Family of NYC Rikers Island inmate found dead plans to file $25 million lawsuit against city, attorney says

Elijah Muhammad was found Sunday unresponsive and was dead so long in his Rikers Island cell that his body began to show signs of rigor mortis, lawyers for his family said

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The family of a man who died while in custody at New York City's infamous Rikers Island jail plans to file a $25 million lawsuit against the city following a string of inmate deaths inside the correctional facility in recent years. 

The July 10 death of Elijah Muhammad, 31, has prompted the firing of a correction officer and louder calls to close down the jail. Muhammad had been held at the George R. Vierno Center, a high-security jail on Rikers Island, since June on an assault charge.

He was the tenth inmate to die this year, The New York Times reported. 

"Incarceration at a Rikers Island Jail should not be a death sentence," Sanford Rubenstein, an attorney for Muhammad's family, said in a statement attached to a notice of claim that a lawsuit is forthcoming. "The family of Elijah Muhammad will fully cooperate with the investigation of his wrongful death by the New York City Department of Investigation."

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The lawsuit will reportedly allege negligent supervision and security at the jail complex. Days before his death, Muhammad had been held for 32 hours in solitary confinement, a period that exceeds the New York City Department of Corrections guideline of six hours, the claim said. 

He appeared, disoriented, barely able to walk and needed medical attention, it said. 

"However, (the) decedent was Ieft to die in his cell and remained deceased in his cell for a length of time that his body began to show signs of rigor mortis," the claim said. 

Louis Molina, commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction, has resisted calls for a federal takeover of the jail amid several scandals linked to the complex. 

Fox News has reached out to the DOC for comment. 

The Rikers Island jail complex stands in New York with the Manhattan skyline in the background. An attorney for the family of an inmate who recently died at the jail said they will file a $25 million lawsuit against the city. 

The Rikers Island jail complex stands in New York with the Manhattan skyline in the background. An attorney for the family of an inmate who recently died at the jail said they will file a $25 million lawsuit against the city.  (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

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Muhammad's death came less than a month after two other Rikers inmates died – Albert Drye and Anibal Carrasquillo. Drye, 50, died in a hospital while suffering unknown complications while Carrasquillo, 39, died from a drug overdose, the New York Daily News reported. 

After Muhammad's death, Molina said his department referred the case for possible criminal review.

"We treat every death with the utmost seriousness and understand that it is our mandate to keep every person entrusted to our care safe," he said, according to the Times.