More than 8,000 inmates on Rikers Island missed their medical appointments in February, city data shows, indicating that a long-standing health care problem at the troubled jail complex is getting worse.
Lack of access to medical care is one of the reasons advocates say there’s a humanitarian crisis at the troubled jail complex. In December a state judge ordered that the Department of Correction provide adequate medical care to inmates, but they nonetheless missed 6,792 appointments in January and 8,402 in February, records showed.
City data shows that inmates are largely responsible for these high numbers, because most of the missed appointments were due to inmates refusing to go to the medical clinic. But attorneys representing inmates said inmates may have not been told of their appointments, and they filed a suit to have the DOC held in contempt of court.
That motion is currently under review by a state judge.
“The latest data is further proof that DOC remains unwilling to protect the health and safety of the New Yorkers in its custody,” lawyers from the Legal Aid Society and the Brooklyn Defenders said in a statement. “This failure results in daily suffering, sickness, and pain. We once again call on the courts, prosecutors, and elected officials to use every avenue to effect immediate decarceration.”
A judge previously ordered the DOC provide access to clinics five days a week and within 24 hours of making a sick call, and to ensure security for detainees headed to their appointments. Often, attorneys said, there aren’t enough corrections officers to take detainees to their appointments, given that the absence rate among correctional staff is about 30%.
The lawsuit filed on behalf of the inmates seeks a $250 fine for every time the DOC fails to provide an escort to a medical appointment.
“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," a DOC spokesperson said in a statement Monday. "We are committed to ensuring that everyone in our custody has access to quality medical care.”