Corrections officer charged after allegedly standing by while inmate killed himself

"Our investigation shows that Captain Hillman ordered her subordinates not to take potentially life-saving measures to help Mr. Wilson," Manhattan DA Cy Vance stated.

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A corrections officer in New York faces criminal charges after an inmate died by suicide under her watch.

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ABC News reported Rebecca Hillman, 38, was charged with negligent homicide after Ryan Wilson took his own life at the Manhattan Detention Complex in November 2020. Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance announced the charges Monday, saying she showed a “callous disregard” for life.

“The death of Ryan Wilson wasn’t just a tragedy — it was a crime,” Vance said according to the report. “Our investigation shows that Captain Hillman ordered her subordinates not to take potentially life-saving measures to help Mr. Wilson, and failed to call for medical assistance expediently.”

He added, “This callous disregard for Mr. Wilson’s safety resulted in an irreversible loss to his family and friends, and must be held criminally accountable.”

A Correction Department badge on an officer at the Vernon C. Bain Correctional Center at Rikers Island, in the Bronx. This is the only prison bardge in the US, and is anchored in the South Bronx near Rikers Island. The Bardge handles inmates from medium- to maximum-security in 16 dormitories and 100 cells. (Photo by David Howells/Corbis via Getty Images)

According to the report, Hillman decided to have Wilson transferred to another cell after he had an argument with a fellow inmate. As he waited, Wilson grabbed a bedsheet and tied it to a light fixture, and threatened to hang himself if he was not immediately moved to another cell. Hillman did not immediately respond, stopping to file paperwork before heading to the scene. 10 minutes later, Wilson died by suicide, jumping from the bed.

ABC News reported another officer who had been talking with Wilson was told by Hillman that the inmate was “playing,” and ordered the officer to remain outside of the cell after the doors were opened in the minute following the suicide. She called for non-emergency backup and ordered the door closed and by the time medical professionals arrived, he had passed.

Hillman entered a plea of not guilty.

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Data shows corrections officers in New York have been negligent in many situations. theGrio reported more than half of corrections officers lied on incident reports, omitted details, or filed the reports incorrectly in general. A new report filed by the New York Times found that out of roughly 270 corrections officers disciplined over a 20-month period, more than half participated in this unethical behavior. 

According to the newspaper, about 56 percent of the officers who were disciplined from January 2019 to August 2020, misled investigators who were looking into these incidents. 12 of these officers held supervisory positions. The data also found that at least 17 officers made false statements in interviews during official investigations.

Councilman Keith Powers, a Manhattan Democrat, said the data analyzed by the Times is indicative of a larger, systemic issue that “highlights how broken this process is.” He continued, “It’s a turning point to providing more visibility to an often invisible criminal justice system.”

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