For Immediate Release
Statement from COBA President Elias Husamudeen Regarding the First Personal Injury Lawsuit Filed By NYC Correction Officers Against One of NYC’s Most Violent Inmates
In a promising effort to get meds and other urgent aid to people so desperately sick they’ve proven a risk to public safety, the city’s health department is keeping close tabs on 230 mentally ill New Yorkers, dispatching teams to sidewalks and subways and wherever else their often-homeless clients eke out living space.
We share with Mayor de Blasio and Deputy Mayor Herminia Palacio every hope for success with the NYC SAFE program. Far too many innocents have suffered at the hands of deranged, violent people. Pushed onto subway tracks, slashed in the face, sexually assaulted: the drumbeat on the streets is steady, chaotic and terrifying.
Yet even while one hand of City Hall gives, another withholds.
The City of New York more than a decade ago made a legally binding pledge to ensure that people with mental illness leaving criminal detention in city jails receive support to ease their tough transition back into open air.
Crucially, the 2003 settlement in the state Supreme Court case known as Brad H. obliged the city to provide a supply of psychiatric drugs to those who had been receiving such care behind bars.
But jail staff on Rikers Island and elsewhere are in flagrant violation, the court-appointed monitors overseeing the city’s compliance found, releasing 1 in 8 patients without the mood-stabilizing drugs they’d been taking — 199 of them in the first four months of 2016 alone.
Monitors Henry Dlugacz and Erik Roskes concluded in October that this “continued significant systemic problem urgently demands close review and corrective action.”
Also missing for many patients leaving city jails is the Medicaid coverage needed to get continued care on the outside.
Indeed, the city remains out of compliance on the majority of its commitments to ensure a successful exit for the mentally ill, who now comprise 42% of inmates — never mind the Mayor’s Task Force on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System formed with fanfare in 2014.
Most of those discharged detainees pose no immediate threat to public safety, but a significant minority do.
The city’s Health + Hospitals system took over Rikers Island clinics last year and is doing little better. So chaotic are the city’s jails, so often are facilities on lockdown because of violent outbreaks, that patients routinely miss scheduled appointments for want of an escort.
By all means, mayor, get mental health care to the sickest people living on the streets — but to do so without delivering on binding promises already made to mentally ill people in your custody disrespects law, order and, to be honest, sanity itself.
The DA’s office is so convinced the treatment works that it’s willing to pick up the $140,000 annual tab, saying it will likely come from forfeiture funds obtained through settlements. The contract will last for two years with a one-year renewal option.
Is the city doing enough to reduce violence on Rikers Island?
After its president was arrested and indicted last year on corruption charges, the city’s correction officers’ union is trying to flex its political muscle ahead of this year’s citywide elections.
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