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Advocates and Pols Cheer Decision to Drop Rikers Health Care Contractor

 The entrance to Rikers Island and a neighboring Corizon building.
The entrance to Rikers Island and a neighboring Corizon building.
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Katie Honan/DNAinfo

NEW YORK CITY — Advocates, politicians, and family of those who died at Rikers cheered the news that the city plans to not renew a contract with Corizon, the embattled jail medical provider.

"I think it's great because they took advantage of the city dollars, the taxpayer's dollars," said Lagarthucin Legrand, brother of Devernon Legrand, who died of an asthma attack while under Corizon's care at Rikers in 2006.

"Even though Rikers Island [does] have criminals, you have to treat the people there as people. Even if they were found guilty, you get paid to treat these people."

Sources told DNAinfo that the city will not renew Corizon's contract once it expires at the end of the year, turning control over instead to the city's public Health and Hospitals Corporation.

One Corizon health worker at Rikers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the city's decision to stop contracting the company was "the best news I've heard all year."

"There was much jubilation within the walls of Rikers," the worker said.

The change comes after reports of more than a dozen deaths blamed on Corizon's mistreatment and neglect, and a City Council hearing on their failings.

“HHC providing patient care to our city's inmates is both a win for those who need medical care in our jails and for taxpayers as it should save our city much-needed resources," said City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, who led the hearing along with Councilman Corey Johnson.

"My overriding concern has always been the right to adequate, competent and comprehensive health care for inmates at Rikers. And so I believe Corizon failed in that regard," Johnson said. "So I think this is the right decision but I still have concerns about what the plan will be. And if HHC is the future provider, I think HHC is incredible but they are facing trememdous financial obstacles and I'm wondering how this could be implemented in a way that works for HHC."

The New York Civil Liberties Union also applauded the change.

"The city's decision not to renew Corizon's contract is a critical first step away from profiteering that callously put lives and well-being at risk, and toward a system that satisfies New York City's fundamental constitutional obligation to provide adequate care and treatment for those individuals incarcerated at Rikers," said NYCLU attorney Taylor Pendergrass. 

"We will be closely watching upcoming plans for creating a sound health care system on Rikers," Pendergrass said.

The activist group Resist Rikers said they were skeptical that the new regime will improve things.

"We are excited to see Corizon shamed and somewhat punished, it is no compensation for the many lives they damaged or destroyed," said organizer Paul Funkhouser. "And there is no assurance that the next contractor will be any better."