NYC DOC officials admit inmates aren’t getting medical care: court records

The New York City Department of Correction admitted they’ve failed to provide inmates with timely medical care in violation of a recent court order, prompting The Legal Aid Society to ask a judge to hold the beleaguered agency in contempt, it was revealed Tuesday.

In a Jan. 26 affidavit filed in Bronx County Supreme Court, the DOC submitted internal records that show inmates were not produced for medical appointments 7,070 times in December, even after a judge issued an emergency order requiring them to improve access to health services.

In 1,061 of those instances, the DOC said inmates weren’t brought to their appointment because there was no one available to escort them, court records show.

The data shows the missed appointments in December were higher than both October and November 2021 — prior to the judge’s Dec. 6 order requiring the DOC to provide detainees with access to doctors’ appointments and enough security to ensure they can be transported to and from visits.

“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,” DOC Bureau Chief of Facility Operations Ada Pressley wrote in the Jan. 26 affidavit.

The Legal Aid Society accused the Department of Corrections of not informing inmates of their incoming doctor’s appointments.
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Activists call on the Department of Corrections to stop “Abuse and Neglect at Rikers,” during a protest outside Rikers Island on Jan. 13, 2022.
Activists call on the DOC to stop “Abuse and Neglect at Rikers,” during a protest outside Rikers on Jan. 13.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

The agency claimed 5,268 of the missed appointments in December were because detainees refused the doctors visit but The Legal Aid Society disputed the number, saying “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 nonprofit 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.”

Protesters hold a rally in solidarity with hunger-striking inmates at Rikers Island in Queens on Jan. 13, 2022.
Protesters rally in solidarity with hunger-striking inmates at Rikers Island on Jan. 13, 2022.
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A activist rallies in support of the incarcerated people on a hunger strike to protest the conditions at Rikers Island, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022.
The Legal Aid Society blasted the DOC for “outrageous and illegal” efforts to not give medical attention to inmates.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

The court filings are part of a lawsuit brought by The Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Defender Services and Milbank LLP accusing the DOC of failing to provide detainees with adequate medical care amid an ongoing crisis at the jail.

The case has now been upgraded to a class-action lawsuit and, on Tuesday, the plaintiffs filed a motion asking a judge to hold the DOC 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 said in a joint statement.

A view of the entrance at the Rikers Island jail facility in New York, New York.
The Department of Corrections claims the majority of inmates refuse medical attention.
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“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.”

A spokesperson for the city’s Law Department said they are reviewing the motion and a DOC rep said ensuring detainees have timely access to medical care “is and always has been a priority for the department.”

Last year, 16 people died in DOC custody, more than the previous two years combined and the most since 2016, which saw 15 in-custody deaths, records show.