New York City has agreed to pay $3.8 million in damages to the family of a 25-year-old man who died while in custody at Rikers Island after a correctional officer refused to let him see a doctor.
Jason Echevarria was facing a robbery charge and was being held in solitary confinement in a unit for the mentally ill when the incident occurred, New York Daily News reported Nov. 17.
Echevarria swallowed a toxic ball of soap -- presumably to get out of solitary confinement -- which caused fatal injuries to his insides. As his condition deteriorated, he vomited and spit blood on the window of his cell.
However, despite being informed of Echevarria’s worsening condition, Capt. Terrence Pendergrass, 51, refused to call a doctor to see him.
“The parties have reached a settlement in principle that brings closure to the family of a tragic matter,” a spokesperson for the city’s law department said, according to the Daily News.
The deal came after Pendergrass was sentenced to a five-year prison term for his role in Echevarria's death.
“The settlement is an acknowledgement of the seriousness of what occurred,” the family’s lawyer, Joshua Kellner, said following the announcement of the payout.
“It’s not a happy day for the family," he added. "It doesn’t bring Jason back."
Ramon Echevarria, Jason’s father, refused to comment after the announcement. Kellner described him as being “emotionally exhausted.”
Pendergrass was the only prison guard charged in the incident, although others were called to testify in court.
“It was an entire cell block of correctional officers who walked by an did nothing,” Kellner said.
Just last year, the city paid $2.25 million after another inmate, Jerome Murdough, died due to the heat in his cell at Rikers Island.
Concern about the treatment of inmates at the facility has been persistent and widespread.
In October, a federal judge presented a plan to reform Rikers Island so as to tackle incidents of brutality towards prisoners by guards.
The plan imposed restrictions on when officers can use force, provided for a federal monitor to review conditions at the prison, and ordered the installment of more surveillance cameras, the New York Times reported.
The agreement also brought an end to lawsuits by 12 former and current prisoners who accused guards of committing acts of violence.