An update for people in prison and their loved ones
Una actualización para las personas en prisión y sus seres queridos
On March 22, 2012, we filed a lawsuit challenging the inhumane and unconstitutional failures of the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) to provide minimally adequate medical, mental health and dental care to people in state custody, and to end the abusive conditions in the solitary confinement units. The ACLU of Arizona is co-counsel in the case with the ACLU National Prison Project, Prison Law Office, Arizona Center for Disability Law, Perkins Coie and Jones Day.
U.S. District Court Judge Neil Wake denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss in October 2012 allowing discovery to proceed. Significant discovery was undertaken, including tours of the prisons and reports by the five plaintiffs’ experts showing system-wide problems with the prisons' health care and excessive use of solitary confinement. Discovery was especially challenging since the ADC subcontracted its medical services to a private contractor called Wexford shortly after we filed our complaint; Wexford was later removed and replaced by Corizon, the largest private medical provider for prisoners in the country. Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification was granted by the court on March 6, 2013, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed that ruling in June 2014.
In October 2014, just before the beginning of trial, plaintiffs reached a settlement with defendants, which was approved by the court in February 2015. The settlement, on behalf of the more than 33,000 prisoners in Arizona’s state prisons, requires the ADC to meet more than 100 health care performance measures, covering issues such as care for prisoners with diabetes, hypertension, and other chronic conditions; care for pregnant prisoners; and dental care. The settlement also requires the ADC to overhaul the rules for prisoners with serious mental illnesses in solitary confinement. Instead of spending all but six hours a week in their cells, such prisoners will now have a minimum of 19 hours a week outside the cell, and this time must include mental health treatment and other programming. ADC must also restrict guards' use of pepper spray on these prisoners, using it only as a last resort when necessary to prevent serious injury or escape
The settlement provides for ongoing monitoring and oversight by the plaintiffs' lawyers to make sure the state is complying with its terms. More than two years after the Parsons settlement agreement with the Arizona Department of Corrections went into effect, it was clear that the ADC had not complied with its terms. ADC’s own documents showed them to be chronically out of compliance with key health care performance measures, and experts identified numerous cases in which ADC’s failure to provide minimally adequate medical and mental health care had resulted in needless suffering, aggravation of illness, and avoidable death. On October 10, 2017, the court, citing “pervasive and intractable failures to comply” with the settlement, ordered the ADC defendants to show cause why they should not be held in contempt and fined $1,000 for each prisoner who did not receive the health care services to which she was entitled under the settlement.