Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

National news

March 22, 2014

Mayor: NYC inmate's death in hot cell is troubling

(Continued)

"They knew he had problems. There's no excuse," she said of her son, who she said had bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

"They've got a lot of stuff to check," she said of the investigation. "A lot of stuff to correct."

The Department of Correction is investigating the death. It has said it's already addressed two contributing factors an outside consultant identified as causing the excess heat. It also said temperature checks immediately after the death revealed that several cells nearby were over 80 degrees.

Murdough, who the Marine Corps said Thursday was discharged as a private first class who served from 1975 to 1978 as a field artillery batteryman, was arrested Feb. 7 on a misdemeanor trespassing charge for sleeping in an enclosed stairwell on the roof of a public housing building in Harlem. He was sent to Rikers after being unable to post a $2,500 bail, court records show. He was found dead a week later, in the early hours of Feb. 15, the officials said.

Advocates for mentally ill inmates say the city's justice system failed by arresting him instead of finding him help, by setting prohibitive bail and by failing to supervise him closely in a special observation unit for inmates with mental illnesses.

On Thursday, de Blasio touted his pick to head the nation's second-largest jail system, Joseph Ponte, as a reformer with experience improving other jail systems around the country.

"He is someone who has taken on very troubled situations on jail systems and had success," he said. Ponte ran the jail system in Memphis, Tenn., and currently runs corrections for the state of Maine. "He's going to join us quite soon and we know we have to make some serious reforms."

Ponte is credited with reducing Maine's use of solitary confinement. He starts in New York next month.

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