Recent data released by the city Department of Corrections (DOC) indicated that the agency failed to facilitate 39,728 medical appointments for incarcerated New Yorkers from Jan. 1 to April 30, 2022, with 11,789 appointments in April alone.
The Legal Aid Society said in its report about the data that it was another sign that the city’s correctional facilities are facing a humanitarian crisis, with several inmates dying in custody within the past year.
“This is more proof that the Department of Correction is wholly unwilling to care for New Yorkers in its custody, and in the process, continues to defy a court order and its basic moral and legal obligations,” said civil rights watchdog organizations The Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Defender Services and Milbank LLP in a statement June 7. “This failure results in daily suffering, sickness, and pain. DOC has admitted that they would be better able to serve a smaller jail population. We once again call on [the] DOC, the courts, prosecutors, and elected officials to use every avenue to reduce the population of New York’s life-threatening jails.”
The conditions in city jails have been described as “deplorable and nothing short of a humanitarian crisis.” in recent months, with some accusing the DOC of violating well-established laws protecting those who are in custody, leading to general suffering of inmates and 22 deaths of incarcerated individuals since the beginning of 2021.
Former DOC Commissioner Vincent Shiraldi admitted himself that jails are currently in a state of crisis saying, “the level of disorder here is deeply, deeply troubling” and “the risks to the human beings in our custody are at a crisis level.”
On Dec 3, 2021, the Supreme Court of the State of New York County of the Bronx found that the DOC had and continues to fail to provide adequate medical care to incarcerated New Yorkers in city jails.
The DOC was ordered to immediately remedy these conditions and provide people in custody with access to medical treatment within a week of the order.
However, the DOC’s Bureau Chief of Facility Operations submitted an admission stating the department was not complying with the December order, saying “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.”
Following this admission, Legal Aid, Brooklyn Defender Services and Milbank LLP filed a motion for contempt to rectify the situation and provide medical care to incarcerated people.
In May, the Court issued an order finding the DOC in contempt of its December order. The Court provided DOC 30 days to demonstrate that it is no longer violating the Court’s order or face a $100 fine for each medical appointment missed from December 11, 2021 through January 2022.
However, a representative from the DOC attributed these missed appointments to incarcerated individuals who refused to attend medical appointments or were unable to attend.
“We are committed to ensuring that everyone in our custody has access to quality medical care,” the DOC spokesperson told amNew York on June 8. “Non-production of clinic appointments varies from month to month, depending in large part on individuals in custody who have the right to refuse treatment and appointments.”
The DOC spokesperson also indicated that a large percentage of missed appointments were due to refusal to attend from the patient in custody.
Last updated 6/8/2022 1:47 pm.