Department Of Corrections Settles Prison Health Care Lawsuit

By Alexandra Olgin
Published: Wednesday, February 18, 2015 - 5:57pm
Updated: Wednesday, February 18, 2015 - 6:07pm

(Photo courtesy of Arizona Department of Corrections)
Woody Firrello is incarcerated at the Lewis prison.

The Arizona Department of Corrections settled a class action lawsuit about prison health care Wednesday. The case on behalf of more than 34,000 inmates was filed three years ago.

Woody Firrello has been in prison for shoplifting and selling those stolen goods since 2013. His wife Donna Firrello was at Wednesday’s settlement hearing. She said he has suffered a stroke, thinks he may have pneumonia and prostate cancer, but hasn’t been able to get treatment fast enough.

“He would just like the care to be better,” she said. “He is afraid he is going to die from cancer. He is afraid he is going to have a stroke because it’s taken so long to get this problem fixed.” 

Donna and her husband are hopeful this settlement will improve his timely access to medical care. He has three more years behind bars before his scheduled release in 2018. As part of the agreement, prisoners will now be offered cancer screenings, immunizations and get regular mental health care. Prisoners in solitary confinement will be required to have more time out of their cells.

“Much of the stipulation calls for out of cell time, conditions of confinement for maximum custody inmates and that kind of thing have been part of implementation since settlement announced back in October," said Department of Corrections Spokesman Doug Nick.    

The settlement said prisoners in solitary confinement with serious mental illness will now get a minimum of 19 hours a week outside their cells. The Department of Corrections will also hire more health care professionals and ensure certain medical care is accessible. Attorney Donald Specter represents the inmates.  

“There are specific protocols for each of the performance measures on how they are going to measure whether they are in compliance,” he said. “And we have the opportunity to review those documents and tour prisons to make sure no funny business is going on.”

Federal Judge David Duncan ordered a copy of the settlement to be in prison libraries. It only applies to state prisons and will go into effect immediately.

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