Arizona Inmate Advised To 'Avoid Self-Harm' After Chewing His Own Fingers Off

By Jimmy Jenkins
Published: Monday, January 15, 2018 - 8:37pm
Updated: Wednesday, April 8, 2020 - 12:05pm

inmates arm and hand
(Photo courtesy of Arizona Department of Corrections)
An inmate in the Arizona Department of Corrections says he cuts himself and bites his fingers off because he is in so much pain. The inmate alleges he is not receiving proper pain medication.

Plaintiff’s attorneys in a prison health care settlement have filed a series of letters in federal court that were originally sent to Arizona officials in an attempt to secure medical attention for a physically disabled inmate.

The inmate alleges he has not been receiving pain medication that he was prescribed, resulting in pain so great it has caused him to commit acts of self-harm.

In an interview with the inmate, a class member of the Parsons v. Ryan prison health care settlement, attorneys from the Prison Law Office photographed his damaged hands. Records filed in federal court show the inmate chewed parts of his fingers and cut his arms repeatedly with a razor.

In the interview, the inmate told attorneys he tries to hold the pain in, but “the tears fall inside.”

Records show instead of the pain medication he requested, the inmate was “offered self-help books on anxiety, managing pain.”

Notes from the inmate’s medical record suggest he “avoid chewing/biting/self harm.”

Medical records obtained by his attorneys
Medical records obtained by his attorneys show the inmate was advised to avoid self-harm after committing self-harm.

Corene Kendrick of the Prison Law Office says attorneys representing the inmates in the case have contacted the state several times to try to address the inmate’s lack of pain medication but have not received a sufficient response.

Kendrick said the inmate asked her office to file letters in federal court regarding his treatment so the public could see what he was experiencing.

“What he hopes for and what we are asking for, is for his pain to be appropriately managed,” Kendrick said. “That’s what we want for him and for every other client who is suffering from severe medical problems where pain management is not being done properly.”

Kendrick said her office regularly receives similar complaints from inmates describing a lack of adequate pain management.

A federal judge overseeing the settlement ordered the defendants to provide statistics and information about prescribing pain medication. Kendrick said the Arizona Department of Corrections was supposed to turn that information over by December but, so far, has not done so.

The attorneys are asking that the inmate in the most recent court filing be transferred to an inpatient facility for adequate mental health treatment.

In the meantime, the inmate told attorneys he keeps a picture of his daughter above his bed as his motivation to get out of prison.

Arizona Prisons