Disabled and Abandoned in New York State Prisons

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ASPartOfMe
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25 Oct 2021, 12:18 pm

The Nation

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hilip Nelson uses a cane and, when permitted, a wheelchair to navigate Five Points Correctional Facility in upstate New York. At 54, he has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, and asthma.

When he attends medical appointments outside the prison, he does so in shackles.

“I am handcuffed with a chain wrapped around my waist, and connected to a black box, so that I am only able to move my hands from my waist to my mouth,” he wrote to The Nation and New York Focus. “I have my feet shackled, which makes it difficult to walk, and even more difficult trying to walk with a cane.”

You are locked in your cell, with meals brought to you, if you are lucky, and have your rec pen opened for an hour a day, if they decide to open it,” he wrote.

Nelson is one of five named plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit filed in August against the Superintendent of Five Points Correctional Facility, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), and the Acting Commissioner of DOCCS, alleging that Five Points deprives people with disabilities of their most basic needs.

In a statement, a DOCCS spokesperson said that they do not comment on pending litigation. New York State Attorney General Letitia James’s office, which represents the defendants, filed a response Wednesday, asking the court to dismiss the complaint.

The Five Points lawsuit is far from the first time the DOCCS has been accused of discriminating against people with disabilities. In interviews, letters, and grievances, incarcerated people in prisons throughout New York have detailed a labyrinth of humiliations. They’re abandoned in their cells, unable to attend meals. They’re made to lie in their own urine and feces. They’re forced to reuse catheters, resulting in infections and surgeries. Prison staff treat disabled prisoners as a burden whose degradation is deserved.

Designed as a wheelchair compliant facility that would comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Five Points Correctional Facility houses approximately 50 to 60 incarcerated people who rely on wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility devices, according to a 2015 affidavit from the prison’s deputy superintendent of programs.

But inside Five Points, people with disabilities struggle to complete daily tasks—from cleaning their cells to getting to the law library.

More often than not, wheelchairs are broken or ill-fitting, and pushers—another incarcerated person who pushes a wheelchair—aren’t available. Even when they are, people in wheelchairs are frequently abandoned once they reach their destination.

Robert Cardew, one of CUNY’s four clients, has a heart condition called cardiomyopathy. In 2017, he underwent coronary bypass and aortic valve replacement surgeries; the next year, he began to use a wheelchair. Cardew came to prison in 1982, when he was 23. He’s now 62.
Correctional officers have told him that he has to pay other prisoners to push him, according to his letters to the DOCCS acting commissioner, former governor Andrew Cuomo. If he can’t afford to, the officers said, he should “stay in my cell and never come out,” Cardew wrote in a letter to Cuomo in 2019.

At Five Points, people with disabilities are at risk of being disciplined because of their disability. For instance, during outdoor recreation, prisoners must be able to lie on the ground if an incident occurs, according to the Five Points complaint.

“I am not allowed to go to the yard because of this policy since if I do not get face down on the ground in the event of trouble, I will receive an Inmate Misbehavior report,” Cardew wrote to Cuomo.

Fellow plaintiff Khalik Jones is just 39 and suffers from a seizure disorder and a degenerative spine condition. When he arrived at Five Points in 2018, he continued to use the cane he’d received at a county jail and then used while at two state prisons.

But on July 24, 2019, the prison’s nurse confiscated Jones’s cane and ordered him to walk without it. He said he could not. She wrote him up for lying/false information and disobeying a direct order.

“I removed cane from inmate’s hand to obtain more accurate weight and he feigned imbalance,” the nurse wrote in an inmate misbehavior report. “I directed Inmate Jones to ambulate…. He refused mouthing silently, ‘I can’t.’ Thereby, disobeying a direct order.”

The next month, he fell down the stairs. The nurse accused him of purposely falling.

Little is known about how many people with disabilities are incarcerated in New York, what accommodations, if any, they receive, and where they are housed.

Jose Vega, who is paraplegic, spent more than 20 years incarcerated in New York prisons. In 1997, he sued several prison officials at Shawangunk Correctional Facility for denying him humane medical care.

“You could be urinating on yourself, you could be full of feces, and they wouldn’t care,” said Vega, who was released on parole in 2018 when he was 47. “They wouldn’t care. They would make fun of you. They would laugh at you.”


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Misslizard
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25 Oct 2021, 12:37 pm

Our prison system is broken.
We don’t rehabilitate ,we incarcerate.
My incarcerated relative said when Delta was rampaging through our state inmates were requesting the vaccine and weren’t receiving it.While vaccines were expiring because the general public didn’t seem to want them.
So I called the facility and they said they gave out shots once a month.During a pandemic.So I called the Governor and got a call back and a different story.The aide said all they had to do was ask for a shot and they would get it.Someone was a liar.About a week later they were able to get vaccinated.J&J.
I could go on more about the lack of medical care, lack of mental health services, over processed food etc…


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kraftiekortie
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27 Oct 2021, 1:16 pm

Yep....pretty typical correction officer behavior....