Inmates in a suburban New York jail are suing for $500 million, contending in a federal lawsuit that the jail’s refusal to let them use dental floss has ruined their teeth.
In a 25-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Santiago Gomez, 26, the lead plaintiff, said his Westchester County jailors have violated the prisoners’ civil rights by “not allowing inmates access to dental floss while being aware that failure to use causes cavities.”
Gomez is being held on a gun charge, The Journal News
“We feel that the Westchester County Department of Corrections is depriving inmates of the use of dental floss, which is causing us cavities,” Gomez told the Journal News in a telephone interview from the jail in Valhalla. “They recognize the importance of it — that you have to floss — in the regulation manual. They clearly state if you don’t floss you’re going to get cavities.”
“When you get these cavities, they give you a temporary filling which almost, by three or four weeks, falls out, which requires unnecessary procedures such as more drilling to replace this temporary filling,” Gomez continued. “What they do is after they give you a hole so big in your tooth they’re telling you, ‘Well, extract the saveable tooth or suffer in pain.’ The only medication that the new department they have here is providing is Motrin.”
The lawsuit, filed by a total of 11 county inmates, seeks the payment “for all civil rights violations mentioned in this complaint,” and asks that “the decision be made retroactive affecting all prisoners on behalf of all inmates still being violated.”
Westchester Deputy Correction Commissioner Justin Pruyne declined to discuss the lawsuit, but said the jail is not required to provide dental floss to prisoners. He told the Associated Press it could potentially be used as a weapon.
“There is nothing in the New York state regulations which regulate jails that would require Westchester to provide an inmate with dental floss,” Pruyne said. “That being said, at present we are looking into whether there are appropriate items out there in the community that could be used in a jail setting.”
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