NEW YORK — A grandfather who struggled with mental illness and could not afford $15,000 bail tried to kill himself while in Department of Correction custody and died days later when he was taken off life support.
Anthony Scott’s death renewed calls to address incarceration issues. More than 4,000 people are currently being detained on Rikers Island. Most of them awaiting trial and are presumed innocent, Neighborhood Defender Services of Harlem managing director Alice Fontier said.
“So how are we sentencing people to death before trial based on torturous conditions? That is just something you have to care about,” Fontier said.
Scott’s mental and physical health deteriorated over the last seven months, his family said. In that time, he had difficulties getting the medication, services and health care he needed.
“He was resilient because he navigated a difficult life with limited support as an African American man with disabilities,” his family said. “In spite of his long struggle with autism and drug addiction he was well-loved by his family and community. He had very limited options for a life other than the one that befell him.”
David Rankin, an attorney representing the family, slammed the DOC and the criminal justice system.
“No one should be in the care of the Department of Corrections if they cannot keep people safe,” Rankin said. “No prosecutor should be asking bail, no judge should be setting bail. No one, no one in our City should be subjected to this level of neglect.”
Scott is the 14th person to die this year connected to the New York City jail system. He’d been found unresponsive in an admission cell at Manhattan Court on Oct. 14 around 4:45 p.m., officials said. He was taken to Beekmen hospital, then granted compassionate release from custody the next day.
In just a few weeks, voters will select the next mayor and both candidates have differing viewpoints on the criminal justice system. Both candidates said they want to better protect the people detained on Rikers while also listening to the concerns of correction officers.
Republican candidate Curtis Sliwa believes people on Rikers in need of mental health treatment should be relocated to state hospitals.
“They are more than capable at state hospitals to care for these men and women until their judicial situation is adjudicated,” he said.
Democratic candidate Eric Adams wants to take a closer look at who’s being detained on Rikers.
“Jail should be reserved for violent dangerous people,” he said.