Milburn v. Goord, 79 Civ. 5077 (S.D.N.Y.)

Nature of Claims: This class action challenged the denial of adequate medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment to prisoners at Green Haven Correctional Facility. A consent judgment was entered settling the case, but it was followed by repeated contempt and other enforcement proceedings resulting in renegotiation of the judgment, including added provisions concerning HIV care and the Unit for the Physically Disabled.

Current Status: After defendants requested termination of the judgment, the parties agreed that the Medical Auditor provided for by the judgment would prepare a report on current conditions. In mid-2006, he reported that generally the defendants were in compliance with the judgment, or would be if the auditor’s recommendations–such as getting rid of a particular doctor and establishing a functional chronic care recall system–were implemented. (The doctor shortly afterward left Green Haven, though the reasons are unclear.) We also discovered that in the prison’s Unit for the Physically Disabled, renovations to make the cells wheelchair accessible resulted in cell doors that could not be closed, so that only those wheelchair-using prisoners who were completely non-ambulatory were allowed in the UPD. This meant that prisoners who were less impaired but nonetheless required an accessible living environment were excluded from the UPD After substantial advocacy efforts from PRP staff, DOCS re-retrofitted the UPD at significant expense in the spring of 2009, so that all cells in the UPD that are wheelchair-accessible can be used by prisoners who need them. Because the UPD will now house 44 prisoners instead of the approximately 22 inmates that were confined there before the re-retrofitting, the Medical Auditor is to review conditions in the UPD. The Medical Auditor is also assessing whether Quality Assurance, as agreed to by the parties, is being conducted, a necessary final step to ensure that the gains that have been accomplished by this litigation will remain in place. The Medical Auditor will assess the UPD and Quality Assurance efforts, and will then write a report about these issues, probably in the fall of 2009.

Persons Affected: About 2,000 prisoners held at Green Haven Correctional Facility.

Reported decisions: None.