In 2013, the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) faced persistent challenges statewide involving the identification of, and quality of treatment for, individuals diagnosed with HIV and/or Hepatitis C. Difficulties include lack of access to resources and inadequate staff training, among other issues. Despite help from the AIDS Institute’s Criminal Justice Initiative, DOCCS and the NYS Department of Health (DOH) continued to struggle to close gaps in care.
Although DOH is mandated to assess the quality of services being provided, the Correctional Association of New York conducted an independent review, which produced troubling findings. This report outlines the findings and recommendations from that review. The main areas of concern include issues surrounding severe gaps in patient identification and testing procedures, inadequate or unequal execution of routine and chronic medical care (especially concerning the needs of female inmates), fractured delivery of staff and inmate trainings regarding infectious diseases, lack of systemized discharge planning, and underdeveloped prevention programs. The report suggests that factors contributing to the poor outcomes include high rates of vacancies for qualified medical staff and reductions in funding.
As New York State’s Medicaid Redesign continues under the Affordable Care Act, it is the hope that reviews such as this will be utilized, in collaboration with the collective knowledge of those with firsthand experience in providing and receiving services, to reshape the provision of health care inside New York City prisons. New York City manages approximately 81,000 admissions and releases annually, with a daily average inmate population of almost 12,000. Rates of HIV and Hepatitis C are markedly higher in prisons than amongst those who have never been incarcerated, making it essential that measures be taken to ensure proper care and treatment are delivered.