Prison Injury

Can You Sue a Jail for Not Giving Medication in NY?

March 15, 2023
denied medical treatment in jail

Table Of Contents


Inmates have a right to medical care and can hire prison abuse attorneys to file a lawsuit against jail or prison authorities to force them to provide it. Jails and prisons have a moral and legal duty to provide medical care to inmates. When they fail to provide medical care, inmates suffer for no legitimate punitive or rehabilitative purpose.

Do Prisoners Have Rights to Healthcare?

can you sue a jail for not giving medication

Withholding healthcare from a prisoner amounts to "cruel and unusual punishment" prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Can a jail refuse medication or other healthcare? According to the Supreme Court in Estelle v. Gamble, it cannot.

Forcing incarcerated people to live without adequate healthcare amounts to torture. An inmate who does not receive appropriate medical care could experience:

  • Pain
  • Suffering
  • Lingering death

Correctional facilities violate the constitution when they act with deliberate indifference to the medical needs of an inmate. Prisoners' right to healthcare covers the right to:

  • Receive treatment for injuries caused by other inmates or accidents in the facility;
  • Access ongoing health care for diseases, including pre-existing conditions;
  • Get medication for any physical or mental illness.

When a jail or prison fails to meet inmates' rights to medical care, it can face lawsuits.

The Critical Need for Medical Care in NY Prisons

Inmates of federal and state facilities require more medical attention than the general public due to:

  • Age-related diseases in inmates serving long sentences;
  • Inmate-on-inmate violence;
  • Communicable diseases, from COVID-19 to HIV, passed by a prison's population;
  • Accidents, such as slips & falls, from poorly maintained facilities;
  • Pre-existing conditions an inmate had before going into custody.

Jails and prisons often lack the resources, training, and leadership to meet these needs.

The Responsibility to Provide Adequate Medical Care in Prison

inmates rights to medical care

Some people have the mistaken belief that incarceration should expose convicts to danger and the risks of mental, physical, and even sexual injuries. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The government punishes convicts by depriving them of their freedoms. When federal or state prisons take people into custody, the government becomes responsible for them. Prison staff members must provide a safe and healthy environment so inmates can serve their sentences and re-enter society. To accomplish this, jail or prison medical staff must:

  • Take reasonable steps to respond to inmate health issues;
  • Provide a reasonable level of medical care;
  • Protect each inmate from death or personal injury.

When a facility is deliberately indifferent to inmate rights to medication and medical care, the jail or prison commits a civil rights violation. The government becomes liable for any personal injury or wrongful death that results from that violation.

What Are Some Examples of Denied Prison Medical Care?

Whenever an inmate dies or gets injured by a medical event, scrutiny falls on the jail or prison staff. You cannot blame the jail for every health problem that befalls someone, but a failure to provide medical care in custody due to deliberate indifference could make the jail or prison responsible for the resulting injury or death.

Examples of denied prison medical care include:

  • Unreasonably ignoring reports of complaints or symptoms;
  • Refusing to treat a disease or injury as prescribed by a doctor;
  • Delaying medical care for prisoners;
  • Withholding prescription medication;
  • Denying emergency care or life-saving treatment.

A prisoner who suffered harm due to a facility's deliberate indifference may have a personal injury case. Prison injury lawyers can base this personal injury claim on:

These cases are not easy. An experienced attorney can provide the legal knowledge and experience dealing with the state or federal department of corrections to fight to get your family member the care needed to meet their medical needs.

A law firm can also fight for fair compensation for the violation of your inmate's civil rights and the physical and mental damage they suffered.

What Rights Do Prisoners Have in Relation to Accessing Personal Medical Information?

medical care for prisoners

An inmate's medical records present a difficult issue. The facility's officials have a legitimate interest in preventing escapes during medical appointments and procedures. But every prison resident also has the right to make informed medical decisions.

Outside doctors and the prison's medical personnel must follow the facility's policies about what they can discuss with patients. When these policies stop doctors from giving a jailed patient enough information to seek care, the policy may violate your loved one's civil rights.

Why Are Inmates Denied Medical Care?

People in correctional institutions experience denial of medical care for many reasons, including:

  • Overcrowding;
  • Understaffing;
  • Inadequate budgeting for healthcare;
  • Poor staff training;
  • Staff members failing to follow established policies;
  • Administrators failing to establish policies that meet their constitutional duties;
  • Outsourcing of healthcare to profit-driven providers or incompetent outside doctors.

Remember that not every instance where someone is denied medical treatment in jail will support a lawsuit. You must show that the facility's responsible party acted with deliberate indifference. Thus, the reason for the denial matters.

Fortunately, when a loved one sues an institution, the attorney can compel the prison or jail to produce documents. These documents might provide evidence to support the lawsuit.

How to Prove Denied Prison Medical Care

inmate rights to medication

Getting justice for denied care is not easy. The attorney must show that the officials were deliberately indifferent in denying the care. "Deliberate" means the denial was the product of a conscious decision. Negligent or even reckless decisions might not satisfy the test. Instead, the lawyer must prove the denial was the product of a policy or process.

"Indifference" means the denial did not take the inmate's interests into account. The duty of care exists to protect the people in the jail or prison, not its budgets, staffing, or policies. At the same time, officials must balance the inmate's risk with the purpose of the institution. To show "indifference," a lawyer almost needs to show the institution ignored the prisoner's health and welfare.

Vindicating inmate medical rights requires evidence to support a claim of deliberate indifference. This evidence can come from:

  • Witness testimony from outside doctors and whistleblower prison employees;
  • Policy documents;
  • Training materials and operating handbooks;
  • Official incident reports.

The attorney can compel institutions to produce documents and permit witnesses to testify. This will help the prison medical malpractice attorney to investigate what happened and plan how to get justice for your relative.

Contact Our Denial of Prison Medical Care Attorney

Jacob Fuchsberg Law Firm focuses on helping people housed in prisons and jails to get treated for a disease or injury and seek damages for the unreasonable denial of healthcare.

Whether the institution's failure results in the person getting injured or causes a wrongful death, our law firm provides legal services to help a prisoner or their family. Contact us online or at 212.869.3500 for a free consultation to discuss your case.