Dental Case

Published October 24, 2012

Prisoners at the Westchester County Jail in New York state are suing the county for $500 million because they are being denied dental floss.

The 25-page federal lawsuit claims the inmates’ civil rights have been violated and they are suffering cavities due to the deprivation.

Jail officials said inmates can use dental floss only under a nurse’s supervision because inmates could use multiple strands as a weapon that “could become deadly.” Nothing in prison regulations requires issuance of dental floss, they said, adding they are trying to find a dental floss substitute that prisoners could safely use.

One prisoner said lack of dental floss causes a cascade of consequences. “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,” he said. “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.”

Another prisoner says he has personal knowledge the denial is unreasonable, from his prior incarcerations in other jails, where dental floss was available. “Besides being in this facility, I’ve been in several facilities throughout New York state prisons,” he said. “All the facilities that I’ve been in sell dental floss.”

Source: Jorge Fitz-Gibbon, “Inmates, denied dental floss, sue Westchester for $500 million,” The Journal News (Westchester, Putnam, Rockland Counties), September 21, 2012