Activists Call For Better Health Care Conditions In Arizona Prisons

By Jimmy Jenkins
Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2019 - 7:30am
Updated: Wednesday, April 8, 2020 - 11:49am

Jimmy Jenkins/KJZZ
Family members of incarcerated people and supporters of Puente Human Rights Movement gather at the Arizona Department of Corrections to call attention to prison health care

Activists and formerly incarcerated people gathered at the Arizona Department of Corrections headquarters Monday in downtown Phoenix to call attention to health care concerns in state prisons.

Spurred to action by the recent death of a man at the state prison in Florence, members of Puente Human Rights Movement and supporters like Israel O’Bannon said they want to bring attention to what they call improper health care conditions in the Department of Corrections. 

“When you’re here on the streets, you can call your doctor and you know you can be seen that same week. In there? Oh my God. It’s not good," O'Bannon said of his time in state prison. He says it took ADC prison health care contractor Corizon Health one month to provide treatment for a broken wrist.

Puente activists say they are calling for an independent investigation into the death of Richard Washington, who died in January, a month after he wrote a letter to the federal courts saying he feared for his life due to lack of medical care.

Erika Ovalle is a founding member of Puente and says Washington’s story does not surprise her.

Ovalle’s brother has been incarcerated for 12 years and she says watching him deal with health care issues in prison has led her to believe the system is in need of reform:

“It’s very unjust," she said. "And the fact that it’s being run by a private company, says a lot. You know, they want to cut corners. They’re just playing with lives at a certain point.”

The Arizona Department of Corrections blamed Corizon Health in court for repeatedly failing to meet staffing requirements and a federally ordered set of health care benchmarks.

A new contractor, Centurion Managed Care, will take over the prison health care operations for state prisons in July.

A motion filed by Richard Washington alleging improper care a month before he died in an Arizona prison, courtesy of PACER:

Politics Arizona Prisons