every level.”

“Although we understand this to be the largest settlement in NYC history for a death in custody, there is no consolation in that fact,” he added. “There’s no victory or happy ending here, just the door closing on one aspect of a terrible travesty that is unrectifiable.”

City Corrections Commissioner Joseph Ponte, who took office after Ballard’s death, called it a “tragedy” and said there was “zero tolerance” for mistreatment of inmates.

But the department wouldn’t say whether anyone had been disciplined.

A spokesman for the city law department said, “The settlement of this tragic case was fair and in the best interests of the city.”

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