The New York City Board of Corrections is investigating the latest suspicious death of Rikers Island inmate, the New York Daily News reported. Joseph Foster died on Jan. 4 at a hospital after guards ignored his calls for help during a medical emergency, highlighting the widespread problem of preventable in-custody deaths.
“They should have acted sooner. He kept screaming, ‘I need a doctor! I need a doctor!’” Carlos Renta, a Rikers inmate recalled.
Jail supervisors took nearly an hour to call an ambulance for Foster, 51, after he complained about a massive headache and sudden numbness on his left side. Foster, who suffered from high blood pressure and diabetes, died five days later at Elmhurst Hospital Center. He had been serving a six-month sentence for a drug sale.
It’s no surprise that this happened at Rikers. The jail complex will forever be linked to the death of Kalief Browder, who’s abuse and neglect as a juvenile at the jail is well documented. He spent three years at the facility after being accused of taking a backpack in 2010. The jail’s infamous history prompted Mayor Bill de Blasio to announce its closure, which will take several years.
Foster’s case is all too familiar. At least 815 people died in custody from preventable causes in the year after Sandra Bland‘s death in 2015, a Huffington Post investigation found. In that yearlong period, 12 individuals with diabetes, like Foster, died in custody. At least one of those case resulted in a criminal conviction against jail officials. Of the 815 in-custody deaths, 27 percent were from natural causes and 31 percent from apparent suicide. Many in-custody deaths happened within days after arrest. At least 182 inmates died within three days, and 121 died from four to seven days after getting locked up.