Baked: Jailing (and Too Often Killing) Those In Need of Care

by
Abby Zimet

An awful story out of New York's Rikers Island Jail, where a homeless, mentally ill former Marine, arrested for curling up to sleep in a warm place on a cold night, "basically baked to death" in a cell that overheated to more than 100 degrees. The entirely preventable death of Jerome Murdough, 56, who was on anti-psychotic and anti-seizure medication, is part of a horrific trend: Amidst a shortage of mental health treatment and facilities thanks to the biggest cuts in history to state services, mental health patients are increasingly becoming prisoners, and jails are becoming mental hospitals - usually, woefully ill-equipped ones in which a growing number of homeless, sick and substance-abusing people die. Murdough’s mother, who learned of her son's death weeks after the fact from the press, described him as a “lovely, caring guy” who would “give you the shirt off his back.” Prison officials say they are investigating his "unfortunate death."

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