On Tuesday, a judge from the state’s presiding court determined that the Correction Department of New York City had violated the law by not providing detainees with timely medical care. The decision was handed down on the same day that city officials and a federal monitor collaborated on a strategy to perhaps forestall a takeover of the notorious Rikers Island jail complex by the federal government.

The timming is questionable as the city seemed to time the release of this ’24 page’ plan at the exact same time as the State Supreme Court made its ruling, most likely in an effort to drown out the news story with a half harted attempt at gaining positive PR for the notorious jail that was in fact named after a slaver.

The verdict, which was handed down in the State Supreme Court in the Bronx, was the most recent court finding to show the ongoing crisis at Rikers, where poor management and absenteeism have resulted in some jail housing units being unattended, thereby allowing vicious violence to thrive. The lives of those being detained in such facilities have been put in danger by other inmates, and the officers working in the jail have not only failed to provide enough safety for the inmates, but they have also failed to ensure that the inmates receive treatment for their everyday illnesses.

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The Legal Aid Society, an organization that advocates for people who are incarcerated, issued a statement in which it stated that “as today’s decision by the state court holding the Department of Correction in contempt of court makes clear, this administration’s inability to staff and manage its jails puts lives in danger every single day.” “We have yet to see the swift, decisive action necessary.”

Rikers Island Propaganda on Medical Care

A spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections named Latima Johnson stated that the organization was “dedicated to addressing these concerns.”

“Ensuring people in custody get timely medical care is and always has been a priority for the Department of Correction,” Ms. Johnson said.

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The ruling that was handed down on Tuesday, which held the Correction Department in contempt, was centered on thousands of jail detainees who had complained of delays in receiving medical, dental, and mental health care, or of never receiving such care at all. The complaints centered on the Department of Correction.

According to the attorneys for the detainees, the inability to receive timely treatment for even relatively minor ailments has resulted in complications and medical emergencies. According to the attorneys, there have been other instances in which patients’ missed appointments have caused the surgical procedures to be postponed for a period of many months.
Detainees who require medical attention while incarcerated have two options: ask to be led to a clinic by a correction officer or call a hotline that is operated by Correctional Health Services, the city agency that is in charge of providing medical attention to those who are incarcerated.

But court records show that the lack of officers has led more detainees to rely on the hotline, with their access sometimes obstructed by gang members or by officers denying medical attention as a form of punishment.

A request for comment was made to the union that represents correction officers, but no response was given by the union’s spokesman.

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Judge Elizabeth A. Taylor

The state judge Elizabeth A. Taylor has given the officials in charge of corrections thirty days to enhance access to care, or they will be subject to fines of one hundred dollars for each appointment that is missed from December 11 through January.

According to the attorneys representing the inmates, failure to comply might cost the city as much as $190,900 given that more than 1,900 medical appointments were not attended during that time period because correction officers were not available to function as escorts. The attorneys claimed that the money will be distributed to the prisoners.

Motion for Contempt

The attorneys representing the detainees who filed the motion for contempt stated that there had been an uptick in the number of missed medical visits since January. According to the statements made by the attorneys, there were over 8,400 incidents in February in which a detainee was not transported to a scheduled medical appointment. The number exceeded 12,700 in the month of March. Officials from the jail stated their belief that many of the detainees refused to be transported to their scheduled appointments at a recent meeting held by the City Council.

Carlina Rivera, a City Council member who leads the criminal justice committee, said “today’s revelation is another sign that this is a persistent problem rooted in mismanagement and dysfunction.”

The verdict was handed down at a time when corrections authorities are still being put under a great deal of pressure to address a crisis that has been brewing in the jails for decades and has gotten significantly worse over the past 18 months. A federal judge has been reviewing a case that has been going on for years because of difficulties at Rikers, and on Tuesday, the commissioner, Louis A. Molina, presented the judge with a vauge 23 page strategy for correcting the problems that have been afflicting the facility.

It’s possible that the federal judge may decide shortly whether or not to remove the city’s authority over the jail. In a letter written in April, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan brought up the potential of receivership. A prosecutor from the office also mentioned the “deep-seated culture of violence” and inadequate administration within the jails.

In a report that was made public on Tuesday by a federal monitor, it was stated that more than 1,100 of the 7,700 members of the uniform work force were absent due to illness. According to the findings of a report compiled by an oversight panel called the Board of Correction, four inmates have lost their lives so far in 2018, with three of those deaths being directly linked to inadequate staffing in housing areas of the facility.

According to the findings of a recent investigation conducted by The New York Times, many of the officers who do show up for work have been assigned duties that involve very little interaction with the inmates. The New York City Correction Department has the highest staff-to-detainee ratio of any jail system in the United States. However, according to the findings of The New York Times, hundreds of officers worked as secretaries and laundry room supervisors, and dozens of housing areas were not guarded at all.

On Tuesday, the monitor delivered an action plan to the federal judge that had been established in conjunction with the city. According to what the monitor, Steve J. Martin, wrote, improvements will not come quickly given the high level of mismanagement and the physical deterioration at Rikers.

“The monitoring team does not feel that there are any ready-made, rapid, or easy remedies that will mitigate the polycentric difficulties facing the agency.” “The current state of affairs in the jails provides a problem that has never been seen before, and as a result, there is no surefire way to move forward.”

According to the letter that Mr. Martin penned

In his letter, Mr. Martin praised Mr. Molina for making some progress, noting that he had reduced the number of staff members out sick from a high of 2,500 at the end of the previous year and had suspended almost 100 employees for abusing sick leave. Mr. Martin’s letter was sent in response to Mr. Molina’s response to Mr. Martin’s letter.

According to what Mr. Martin wrote, the action plan would alter the command structure of the Correction Department and return officers not simply to working but explicitly to guarding inmates. Also, the plan would implement a number of other reforms. In addition to that, it would establish a post for a staffing manager, whose job it would be to guarantee that the workforce is reliable and accessible.

In addition, the proposal calls for the establishment of a new job post for an official who would be responsible for categorizing inmates according to the likelihood of violent behavior and dispersing gang members around housing units “to disrupt their concentration of power.”

Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement that the strategy would “aggressively untangle the dysfunction that has plagued the island and set it on a path of real and enduring reform.”

He should know considering how long he has worked in corrections. Oh that’s right he is a politician, and actually knows nothing about corrections, incarceration, or how these systems really work. 

He stated that there is much more difficult work to be done, and the city is committed to accomplishing it. “There is much more difficult work to be done,” he remarked. Yes, and the sky is blue, sorry Mr. Mayor thought we were stating the obvious.

A hearing regarding the lawsuit will take place on May 24 as planned by the federal judge.

Source: NY Times