Rikers Island Didn’t Bother Telling Families It Let Inmates Die

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A sign of Rikers Island, where IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn will be held, is pictured in Queens, New York on May 16, 2011. A New York judge denied IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn bail on Monday, despite an offer from his defense team to put up $1 million in cash and surrender all his travel documents. The judge ordered the IMF chief detained, two days after he was pulled off a plane and accused of trying to rape a Manhattan hotel chambermaid. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Amid the ongoing human-rights concerns at the prisons of Rikers Island, “where beatings are routine, while accountability is rare,” comes more deeply depressing news about health care for inmates. According to a report by DNAinfo, at least four prisoners died as a result of “systemic failures by city Department of Correction officers and the health care company contracted by Rikers Island.” But the relatives of the deceased were never notified about who was to blame.

Take the case of John Loadholt, who died of an asthma attack while being held on drug-possession charges:

Loadholt’s asthma was inadequately managed by Prison Health Services, a business corporation holding itself out as a medical care provider,” Frederick C. Lamy, the commissioner of the State Commission of Correction, wrote in a report reviewing Loadholt’s Jan. 9, 2006 death that was issued a year later.

The report said Loadholt was never taken to several appointments at the jail’s medical clinic, and that staff from Prison Health Services never followed up with him. State investigators wrote that PHS routinely overbooked its clinic schedule, only seeing a fraction of the inmates who had appointments each day.

When he complained about trouble breathing, guards ignored the rules and made him walk to the clinic. He died on the way.

Loadholt’s family was informed of the investigation all these years later by DNAinfo, which obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information Act request. Conveniently, keeping the family in the dark kept them from filing a lawsuit. PHS, the health-care provider, has since changed its name and scored a new three-year contract from the city in 2012.