Teen Rikers Inmate Died In Solitary Confinement As Guards Ignored Cries For Help, Suit Alleges

August 18, 2014 | Marina Galperina

Andy Henriquez died in his solitary confinement cell from a torn aorta, in severe pain, while guards ignored his and other inmates’ cries for help, DNAinfo reports. 

After a shocking report detailing institutionalized abuse, rights violations, a “culture of violence” and frequent medical emergencies experienced by young inmates at Rikers Island, other cases of systemic corruption are being brought to light, including several lawsuits of negligence on behalf of Corizon, a lucrative, Tennessee-based company that provides healthcare to jails nationwide.

Henriquez, a 19-year-old from Washington Heights, had constantly complained of chest pains. He was diagnosed with costochondritis eight times in the seven months leading up to his death. Had the prison doctor followed standard medical procedure, Henriquez would have had a cardiac exam and follow-up tests. The day Henriquez began to experience the onset of severe pain in his chest, he was prescribed an anti-inflammatory drug and a muscle relaxant and sent back to his cell. The guards later admitted that they did not check on the inmate every required 15 minutes. According to neighboring inmates’ testimonies, when the guards did check on the section, they ignored Henriquez’s complains of extreme pain. At this point, as the inmates kicked their doors and screamed for the medic, Henriquez’s major artery was tearing from his heart to his groin and his limbs and organs were losing blood flow.

Had he been taken to a real hospital for emergency surgery, he would had a good chance of survival and recovery. He was found dead in his cell that night.

Henriquez has been in Rikers since he was 16 and was still awaiting trial for gang-related murder. According to the police and the criminal report, though Henriquez was part of a group that attacked the victim, he did not carry out the fatal blows.

Henriquez’s mother Sandra De la Cruz is suing Corizon for negligence, one of two-dozen lawsuits filed by New Yorkers against the company since 2012, including a death from treatable bacterial infection at Rikers, a failure to treat an epileptic man who lost his vision after assault and negligence resulting in amputation.

Corizon is among NY’s top ten largest contractors. The for-profit health services provider made $1.2 billion in revenue in 2014, including millions from the city. Henriquez died two years after an inconclusive and shoddy investigation of the company by New York’s Commission of Correction. Corizon’s contract requires the city to represent the company in court.

Other lawsuits have recently forced the city to scale back — but not eliminate – the inhumane and dangerous practice of solitary confinement in prisons this year. In 2012, 14.4% of all teenaged Rikers prisoners spent an average of 43 days in solitary confinement, the majority of them diagnosed with mental illness. (Image: @sheriffaj)