Our family is committed to whatever it takes for policy reform in the jail

To The Editor:

Thank you for reporting the most recent details on the story about my son, Adam Rappaport.  We have been looking, and waiting, for answers about his final days, and appreciate that you were able to offer some clarity about his time "in reception" at the Albany County jail.

During the six weeks of his homelessness, Adam's addiction returned and his behavior just spiraled out of control.  We tried everything, ultimately thinking that "tough love" would get him the help and supervision that he desperately needed.

Never did we imagine what was to come next.  Just 24 hours before his death, he called and wrote home — all was positive.  He was ready to face what he had done.

What happened in that jail during those last hours?  We’ve run through this in our minds a million times.

Why won’t Sheriff Apple call us?  Why, in our darkest hour, do we have to keep pushing around for answers?

As you mentioned in your article, the Colonie EMS transported Adam to Albany Medical Center.  I wish I could thank each of them personally, for keeping Adam's heart beating, just long enough for me to feel it one last time.

In the emergency room, he was on life-support, and his brain was not functioning.  I was left to make the most painful decision of my life.  I just could not let go.

In a room full of hospital staff and family, the chaplain was helping me to understand everything that was happening so that I could make that time-sensitive decision.  We were all horrified to be interrupted by the "heroin" and "junkie" jokes that were coming from the other side of the ER curtain — from Albany County Sheriff’s Office staff who were in charge of what they openly called "following the corpse.”

Why didn’t it occur to them that the corpse’s grieving mother, barely able to stand on her own, was being tortured by their words?  When approached about their inappropriate behavior, they were clueless about the impact it had on all of us.

Once our family agreed on organ donation, Adam was brought to the Surgical Intensive Care Unit, where a flurry of doctors and nurses rushed to stabilize his blood pressure and prepare him for surgery.  Again, I wish I could thank each of them personally, for their empathy and professionalism, despite yet another officer from the Albany County Sheriff’s Office who had none.

In this sterile environment, with surgical gowns and gloves, the officer walked right into the room just to observe what was being done to Adam's body — clearly violating even the last minutes of Adam's life.  Those minutes, however few, were my last opportunity to love and cherish my beautiful boy.

He wasn’t a corpse yet; he was my son.

Perhaps the most insulting experience was when I went to the Albany County jail to pick up Adam's belongings.  I expected to meet with the superintendent, Christian Clark, being that my son died while in his custody.

I had an impact statement that I wanted to read to him:  “No More Grieving Mothers Here.”  He was in the building, but chose to send his assistant and the “addiction specialist” instead.  I looked to the “specialist,” hoping she could tell me some of Adam’s last words — maybe a glimpse into the last hours of his life.  She had not seen him since 2007, when he was there for a few days.

Perhaps the superintendent was just following protocol, their standard response for what Sheriff Apple estimates as a once-a-year occurrence.  But, at that moment, I realized why the other sheriff’s office employees were so unaware of basic human compassion, decorum, and professionalism.

This heroin epidemic is just getting worse by the day.  Daily, we read about burglaries and young adults heading to jail before they can be placed in rehabilitation centers.

Our family is committed to whatever it takes for policy reform in the jail, so that no other family has to suffer the incredible pain and suffering that we are.  We truly appreciate all that The Altamont Enterprise is doing to ensure the same.

That last heartbeat was not the end of Adam's story.  Thank you, again, for helping us to uncover some truth about my son's final days. 

Maryanne Rappaport

Editor’s note: See related stories on the correctional facilityRappaport's story and editorial.

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