NYC jail deaths rise after another detainee dies by hanging

New York, New York – A detainee who used a shoestring to hang himself last week in a Manhattan criminal court holding cell has died, Correction Department officials said.

Anthony Scott was about to be transported to Rikers Island when he took his own life.
Anthony Scott was about to be transported to Rikers Island when he took his own life.  © IMAGO / NurPhoto

Anthony Scott (58) was found unresponsive on Thursday at about 4:45 PM in an admission cell after he was arrested for assaulting a nurse at New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia.

He was about to be transported to Rikers Island, the city's main jail complex.

He died Tuesday in intensive care at New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital.

A source said as many as four correction officers were nearby when Scott tied the shoestring to a partition.

Department of Correction officials said the incident is under investigation.

The suicide attempt came as 13 detainees have died in city custody so far this year, a grim sign of crisis conditions at Rikers Island and other lockups.

Scott was not technically in city custody when he died, having been released by the court while he was in intensive care.

Scott's attorney said he was not given mental health care he needed

Criminal justice reform advocates hold a "Less Is More" sign at the entrance of Rikers Island.
Criminal justice reform advocates hold a "Less Is More" sign at the entrance of Rikers Island.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

Scott was arrested about 4:00 AM last Wednesday, after a nurse at Columbia-Presbyterian told police he punched her in the face, court records show. He was charged with assault.

Prosecutors asked for cash bail of $30,000, citing Scott’s lengthy arrest record, including two prior violent felony convictions.

Judge Nestor Diaz set bail at $15,000 cash, $45,000 bond, records show.

Scott reached the holding area at Manhattan criminal court about 1:00 PM Thursday. Less than four hours later he jammed a lock to his cell and hanged himself, records show.

Firefighters arrived roughly a half-hour later and helped correction staff open the door.

"Throughout his life, Mr Scott was continually criminalized for his struggle with mental illness, and our criminal legal system has never had the comprehensive tools necessary to serve New Yorkers with acute needs like Mr. Scott," said Tina Luongo, Attorney-In-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society.

"We call on our leaders in government to prioritize both policy and funding to support robust programming to prevent further suffering and loss of life."

At least six detainees have died following suicide attempts while in custody since November.

Scott’s death came only four days after Victor Mercado (64) died after testing positive for Covid-19 while at Rikers on weapons and drugs charges.

Cover photo: IMAGO / NurPhoto

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