Criminal Justice

Prosecutors accuse jail guard of ignoring dying inmate's need for doctor

A corrections officer at Rikers Island in New York City has been criminally charged for allegedly doing nothing to aid a mentally ill inmate who had swallowed a toxic “soap ball” that is used to disinfect prison cells.

Terrence Pendergrass, 49, is charged with one count of deprivation of rights under color of law, according to a press release, Reuters and the New York Times.

The inmate, Jason Echevarria, 25, was found dead in his cell the morning after he swallowed the soap ball, on Aug. 19, 2012, prosecutors say. According to allegations in a complaint unsealed Monday, two corrections officers told Pendergrass, who was then a supervisor, that Echevarria needed medical attention. Prosecutors claim Pendergrass failed to seek medical help and even told the first officer there were only two circumstances when he should be called: if a corrections officer needed help extracting an inmate from a cell or if there was a dead body.

Patrick Ferraiuolo, president of the Correction Captains Association, told the Times that Pendergrass was not told about Echevarria’s medical condition and that the inmate had a history of acting up. Pendergrass was demoted after the incident and was suspended Monday without pay.

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