NYC inmates miss medical visits as DOC violates court order

Scores of inmates are continuing to miss medical appointments in Big Apple jails despite a recent court order requiring the Department of Correction to fix the ongoing issue, city data shows.

The DOC recorded 8,402 missed medical visits in February, a 24% increase from January, which saw 6,792 missed visits, according to the data

The beleaguered agency claims the bulk of the visits were missed because inmates refused to go, but the Legal Aid Society, which is currently suing the department for failing to provide timely medical care, called the assertion “dubious.” 

“DOC … claims that 6,311 of February’s missed appointments were because people refused, but a review of medical records, statements from incarcerated people, and even a review of DOC’s own data shows the dubiousness of that claim,” the public defender group said in a statement.

“In 3,254 of the reported refusals, DOC admits it cannot provide any explanation for the person refusing. It may be the case that many of these individuals were never even told of their appointment.” 

The data’s footnotes state the DOC’s “current staffing level is contributing to the increase in overall non-production numbers” but a spokesperson for the agency declined to cite a specific reason for the missed appointments. 

Victor Pate, campaign organizer with New York Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement, speaks during a rally outside the NYC office of Gov. Kathy Hochul on March 21, 2022 in New York City. Prison activists gathered outside of the NYC office of Gov. Kathy Hochul to bring attention to the conditions at Rikers Island.
A Bronx judge found the DOC had failed to provide inmates with timely medical care in December.
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

“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, as well as other factors. We are committed to ensuring that everyone in our custody has access to quality medical care,” the spokesperson said. 

In December, Bronx Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Taylor found the DOC had failed to provide inmates with timely medical care after the Legal Aid Society filed a lawsuit claiming detainees were being deprived of the critical service. 

Taylor issued an emergency court order mandating the DOC to reduce the number of missed or delayed appointments and to have enough staff so detainees can be transported to and from visits. The judge also required the department to provide inmates with the ability to make appointments five days a week and within 24 hours of a request. 

Data set showing DOC missed appointments.
City data shows that the DOC recorded 8,402 missed medical visits in February, a 24% increase from January.
NYC data

Following Taylor’s order, more than 7,000 medical appointments were missed in December and, in late January, DOC Bureau Chief of Facility Operations Ada Pressley admitted the agency was failing. 

“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,” Pressley wrote in an affidavit filed with the court that included December’s dismal numbers. 

The admission prompted the Legal Aid Society to ask Taylor to hold the agency in contempt. She’s yet to rule on the motion.

A view of the entrance at the Rikers Island jail facility in New York, New York.
Two inmates have died this year while in DOC custody.

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. So far in 2022, two inmates have died in custody.