New York's Rikers health intern sues after inmate attack

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 24, 2015 12:20 PM

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former mental health intern at New York's Rikers Island jail system is suing the city after an inmate fractured her face and broke her jaw in an attack, her attorney said on Monday.

Stephanie Procell, 24, said Rikers should have done more to protect her from an unprovoked punch by prisoner Joseph McRae at the jail's George R. Vierno Center in April 2014, attorney Michael Ronemus said.

"We're claiming their negligence led to conditions that allowed this to happen," Ronemus said.

Corizon Health, one of the largest U.S. for-profit prison healthcare providers, which serves Rikers, is also named in the lawsuit seeking undisclosed compensatory damages.

McRae, who was serving a 30-month sentence for assaulting another woman, struck Procell while the two stood in a jail office together, the complaint said.

The city and Corizon failed to ensure the area where Procell worked was properly secured and staffed despite previous similar attacks at Rikers, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit, filed last year in New York state court, was first reported by the New York Daily News on Monday.

A spokesman with the city's law department said the lawsuit would be reviewed. Corizon could not immediately be reached for comment.

Rikers Island, which can house as many as 15,000 inmates in 10 jails, has been plagued with claims of inhumane treatment of inmates including routine beatings by guards and the excessive use of solitary confinement.

Corizon has also been mired in controversy, with the city releasing a report in June saying the company had hired doctors and other staff for Rikers who had criminal convictions including murder and kidnapping, the New York Times reported.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he would not renew the city's contract with Corizon when it expires at the end of the year.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Lisa Lambert)