New York State officials have reached a preliminary conclusion that New York City’s $300 million contract for medical care at its Rikers Island jail is illegal because it violates a state law regulating profit-making medical companies, reports the New York Times. New York law requires that corporations providing medical services for profit be owned and controlled by doctors, to prevent business considerations from influencing medical decisions. Prison Health Services, the Tennessee company that has been delivering care since 2001 to the 100,000 inmates who pass through Rikers Island every year, is not run by doctors.
The agency investigating the contract, the State Department of Education, said it had not reached any “definitive conclusions.” The department, which regulates the practice of medicine, has in the past found serious problems with the way Prison Health was doing business in the state. State officials familiar with the city’s contract with Prison Health have said that it appeared to violate the state law because it makes doctors at Rikers answerable to Prison Health executives in Tennessee. Prison Health hires all doctors at Rikers. Prison Health officials defended the contract.