Milbank and legal aid lawyers file class action lawsuit for medical treatment in New York City prisons


Milbank attorneys worked with the Legal Aid Society and Brooklyn Defender Services to file a class action lawsuit against the New York City Corrections Department on Monday, arguing the city failed to provide people with medical care incarcerated.

The 12th death of a city prison inmate in 2021 was reported in late September amid numerous complaints about failed prison operations and understaffing.

Milbank associate Katherine Kelly Fell signed the 31-page lawsuit, which was filed in the Bronx Supreme Court and alleges the city’s prisons “are in a real humanitarian crisis.”

In the complaint, Fell cited Corrections Health Services chief medical officer Ross MacDonald, who said he did not “believe the city is able to safely manage the custody” of people in its prisons.

“This resulted [in] the department’s utter failure to ensure access to medical care and essential drugs, threatening the lives of an estimated 6,000 people detained by DOC every day, as the highly contagious variant of COVID-19 Delta spreads silently through prisons at a faster rate than the city, “Fell wrote.

In addition to class certification, the prosecution seeks a mandamus order requiring the DOC to provide inmates with access to medical services.

The attorneys asked the court to order the DOC to provide proof of substantial compliance within a week of the mandamus order and, if substantial compliance is not demonstrated, convert the case to an article hybrid proceeding. 78 / habeas corpus so that lawyers can request the immediate release of detainees requiring continuing or specialized medical care.

Milbank’s partner Sean Murphy described Monday’s complaint as a first step towards obtaining medical treatment for the detainees.

“People’s lives are on the line,” Murphy said in a statement. “The pervasive and systemic problems in Rikers are intolerable, and filing this complaint is an important first step in ensuring prisoners have access to essential health care that they are currently denied.”

The prosecution names four inmates awaiting trial as plaintiffs, including a 23-year-old man with a history of asthma and seizures who was injured during his arrest and has since had difficulty walking, according to the complaint.

The man repeatedly asked to see medical staff but was unable to do so, according to the complaint.

“Several times after calling the CHS hotline [the plaintiff] he was told that a DOC escort would bring him to the clinic, but no escort arrived. When he asks DOC agents to bring him to the clinic, DOC agents refuse, ”Fell wrote. “An officer told him that to be taken to the clinic he would have to lie on the floor, grab her chest and pretend he had a medical emergency. “

At one point, the man was taken to a clinic but had to leave before seeing medical staff because someone in the area had tested positive for COVID-19, according to the complaint.

In a statement, a DOC spokesperson said the department would review Monday’s case.

“We are doing everything in our power to encourage officers to return to duty, and we will continue to work with correctional health services to direct care to those with the most urgent needs,” the statement said. .

Read more:

Hochul Expands New York’s Remote Legal Proceedings in Response to Rikers Island Crisis

Lawyers demand release of detainees as crisis worsens on Rikers Island

First Department Allows New York Government To Move Forward With New Manhattan Jail To Replace Rikers


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