Suits vs. Armor raise questions about firm's medical care of incarcerated

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The private company entrusted with providing health care to the Nassau County jail -- and recently cited for giving inadequate care to inmates who died in custody -- has a trail of lawsuits in multiple states alleging that it delivered substandard care.

The suits -- alleging inmates suffered and sometimes died because Armor Correctional Health Services' staff was negligent and underqualified, deprived inmates of medical care and denied emergency care -- come as a New York State commission in September said the Miami-based firm gave "incompetent and deficient" care to a Nassau jail inmate who died in custody last year.

Since May, Newsday has reported that critics, including attorneys, the New York Civil Liberties Union, and an acting state Supreme Court justice who lowered an inmate's bail after her lawyer said she hadn't gotten her diabetes medication, have raised concerns about Armor. Last month, advocates and one of Nassau's top Democrats intensified calls to suspend Armor's contract after the state findings about the death of inmate John Gleeson at the Nassau jail.

In addition, the New York State attorney general's office has launched an investigation of Armor's quality of care, including how the company deals with medical emergencies at the Nassau jail, sources told Newsday last week.

Reluctant to represent

Joanne Doroshow, founder and executive director of the Center for Justice & Democracy in New York, said lawyers are generally unwilling to take on medical malpractice lawsuits involving inmates because the damages are typically low and juries are usually unsympathetic.

In instances where attorneys take on such cases, "the harm is so egregious, it can rise to the level of a constitutional violation," she said.

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