LAS Sues to Ensure Essential Medical Care for Incarcerated Clients

The Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Defender Services, and Milbank LLP filed a class-action lawsuit this morning in Bronx Supreme Court against the New York City Department of Correction (DOC) over its failure to provide incarcerated New Yorkers access to medical care in the City jails, as reported by the New York Daily News.

The lawsuit, which comes amidst widespread acknowledgment of a total breakdown in City jail operations, seeks an order compelling DOC to comply with its basic legal obligations pursuant to state and local law to provide all individuals in its custody access to medical care without delay.

However, if DOC is unable to meet its obligation to fulfill a basic function of operating a jail system — a task that is fundamental but is largely out of reach for the Department in the current crisis — the petitioners will ask the court to release a group of incarcerated people facing particularly grave medical consequences in order to address the threat to health and lives currently posed by the breakdown in access to basic medical care and dangerous conditions in the jails.

“New York City’s jails are in a full-blown humanitarian crisis, resulting in indescribable suffering and at least twelve deaths in 2021, including at least five people who died from suicide,” said Veronica Vela, Supervising Attorney with The Legal Aid Society Prisoners’ Rights Project. “DOC can no longer deprive our clients of their right to medical care, and if the Department is unable to guarantee that right, then the court must immediately consider releasing people.”