Prisons

Rikers Teen Inmate Dies in Agony After Officials Ignore Torn Artery for Months

Eventually, a doctor wrote him a prescription for hand cream.

|

Rikers
Wikimedia Commons

For months, Andy Henriquez, a 19-year-old inmate at Rikers Island in New York City, complained about chest pain to prison guards. Other inmates who could hear the teen's agonized screams pleaded with correctional officers to help him. But the shoddy medical care Henriquez received did nothing to alleviate his symptoms. Eventually, a doctor wrote him a prescription for hand cream.

Hours later, Henriquez was found dead. An autopsy determined that Henriquez had gradually succumbed to a torn aorta—something a hospital could have treated had medical personnel bothered to conduct cardiac examinations.

That's according to a lawsuit filed against Corizon, the healthcare company for Rikers, by Henriquez's mother, Sandra De La Cruz. DNAinfo's Rosa Goldensohn reports:

"I felt desperate. I felt despair, not being able to help my child," De la Cruz told DNAinfo New York in Spanish from her lawyer's office recently.

"They should have let him leave. They should have taken him to the hospital. If I could have, I would have."

De la Cruz is one of more than two dozen New Yorkers who have sued Corizon since 2012, accusing the company of negligence in medical care at Rikers and other correctional facilities. …

Henriquez's death came two years after New York's Commission of Correctionhad already opened an investigation into other state inmates' deaths under Corizon's watch, city records show.

The outcome of that investigation was unclear and the commission declined to say whether it had finished or what it had found.

The guards claimed that they did not hear Henriquez begging for help, but other inmates reported that the COs did indeed hear Henriquez—they merely chose not to do anything about him. In either case, the COs acted improperly, since they were supposed to be checking on Henriquez every 15 minutes. Officers admitted that these required checks did not take placed, according to Goldensohn.

Henriquez entered Rikers at the age of 16. He was charged with being part of a gang that murdered another teenager, though Henriquez was not actually the one who committed the murder, according to the police. His case had not yet gone to trial by the time of his death.

No matter what his crimes were, he deserved better care than this. Even the useless hand cream was poorly administered; the doctor wrote the wrong name on the prescription.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time this year that Rikers made headlines for killing an inmate via neglect.

More from Reason TV on the incarceration of young people below.

NEXT: Ferguson, Iraq, and the Legacy of 9/11

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. For months, Andy Henriquez, a 19-year-old inmate at Rikers Island in New York City

    Henriquez entered Rikers at the age of 16… His case had not yet gone to trial by the time of his death.

    That is a crime in itself. Three years and not even tried yet.

    1. The Speedy Trial Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution has been superseded by the FYTW clause.

      1. Actually, all of our rights have been stripped via the Patriot Act.

        1. The Patriot Act + The NDAA + the lesser known FYTW Act.

          1. When can we start shooting legislators in the face with a bazooka?

            1. Depends, are you a police officer?

            2. Never. District 2 exists to protect District 1 and hold down the rest.

      2. Sad but true. But I believe the notorious FYTW clause has been around for some time now. My question to everybody out there is when did the FYTW precedent first appear?

    2. That got my hackles up too. The kid was in prison for three years and hadn’t been convicted of anything.

      1. But don’t you dare call it a police state you libertarian anarchists!

    3. 3 years and then the death sentence, for an inmate who had never even been to trial.

      Whoever was responsible for seeing that this kid received proper medical care should be tried for homicide.

      1. If by ‘trial’ you mean ‘stern talking-to from his superiors followed by a two-week paid vacation’ then I’m sure it’s forthcoming.

        1. Well, that’s not exactly what I had in mind, although I’m sure it’s a lot more like what will actually happen, if anything.

        2. “What you did made us look bad. Now go to the Bahamas and think about it long and hard.”

          1. well c’mon I mean think of how bad they must feel? Filling out all that tedious paperwork associated with some jerk having the nerd to die on them must have kept them from their families for sooo long. don’t they need a nice relaxing vacation with the Kids?

    4. Yeah, if that’s accurate, this feels like it should be a much bigger deal.

  2. If someone is in your custody, you are responsible for them. You’ve removed their freedom, their ability to care for themselves. If you aren’t up to that task, don’t do it.

    1. With great power comes…no responsibility.

  3. Kid sounds like a thug. Good artery tear.

    1. I hope that was sarcasm.

      1. He was satirizing some of the more…unsympathetic reactions seen around here to the Michael Brown shooting, I think.

        1. I haven’t much time to read/post lately…

          1. Probably best for your sanity, Hyp.

            1. It’s too late for that.

          2. Count yourself fortunate.

  4. Guards probably recorded the screams so they could listen while they masturbated.

    1. Did the prison doc prescribe them “hand cream” too?

      1. Damn your speedy fingers!

        1. The hand cream helps.

    2. What do you think the hand cream was really for?

      1. Rape Lube.

  5. How on earth is Riker’s allowed to exist in its present form? It’s Abu Gharib without the stacked naked prisoners (or maybe that’s only because we haven’t seen the picture proof of that happening at Riker’s yet; it may eventually come out that it’s happening there as well)

    1. It should be noted that Riker’s Island is a jail, not a prison. Two thirds of the inmates are pre-trail detainees, and the rest are all serving sentences of less than a year, or are being transferred to another prison post conviction.

  6. Somebody’s defense lawyer should have filed a speedy trial motion, first thing. The Penitentiary Direct, er Public Defender or the family lawyer should have had this resolved years earlier so the miserable prison scum/guards/staff couldn’t have even had the chance to kill this guy with negligence.

  7. just so we’re clear, Rikers is a national disgrace, right?

    1. Nope.

      I’d love to see what the national thoughts on Rikers would be if it were the same exact way, except that it was, say, near Dallas.

      1. Dude, that would be, like, the most racist place since Apartheid South Africa.

        1. Even more racist than Apartheid Israel? Is that even possible?

  8. Free Government Healthcare, FTW!

  9. I’m still wondering when libertarians will break their silence on this.

    1. They’re too busy demanding free government subsidized pot and the destruction of the middle class by crony capitalists to care.

    2. I’m wondering what Millennials think.

      1. I’m wondering what if Millennials think.

        Kidding!

        Maybe.

  10. whosw side aare you on? Corizons need to maximeze sharehldr profiys come befre human life. we all understand this.. medicl treatment cuts into profits and tht canot be allowd. sme with aramark giving prisoners maggot infested food.

    1. Sweet Jesus cinnamon titties motherfuck.

    2. Looks like someone butt-dialed a comment.

      1. I’d like to see a post from you under similar circumstances.

        /Flying Officer Ives

  11. The headline is misleading. The officials did not “ignore a torn artery” because they were completely unaware of it. They certainly should have been aware of it, since a prisoners health is their responsibility but it isn’t like they knew he had a torn artery and declined treatment.

    I say this because when I read the headline I assumed that they actually knew he had a torn artery and still didn’t do anything. While I thought that was pretty over the top, I believed that it was possible. You see what you fuckers have done to me!!!

    I, at least, don’t need to have the evils of the State exaggerated.

    1. Would “Rikers Teen Inmate Dies in Agony After Officials Ignore Painful Symptoms of Fatal Condition for Months” make you feel better?

      And how is that materially different from the actual headline?

    2. Or, try this:

      The state had a duty to find out what his medical condition was, and to treat it.

      The state is not allowed to plead ignorance of what it had a duty to find. It is deemed to have known he had a torn artery, because it was their job to find out what was wrong with him.

      1. Duty and obligation are for YOU serf. Power, privilege, and status are for your Overlords.

  12. Did people watch the video? It made my skin crawl. As much grief as cops get on this site, I can’t think of too many good stories involving correctional officers. Sadistic scum is an accurate description for most that I have encountered. Locking two teenagers in a room to fight and watch as one rapes another? Who the hell really belongs in a cage here?

  13. I’m sure that Riker’s inmates never fake being sick.
    Or scream their fool heads off day & night.
    It’s so sad this precious little dumpling didn’t get properly tucked in at night with a kiss and a warm glass of milk.

    1. You are one sorry sack of severed dicks, Tulpa.

      I sincerely hope you die.

  14. Of course this is what you get with the lower quality doctors that end up working for the government. This is more the fault of the medical staff than the guards. No matter how much he screams the guards can only take him to see the doctor, if the doctor screws up and sends him back there really isn’t anything else for the guards to do except take him back to the inept doctor, who being inept is unlikely to critically think about the problem and solve it.

    My guess is that the doctor was not that great and couldn’t think outside the box (19yr olds are not “supposed” to have cardiac problems) and simply thought he was malingering. A sonogram could have found the problem and they are neither invasive or expensive.

    1. While I’d love to blame government healthcare, as I understand it this was a private firm contracted out to handle medical issues.

      So, you have a private firm handling what actually should be the government’s job. Prisons are one of the few legit functions a government would have even by the standards of most libertarians.

      In this case, you have a private entity handling it. Who is their customer, and how do they make a profit? The customer isn’t the patient, but the government. They make a profit by cutting costs, and they don’t have to worry about killing patients because there is no accountability.

      It’s crony capitalism at work.

      1. Whether public or private – the reason is likely the same – small budget, meaning smaller salaries and fewer people, overall, leading to weak doctors with high workloads handling difficult patients (people lying, etc).

        Additionally lower budgets force constant questions on all medical tests, reducing said medical tests.

        It?s immoral.

        We should either fully fund prisons or start letting people out (both really, but for this problem – theoretically proper funding would solve it without removing people from jail).

  15. He was imprisoned at 16, dead at 19 and his case had never come up for trial. If that’s not a violation of the Eighth Amendment right to a speedy and public trial, what is?

    1. Oops, sixth amendment right. D’oh.

  16. Three years at/in Rikers and a torn aorta – How the hell could that have happened ??

  17. Not saying the reason he was in for 3 years is because his lawyer knew he was guilty and wanted to keep him out of prison as long as possible. I’ve seen it happen many times. Also public defender lawyers get paid by the hours they bill. Each PART of an hour is billable. If they say “How’s it going?” and the client replies and they walk on, the state gets charged for an HOUR. I once worked in a building that had a law office in it. One of their former lawyers had billed for TWO HUNDRED HOURS in ONE WEEK!

    1. still, shouldn’t he had been out on bond or something?

      I mean, that’s why we have bonds, so we don’t have to imprison potentially innocent people as the court works its way through a case.

      Hell, what was he actually charged with? It said he didn’t actually kill the person. Was he an accomplice?

      Why did the gang kill the person? Is it in such a way to suggest him being a threat to society? Otherwise there would be no need for jail.

      (though I guess with our drug war, we have no real principle of locking someone up for being a threat, and apparently not even for punishing actual convicted crimes.)

  18. I hate that I’m getting to this thread so late, but there’s something about this story that doesn’t add up. I want to know what caused the initial injury. From the description, I’m inferring that Henriquez had an aortic dissection that eventually ruptured. What bothers me, is that in a otherwise healthy (an assumption) 19-year-old, the root cause of an aortic dissection is usually blunt-force trauma to the chest, such as hitting a steeling wheel in a motor vehicle accident. Who hit this kid in the chest hard enough to tear his aorta?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.