Department Of Corrections Seeks Billion Dollar Budget

By Jimmy Jenkins
Published: Tuesday, February 13, 2018 - 6:22pm

The Arizona Department of Corrections presented its fiscal year 2019 budget request to the Legislature on Tuesday.

Director Charles Ryan asked the Arizona State Senate Committee on Appropriations for an executive budget of $1,094,814,400.

Ryan said the total includes $30 million to pay for higher costs of providing health care services to inmates.

The ADC director told state senators his department is reviewing two bids for a new health care contract for state prisons. One of those bids is from the current contractor, Corizon Health, a company under fire in federal court over allegations of wrongdoing and lying to state monitors.

Arizona pays Corizon Health $12.54 per inmate per day to provide health care in state prisons. January’s state prison population was a little more than 33,000, making the contract worth more than $150 million annually.

Sen. Olivia Cajero told Ryan she hoped there would be a change in contractors. But Sen. Martin Quezada pointed out that with only two bids, “we only have one option. I’m not sure that’s good for Arizona.”

With regard to compliance with the Parsons v. Ryan prison health care settlement, overseen by an increasingly critical federal judge, Ryan said, “Progress is in fact being made. Rather than say something that would get me on the carpet before the magistrate — I'll let that suffice."

If Magistrate Judge David Duncan enforces fines for failing to meet stipulations in the settlement, the state could faces hundreds of thousands of dollars in sanctions. December fines alone could cost Arizona $650,000.

Ryan said if the fines are enforced, Corizon Health would pay. “I’ve already made it clear to the the vendor that they’re on the hook,” Ryan said.

Corizon Health’s current contract runs through June.

Ryan said more spending in the 2019 budget would be directed toward inmate education, substance-abuse treatment and second-chance centers.

Ryan also said out of the currently funded 6,655 correctional officer positions, 879 are vacant. The director said ADC was “not competitive” with other state agencies, and he pledged that the agency will use bonuses and merit pay to chip away at the 13 percent vacancy rate.

Correctional officers in Arizona make an average salary of $40,142.

Sen. Katie Hobbs asked Ryan about the controversy generated by Rep. Athena Salman’s House Bill 2222, which, if approved, would provide free, unlimited feminine hygiene products to women in Arizona prisons.

“I don’t know if you can understand that this is a basic-need item,” Hobbs said.

Hobbs cited testimony at a recent hearing where former inmates told legislators they did not have access to enough pads and tampons and that prison guards used the scarcity to wield power over the inmates.

Ryan said he had decided to increase the number of pads women recieve each month from 12 to 36. The director said allegations made by former inmates that they were punished for having blood stains on their clothes were untrue.