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Officials At Rikers Island Lied To Families About Inmate Deaths


10.27.14 Prachi Gupta

Rikers Island is a mess. In addition to the systemic abuse of minors and the “culture of violence” at the correctional facility, it seems that officials lie about inmate deaths that result from neglect. According to a report by DNAinfo, at least four families of patients who died while at Rikers in the past decade were “never told the true circumstances surrounding the deaths,” and this information “could have led to legal action” against New York City and Rikers’s healthcare contractor, Prison Health Services (now Corizon).

The family of John Loadholt, a man who died at Rikers eight years ago, only this month learned that John died from a series of systematic failures by officials and healthcare professionals. From DNAinfo:

“Loadholt’s asthma was inadequately managed by Prison Health Services, a business corporation holding itself out as a medical care provider,” Frederick C. Lamy, the commissioner of the State Commission of Correction, wrote in a report reviewing Loadholt’s Jan. 9, 2006 death that was issued a year later.

The report said Loadholt was never taken to several appointments at the jail’s medical clinic, and that staff from Prison Health Services never followed up with him. State investigators wrote that PHS routinely overbooked its clinic schedule, only seeing a fraction of the inmates who had appointments each day.

The report, shared with the DOC commissioner and high-ranking officials at the city Health Department, also found that Rikers guards failed to follow the rules when Loadholt told them he had difficulty breathing.

Instead of immediately contacting medical personnel, a guard walked him from his housing unit to the clinic, despite him having a “staggered gait” and being unable to talk. Loadholt collapsed on the walk and died.

A sampling from the four reports, which investigated a patient who died from an asthma attack, from sepsis after a skin infection and one who died from a “a sudden heart problem due to agitation from his mental illness” called the care at Rikers “grossly inadequate” and said it “violated chronic care guidelines” and patients “lacked adequate monitoring.”

Furthering this Kafkaesque nightmare, the families were unaware of the investigations into the deaths and didn’t know about the reports. When confronted by DNAinfo, the State Commission on Corrections office shifed the responsibility over to the families, saying they could have gotten the reports (which they didn’t know existed) by the Freedom of Information Law request.

(Image: @sheriffaj)