NYC DOC to pay $200,000 to inmates who missed medical visits

New York City must pay $200,000 in fines to people who missed medical appointments while incarcerated in city jails after a Bronx court found the Justice Department failed to treat them in a timely manner, Legal Aid said Society on Wednesday.

The ruling, delivered on Tuesday by Bronx Superior Court Justice Elizabeth Taylor, requires the DOC to pay a $100 fine for every doctor’s appointment missed between December 2021 and January 2022, as evidenced by court documents.

The fines, which total nearly $200,000, will be split between “hundreds” of inmates who were not taken to their doctor’s appointments during the period, the Legal Aid Society said.

“The Department of Justice has consistently and egregiously failed in its legal and moral obligation to provide people incarcerated in New York City jails with access to necessary medical appointments — a failure that has resulted in undue suffering and death,” Legal Aid said in a statement on the Judgment celebration.

“[Tuesday’s] Court decision is a critical step in holding the city accountable for its unwillingness to ensure the health and safety of those held in its prisons. We hope that this mandated compensation will bring some relief to those who are being denied much-needed care, but we know there is much more to be done.”

Rikers Island
The DOC must pay a $100 penalty for each missed doctor’s appointment between December 2021 and January 2022.
Corbis via Getty Images
Rikers Island
7,070 times after the order was issued, prisoners were not taken to see a doctor.
AP/Seth Little

Legal Aid sued the DOC in the Bronx Superior Court last fall, alleging it failed to provide adequate and timely medical care to detainees amid an ongoing crisis at the agency, which has seen 27 incarcerated deaths since January 2021.

In December, the court sided with the plaintiffs and issued an emergency order directing the DOC to reduce the number of missed or late appointments and ensure there are sufficient staff to shuttle patients to and from visits.

The court also asked the department to ensure that detainees can make appointments five days a week and within 24 hours of a request.

In late January, the DOC admitted in court filings that it had failed to comply with the orders and submitted internal records showing that detainees were not taken to doctor visits 7,070 times after the order was issued.

Records showed the number of missed appointments was higher than in October and November 2021 – before the judge’s order.

“In my opinion, this rate of production does not constitute material compliance with relevant guidelines to allow timely access to clinics,” Ada Pressley, director of facility operations for the DOC office, wrote in a Jan. 26 affidavit.

Another 8,402 doctor’s appointments were missed in February, a 24% increase from January, which saw 6,792 missed appointments, the data shows.

That month, Legal Aid filed a motion asking Taylor to disobey DOC for persistent non-compliance with the order, and in May the judiciary granted the motion, finding the agency was absolving its responsibility for providing medical care to its charges had renounced.

Riker's Island
The money will be split between inmates who have not been taken to their doctor’s appointments during this period.
Getty Images
Rikers Island
The court is asking the department to ensure that detainees can make appointments five days a week and within 24 hours of a request.
AP/Julie Jacobson

“While [the DOC] “Having shown that it is committed to providing inmates access to clinic appointments, it has failed to meet its heavy burden on this record to show that it has substantially complied with the . . . order to allow petitioners access to hospital visits,” Taylor wrote the Tuesday verdict.

In addition to the fines, the city must also pay legal fees, Taylor said.

When asked if the city would appeal the ruling, a spokesman for the city’s legal department said they would “review the order and consider next steps.” NYC DOC to pay $200,000 to inmates who missed medical visits


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