More than 8,000 Rikers Island inmates missed medical appointments in February, city data showed, indicating a longstanding health issue at the beleaguered prison complex is worsening.
Lack of access to medical care is one of the reasons advocates say there is a humanitarian crisis at the beleaguered prison complex. In December, a state judge ordered the Department of Correction to provide adequate medical care to inmates, but they still missed 6,792 appointments in January and 8,402 in February, records show.
City data shows inmates are largely responsible for the high numbers, as most missed appointments were due to inmates refusing to attend the medical clinic. But attorneys representing the detainees said the detainees may not have been told of their appointments and they filed a lawsuit to have the DOC tried in contempt of court.
This petition is currently being considered by a state judge.
“The latest data is further evidence that the DOC continues to be unwilling to protect the health and safety of New Yorkers in its custody,” attorneys for the Legal Aid Society and Brooklyn Defenders said in a statement. “This failure leads to daily suffering, disease and pain. We once again call on the courts, prosecutors and elected officials to use all means to effect an immediate decarceration. »
A judge previously ordered the DOC to provide access to clinics five days a week and within 24 hours of a sick call, and to provide security for inmates traveling to their appointments. Often, according to lawyers, there are not enough prison officers to take prisoners to their appointments, given that the absence rate among prison staff is around 30%.
The lawsuit filed on behalf of the inmates seeks a $250 fine for each time the DOC fails to provide an escort to a medical appointment.
“The non-production of appointments at the clinic varies from month to month, depending in large part on those in detention who have the right to refuse treatment and appointments, as well as other factors,” a DOC spokesperson said in a statement Monday. “We are committed to ensuring that everyone in our care has access to quality medical care.