Santiago Gomez

New York Inmates, Denied Floss, Sue For $500 Million

The Westchester County Department of Corrections is being sued for $500 million by eleven inmates, in a claim that the county jail’s refusal to let them use dental floss has caused them dental cavities.

Justin Pruyne, Deputy Correction Commissioner, defended the ‘dental floss ban’ is due to the fact that flosses can be potentially used as a weapon.

The civil rights lawsuit filed by lead plaintiff Santiago Gomez (held on gun charges) on the 10th of September.

In a phone interview with the Journal News, Gomez said, “We feel that the Westchester County Department of Corrections is depriving inmates of the use of dental floss, which is causing us cavities. 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."

Gomez says that safe dental floss alternatives are available and permitted in other jails.

“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. They’ve been advised in the grievance procedure here that they have ‘loops’ which are inmate friendly. They have a rubber band appearance, they’re disposable, and they come in zip lock bags. All facilities sell them.”

The inmates also complained that they need constant dental work for temporary fillings because they are denied crowns and root canals.

Mr. Pruyne said staff were exploring if there were dental products "which would be appropriate in a custodial situation, maybe some sort of floss that breaks easily" but that "staff and inmate safety come first".