AZ must fix prison care, but in the looming budget shortfall, funding remains unclear

By Jill Ryan
Bob Christie, Capitol Media Services
Published: Monday, November 13, 2023 - 10:19am
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In an effort to meet a federal judge's orders to improve care for nearly 25,000 inmates in state-run prisons,  Arizona’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee signed off on a spending boost.

But that move puts added pressure on a state budget that is already deep in the red.

In a ruling last year, a U.S. District judge called the state’s prison care “grossly inadequate'' and demanded change. This is the latest in a decade-old inmate health care lawsuit.

The proposed fixes add a $117 million cost in the coming budget year. But there is already a projected $400 million shortfall in the current budget and a worse projection for the next one.

Republican state Sen. John Kavanagh says lawmakers will have to trim expenses. There is a $1.5 billion rainy day fund available but Republican leaders don’t seem interested in tapping into it.

Politics Arizona Prisons