Photo: The Hunts Point Express. Rikers Island as seen from Hunts Point.

Judge weighs fining Department of Corrections $500,000 for missed medical appointments

Legal Aid motion says thousands of inmate medical appointments didn’t take place in January, in contempt of a court order

State Supreme Court Judge Elizabeth Taylor is considering a motion for contempt and $500,000 in fines against the NYC Department of Corrections for failing to comply with a December court order to provide medical care to detainees.

The Legal Aid Society filed the contempt motion after the department failed to facilitate 6,792 medical appointments in January, according to city data. January’s count is similar to the 7,070 missed appointments in December 2021.

Thousands of NYC detainees miss appointments every month, although sometimes, the data shows, inmates choose not to go to their appointments or leave before being treated.  In both June and July of 2021, more than 15,000 appointments were missed.

After hearing statements from lawyers for Legal Aid and the Department of Corrections last week, Taylor ordered the lawyers to work together on a plan to increase medical access for the city’s incarcerated population before she rules on the contempt request.

“Each day, DOC [the corrections department) continues to defy a court order, the law and basic morality by depriving incarcerated New Yorkers access to medical care in local jails,” the Legal Aid Society said in a press release announcing its action. “This has caused needless suffering and further underscores DOC’s inability to protect the health and safety of people in the Department’s custody.” 

In December, Taylor had ordered the corrections department to abide by three conditions: provide inmates with access to sick calls on weekdays and within 24 hours of a request, provide sufficient security to allow prisoners to move safely to and from health services, and stop denying or delaying appropriate medical and dental services.

A spokesperson from the Department of Corrections said the health and safety of incarcerated people is the department’s “top priority” and listed several steps being taken to address the problem.

The spokesperson noted that staffing shortages at city correctional facilities over the past year linked to COVID-19 had impacted operations, with more than 2,500 correctional officers out sick in early January.

  “We will continue to work with our partners at Correctional Health Services to ensure that those in our custody have timely access to medical care,” the spokesperson said by email.

https://www.motthavenherald.com/2017/02/20/0426/ https://motthavenherald.com/2017/10/23/20210408/