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For Mentally Ill Inmates, a Cycle of Jail and Hospitals

In this this June 20, 2014, file photo, the Rikers Island jail complex stands in the foreground with the New York skyline in the background. In the midst of heightened scrutiny to reform New York City's jails, reports of violence by guards against inmates reached an all-time high in 2014, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

In this this June 20, 2014, file photo, the Rikers Island jail complex stands in the foreground with the New York skyline in the background. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

(New York Times) – It was not a particularly violent crime that sent Michael Megginson to Rikers Island. He was arrested for stealing a cellphone.

But in jail, Mr. Megginson, who is 25 and has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals since the age of 6, quickly deteriorated, becoming one of the most violent inmates on the island.

In his 18 months there, he was constantly involved in some kind of disturbance, his records show. He fought with other inmates and officers; spit and threw urine at them; smashed windows and furniture and once stabbed an officer in the back of the head with a piece of glass.

At least twice, his bones were broken in beatings by guards.

He also repeatedly hurt himself, cutting his body all over, banging his head against walls and tying sheets and clothing around his neck in apparent suicide attempts.

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For Mentally Ill Inmates, a Cycle of Jail and Hospitals