NYC Dept. of Corrections admits sick inmates are not getting proper medical care despite court order

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The New York City Department of Corrections admitted on Tuesday that they are not providing sick inmates with adequate and timely medical care in direct violation of a court order and The Legal Aid Society is now asking a judge to hold the agency in contempt over it.

The Department of Corrections submitted internal records in January via an affidavit that show inmates were not taken to medical appointments a whopping 7,070 times in December according to the New York Post. That follows a judge issuing an emergency order that required the agency to improve inmates’ access to medical care.

The agency excused 1,061 of the no-shows claiming they were due to no one being available to take the prisoners to their appointments. A judge ordered on December 6 that the Department of Corrections had to provide detainees with access to doctors’ appointments including sufficient security that would ensure they could be taken to and from medical appointments.

“In my opinion, I believe this rate of production does not constitute substantial compliance with the pertinent directives to provide timely access to the clinics,” Department of Corrections Bureau Chief of Facility Operations Ada Pressley noted in the Jan. 26 affidavit.

Outrageously, the agency asserted that 5,268 of the missed appointments were because inmates refused to go. The Legal Aid Society didn’t buy that at all, stating that “a review of medical records, statements from incarcerated people, and even a review of DOC’s own data shows the dubiousness of that claim.”

“In many instances, it is likely that a person was never even told of their appointment,” the advocacy group said in a news release. “This may be the case in the 3,900 reported refusals where DOC admits it cannot provide any explanation for the person refusing.”

The information that has been released and the court filing are part of the lawsuit that has been brought by The Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Defender Services, and Milbank LLP.

The case has now morphed into a class-action lawsuit. Tuesday, the plaintiffs filed a motion requesting that the judge hold the Department of Corrections in contempt for violating the court’s order.

“The City’s jails remain in crisis. Thousands of people incarcerated in our jails are suffering and even dying because the New York City Department of Correction consistently fails to provide them with timely access to medical care,” The Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Defender Services, and Milbank LLP proclaimed in a joint statement.

“Every day, we hear from people that their calls for help go unanswered. The City has now admitted that DOC is flagrantly violating a court order requiring the agency to address this problem. This is outrageous and illegal,” they contended.

A spokesperson for the city’s Law Department claims they are reviewing the motion. A Department of Corrections spokesperson declared that ensuring detainees have timely access to medical care “is and always has been a priority for the department.” Except that evidently is not happening.

Sixteen inmates died last year in New York City jails for various reasons that also include suicide. That’s more than the previous two years combined, however, and is the most since 2016 according to The New York Times.

The Old Gray Lady reported:

The first to die last year was found in January, hanging from a sprinkler head in his jail cell just a week after his arrival. The second was found strangled about a month later, his head forced through a slot in his cell door in what was later ruled a suicide.

The weeks and months that followed brought more deaths in New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex. Another hanging, in a shower cell used for washing off pepper spray; an overdose on drugs that aren’t supposed to be in jails. A sudden medical emergency. A bout of viral meningitis. A case of Covid-19.

At least 16 people died in the custody of New York’s troubled jails in 2021. Most were awaiting trial and died on Rikers Island, the notorious 90-year-old warren of cellblocks separated from the city’s mainland by the East River


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