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AP Investigation: Quality of Medical Care at Rikers Cited in Deaths of Several Inmates

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An Associated Press investigation has revealed that the quality of medical care at Rikers Island has been cited in the deaths of several inmates. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.

Violence, abuse and death have rocked Rikers Island this year. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has threatened to take legal action against the Department of Correction for the mistreatment of teenagers detained there.

An annoyed clinical psychiatrist, Dr. James Gilligan, said enough is enough.

Gilligan: Rikers Island is a disgrace to humanity.
Meminger: That's a strong statement.
Gilligan: It is an understatement compared with the reality. The place should be simply be closed down and replaced with something entirely different.

His outrage comes after a report by the Associated Press that says in the last five years, at least 15 inmates died in the jail, apparently because of a lack of medical attention, including one man with a bacterial infection in his stomach. The AP says correction officers ignored him, and he didn't receive treatment for days.

Gilligan said he's been working with correction facilities, including Rikers Island, for nearly 50 years. He said he's spoken with inmates who complained.

"Sometimes, the correction officer said there weren't enough officers to escort the inmate to the medical area. Other times, they have apparently just simply ignored the patients," he said.

However, Norman Seabrook, the head the correction union, said his officers aren't to blame for the deaths.

"The physicians are not doing what they're supposed to be doing, so the inmate that has a problem continues to say to the correction officer, 'I need help, I need help.' The correction officer continues to make the log book entries and make the proper notification, but no one comes," Seabrook said.

The privately-run medical group Corizon provides health care on Rikers under the supervision of the city's Department of Health.

City Hall said, "The Administration is committed to ensuring that every inmate under our supervision has access to the highest quality of health care, and to that end, has begun a comprehensive review of Corizon."

Gilligan said in his experience, a teaching hospital affiliated with a medical school might be a better option than a for-profit company.

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