Judge Finds Healthcare In Arizona Prisons Still Lacking, Orders State To Correct Problems

Published: Friday, May 20, 2016 - 1:48pm
Updated: Friday, May 20, 2016 - 3:23pm
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A federal judge has found that Arizona prisoners continue to receive substandard healthcare.

On Friday, U.S. Magistrate Judge David Duncan ordered the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) to come up with a plan to remedy the ongoing problems by June 8. 

Over a year ago, the ADC settled a class-action lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), agreeing to rectify significant gaps in the quality of healthcare at state prisons. However, according to the court, the agency’s own monitoring shows that many of those same issues persist to this day.

"The findings of non-compliance span virtually every aspect of medical and mental health care," said David Fathi, who is director of the ACLU's National Prison Project. 

Those include access to medication, doctors and psychiatrists, laboratory tests, care for patients with chronic diseases, infirmary care and aspects of mental healthcare such as protecting prisoners in solitary confinement from catastrophic harms. 

The settlement in Parsons v. Ryan set the bar at 75 percent compliance, but Fahti said "unfortunately on a large number of measures at a large number of prisons they couldn't even meet that level of compliance," and were sometimes as low as 20 percent or 30 percent.

After the agreement went into effect in February 2015, Fathi said his organization began monitoring the quality of care and alerting the department to shortcomings. 

"And we met this stonewall of denial and refusal to acknowledge that there were any problems," said Fathi. 

That eventually led the ACLU in April of this year to go back to court.

The state now has until early June to submit a plan to correct the problems.

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