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Legal Aid Society applauds court decision fining city for denying medical treatment in NYC jails

A Rikers Island juvenile detention facility officer walks down a hallway of the jail
FILE – A Rikers Island juvenile detention facility officer walks down a hallway of the jail, Thursday, July 31, 2014, in New York. It’s hard to find anyone on board with New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plan to toughen the state’s bail laws, two years after they were retooled to keep people from being jailed because they are poor. The debate over bail in New York has been fierce enough to delay passage of the state’s budget. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

The Legal Aid Society hailed a recent New York State Supreme Court decision that orders the New York City Department of Correction (DOC) to pay fines to New Yorkers who were denied medical treatment in local jails.

Last October, The Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Defender Services, and Milbank LLP filed a class-action lawsuit against the DOC over its continued failure to provide access to medical care in the city jails. A judge ordered the city to comply with the suit’s demands, but the Corrections Department failed to meet that obligation, according to the Legal Aid Society.

In May, the court found that the DOC in contempt and gave the city 30 days to demonstrate that it is no longer violating the Court’s order or face a $100 fine for each medical appointment missed from Dec. 11, 2021 through January 2022.

A month later, the DOC submitted an affidavit to the Court claiming that it had complied with the order. But on Aug. 11, the Court determined that DOC has not shown substantial compliance with the order, and ordered DOC to pay roughly $200,000 in fines to the people affected by the jails’ broken medical care system.

“The Department of Correction has continuously and egregiously failed to fulfill its lawful and moral obligation to provide access to needed medical appointments for people incarcerated in NYC jails—a failure that has led to undue suffering and death,” reads a statement from Legal Aid and its partners. “Today’s court order is one critical step towards holding the City accountable for its unwillingness to ensure the health and safety of people incarcerated in its jails.”

“We hope this ordered compensation provides some relief to people denied the care they desperately need, but we know that much more must be done,” the statement continued. “New York City jails have killed eleven people this year, and we fear that without decarceration, this number will sadly only grow. We reaffirm our calls to urge the courts, prosecutors, and elected officials to use every tool to remove people from the dangerous and deadly conditions of these jails.”

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