According to one of those with knowledge of his case, Mr. Muhammad had been undergoing treatment for an unspecified mental illness. In the days before he died, he had spent more than 32 hours in isolation before being returned to a regular cell, a violation of department rules to keep detainees in so-called de-escalation units for more than six hours at a time. While in solitary confinement, Mr Muhammad had no bed or access to medical care, the person said.
On Monday, the corrections department issued a statement announcing the death and resignation of the corrections officer, but without further details, saying only that Mr Mohammed “deceased” at about 10:30 p.m. on Sunday. In fact, an officer discovered him at about 9:46 p.m., a prison official said.
A person with knowledge of the matter said that at one point officers took Mr Muhammad from his cell and, while returning him, saw that he appeared disoriented and could barely walk. He died hours later. His appearance, the person said, indicated that Mr Mohammed needed medical attention.
Mohammed’s death has come as city leaders resist calls for a federal court takeover of the Rikers Island prison complex. Responding to concerns from the US attorney in Manhattan, among others, a federal judge has given the city until October to show progress or risk appointing an independent superintendent.
As prison officials struggle to restore order, a steady influx of illegal drugs has contributed to a spike in overdoses. At the Correction Board meeting on Tuesday, members said inmates have died in the past 18 months alone after overdosing on synthetic marijuana, fentanyl, heroin, PCP, or a combination of those drugs. Board members noted that the Correction Department does not track nonfatal overdoses.
The total number of suspected overdoses on Rikers Island has soared, according to prison health data obtained by DailyExpertNews, from 73 emergencies requiring 911 calls in 2020 to 113 in 2021.