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PEOPLE STATE NEW YORK EX REL. RUDOLPH BLUNT v. NARCOTIC ADDICTION CONTROL COMMISSION ET AL. (10/14/68)
SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, SPECIAL TERM, BRONX COUNTY
1968.NY.43097 <http://www.versuslaw.com>; 295 N.Y.S.2d 276; 58 Misc. 2d 57
October 14, 1968
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK EX REL. RUDOLPH BLUNT, RELATOR,v.NARCOTIC ADDICTION CONTROL COMMISSION ET AL., RESPONDENTS
Anthony F. Marra, Paul W. Pickelle, Salvatore G. Farraggio and William E. Hellerstein for relator.
Louis J. Lefkowitz, Attorney-General (Alfred Annenberg and John Kelligrew of counsel), for respondents.
Hyman Korn, J.
The relator Rudolph Blunt, by way of a writ of habeas corpus, seeks his release from Rikers Island on the grounds that the New York State Narcotic Addiction Control Commission, hereinafter referred to as NACC, has failed to provide rehabilitative treatment for his drug addiction.
A hearing was held pursuant to a direction of this court and extensive testimony was adduced with respect to the issue raised by the relator.
Relator was convicted of a misdemeanor on October 17, 1967. Though such violation would ordinarily have subjected him to punishment for no more than one year at the penitentiary, as a convicted addict, he was committed to the custody of the NACC for an indefinite period not to exceed 36 months (Mental Hygiene Law, § 208). He is presently at Rikers Island in the custody of the Addiction Service Agency, hereinafter referred to as ASA. This agency administers the narcotics program in the City of New York for criminal addicts under a contract entered into between the State of New York and City of New York.
Specifically it is relator's contention that he is being treated in no different manner than the other nonaddict inmates at the prison. Testimony offered by the relator was to the effect that he and the other committed criminal addicts live and work with nonaddict prisoners and are subject to the same prison routine and regulations as their nonaddict cellmates. However, where the nonaddict cellmates are released within one year, relator and other criminal addicts may be held for a period of 36 months.
Blunt asserts that no psychiatric or psychological therapy, or vocational training has been made available to him under the claimed narcotic program and that the only activity offered him by the ASA was participation in hourly group meetings held two or three times a week and conducted by addicts and ex-addicts. It is his position that these meetings are worthless and that the so-called narcotics program is pure show. While he does not challenge the legality of his original commitment, he maintains that his continued confinement under these circumstances is unlawful.
There are presently pending several hundred writs brought by similarly convicted criminal addicts at Rikers Island who make substantially the same allegations as petitioner. These writs seriously question whether any real effort is being made by the ASA to bring rehabilitative treatment to the addicts in its custody.
The respondent seriously contests relator's claim and asserts that there is presently on Rikers Island a bona fide and meaningful program under which effective rehabilitative treatment is afforded to the committed criminal addict.
The lengthy hearing held herein was to determine solely the one issue, to wit: Is relator and others similarly situated being afforded rehabilitative treatment for their narcotics addiction as mandated by the Mental Hygiene Law.
The evidence presented shows that following his sentencing, relator was sent to Rikers Island. There is no dispute that on his arrival at Rikers Island, he underwent the same classification procedures as newly arrived nonaddict prisoners, and, when sent to the penitentiary, was assigned a cell with a nonaddict inmate. Petitioner's daily routine during the almost one year he has been on Rikers Island is almost identical with that followed by his nonaddict cellmates. There are no separate school or work facilities for addict prisoners. Whether the addict goes to school, as relator did, or to work, in the various prison vocational shops, both programs are under the complete control of the regular prison administration.
The ASA which, as stated, is under contract to operate the narcotics program at Rikers Island, first contacts the addict after he has been classified and assigned to school or a prison job by the prison authorities. At this first contact the addict is told, in essence, about the various phases of the narcotic program and is urged to attend the hourly group meetings held several times a week at the prison. The person assigned by the agency to solicit the prisoner's attendance at these meetings is generally a fellow addict-prisoner who is in the same program but at an advanced stage. Although participation in these group meetings is voluntary, it would appear many addicts initially elect to attend if for no greater reason than the knowledge that co-operation with the authorities may facilitate release before three years. These sessions are open as well to all prisoners who wish to attend, whether or not they have been certified as addicts and committed under the Mental Hygiene Law. When an addict refuses to attend, he receives no other form of therapy and continues at Rikers Island as any other regular prison inmate. These group meetings are for the most part conducted by "Group Leaders" who themselves are convicted criminal addicts who have progressed to a latter stage in a narcotic program.
Admittedly, the meetings are considered motivational rather than rehabilitative; their main purpose being to engender in the addict a sincere desire to break his habit, change his way of life, and accept rehabilitation.
Essentially all that happens at these group meetings is that the prisoner is encouraged to talk about his problems. Aside from such attendance he ordinarily receives no other therapy while at Rikers Island, nor has any other contact with the ASA. There is no professional direction or supervision provided directly to the addict. As a rule, he sees neither psychiatrist nor psychologist.
In the instant case, relator attended the group meetings for a period of seven months and refused to continue, and is presently in no other program. Parenthetically, about 50% of the addicts committed to the ...