Corizon Health Staff on Rikers Island File Federal Labor Complaint Over Dangerous Work Environment

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According to the NY Daily News, a group of medical staffers from New York City jail medical contractor Corizon Health Services filed a federal labor complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on April 11th for Corizon’s failure to protect them from inmate assaults.

From the Daily News:

The staffers charge that the nation’s largest jail health care provider repeatedly failed to protect them from dangerous inmates who were never properly restrained or labeled as serious threats, given their prior case histories.

The OSHA complaint cited an assault on a petite nurse who was brutally punched in the head by a 6-foot-tall, 160-pound inmate during a mental health assessment in a prison clinic on April 6.

“He hit me several times on the side of my head, arms and shoulder,” said the unidentified nurse, who suffered multiple bruises on her arm and shoulder.

In September of last year, Corizon was fined $71,000 by OSHA for failing to protect employees from violence, including “one willful violation for failing to develop and implement an effective workplace violence prevention program for its employees.”

Since then, city officials have scrambled to reform practices and policies concerning the conduct of medical staff and correction officers. But the changes appear to be slow-going: a recent report on the new Enhanced Supervision Housing Unit found that many medical staff were sometimes too afraid to work with inmates when they were locked out of their cells. They also encountered difficulty finding appropriate space in the ESHU to conduct their sessions. Along with chronic understaffing, poor recruitment and limited training, factors like these can quickly conspire to obstruct the delivery of medical attention and care to inmates.

It is in this setting that the city asks medical staff to make critical and often life-or-death determinations, such as those pertaining to the placement of inmates in solitary confinement — despite the fact that such demands are, as one recent report found, in fundamental opposition to medical ethics.

The city is said to be considering ending its contract with Corizon, which wouldn’t fix everything but would be a great place to start making some real changes. I’m still wondering: How many more of these incidents will the NYCDOC tolerate before they cancel this contract?

Brian Sonenstein
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Brian Sonenstein

Brian Sonenstein is a Berkeley-based writer, activist and former Campaign Director and Associate Publisher for Firedoglake.com. Learn more at http://briansonenstein.com
Brian Sonenstein
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