Family of man who committed suicide in Manhattan jail seeks justice

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Elena Mason, sister of Wilson, said her brother, Ryan Wilson, had mental issues that were ignored in the Tombs. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

The family of a 29-year-old mentally ill man who committed suicide while incarcerated in the Manhattan Detention Center, was outside of the jail Thursday afternoon, where they said they would seek justice for their brother after a guard and a jail captain were suspended for the incident.

Correction’s Officer Oscar Rojo discovered Ryan Wilson, 29, of Brooklyn,  unresponsive in his cell at Manhattan Detention Complex — better known as The Tombs, the family said. He had apparently hung himself at about 5 p.m. Nov. 22 using a makeshift ligature or binding around his neck. The circumstances of the suicide are not immediately known, but a guard and a captain were suspended during the investigation.

This is the Manhattan Detention Center. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Wilson, who had a criminal past, had previously served time for attempted robbery in Sing Sing prison,and then released in March with numerous other prisoners because of the fear that the Covid-19 pandemic endangered the inmates and the staff because of overcrowding. Wilson subsequently committed a robbery in Manhattan and was re-incarcerated awaiting trial.

The circumstances of his arrest and his criminal past were not immediately known and AMNY was awaiting a response from the Manhattan D.A.’s office.

NYPD officials had complained that many of those being released, more than 3ooo inmates, had committed 9000 crimes since March. Advocates also said that there was a lack of follow-up with inmates leading to additional crimes and re-incarceration.

Here, attorney Ben Pinczewski, joined by Ryan Wilson’s family and Rev. Kevin  McCall, says the suicide should never have happened. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

His family was led by activist Rev. Kevin McCall and attorney Benjamin Pinczewski who called on Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance to investigate the suicide for possible criminal prosecution. The family maintains that Wilson was “bipolar” and had severe mental issues and was supposed to be under careful watch, but instead was neglected.

Elena Mason, sister of Wilson, said her brother had mental issues that were ignored.

“We feel that justice needs to be served for our brother,” Mason said, flanked by other family members. “Our brother didn’t deserve to die. Yes, he was in jail where he deserved to serve time, not die. We won’t stop until we get justice for our brother. We watched him for a long time – why would he do this? This is not his first time (in jail), so why now? And what supervision did he have while he had mental issues? He was supposed to be under watch and he wasn’t.”

Attorney Pinczewski said the city has thrown away money instead of using it properly to provide mental health assistance for the mentally ill in prison.

“To be in jail is one thing, but to die in jail in the middle of the day when you are under supervision is inexcusable,” Pinczewski said. “It’s not supposed to be the tombs, it is the detention center. It became a tomb for Ryan and he didn’t deserve that. And why has it happened again and again in such a short period of time? The Dept. of corrections to suspend these two officers was very unusual. What happened, what was done that they took such fast action against the officers?”

Rev. McCall said Wilson was suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar issues and needed proper care to prevent the suicide. He cited other suicides in the same prison saying the Dept. of Corrections wasn’t doing enough to stop the suicides.

“If you do the crime, you do the time, but it shouldn’t mean you go to your death,” McCall said. “If you have issues, the system is supposed to help you so you don’t go back into society and go back into the system to begin with.”

His sister said that since his release from prison in March, he was looking for work, something the city was required to accomplish. She said “he was eager to be different.

Mason said when he was released from Sing Sing during the summer, he was denied a work-release program. His efforts to find a job was unsuccessful because “there was no work during COVID.”

The Daily News reported on Nov. 25 that there were questions surrounding the circumstances of Wilson’s death, but according to the News at least one jail insider familiar with the matter said there were serious questions raised regarding whether the staffers saw Wilson with a makeshift ligature around his neck before he hanged himself.

The case remains under investigation as the family seeks answers.


Rev. Kevin McCall joins the family of Ryan Wilson who committed suicide in the Tombs while incarcerated for robbery. (Photo by Todd Maisel)