Judge outlines fixes to poor health care in Arizona prisons

Jan 9, 2023, 10:45 PM | Updated: Jan 10, 2023, 3:49 pm

PHOENIX (AP) — A federal judge who previously concluded Arizona was providing inadequate medical and mental health care to prisoners said she will give the state three months to ensure it has enough health care professionals to meet constitutional standards.

In a filing late Monday, Judge Roslyn Silver outlined the changes she plans to impose on the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry to remedy its constitutional violations of prisoners’ rights.

She previously concluded there weren’t enough health employees to care for the roughly 25,000 incarcerated people housed in state-run prisons and that corrections officials had made no significant attempts to fix the understaffing problem.

The case went to trial in late 2021 after Silver threw out a 6-year-old settlement over prison health care, saying the state showed little interest in making many of the improvements it promised under the deal. She had concluded that $2.5 million in contempt of court fines against the state didn’t motivate authorities to comply with the settlement, either.

“Given this history, the court cannot impose an injunction that is even minutely ambiguous because defendants (state officials) have proven they will exploit any ambiguity to the maximum extent possible,” Silver wrote on Monday.

The judge laid out the draft terms of what will be the court-ordered overhaul of prison health care, giving lawyers a chance to comment on the changes. But she cautioned that attorneys shouldn’t expect significant changes to her upcoming order.

The number of health professionals needed at state prisons wasn’t specified by the judge, but she set ratios for the number of professionals needed to treat a given number of prisoners.

Silver said she plans to appoint four officials who will monitor the corrections department’s compliance with the court-ordered changes. When the settlement was in effect, lawyers representing prisoners said the state did a poor job of such monitoring and inflated its compliance numbers.

American Civil Liberties Union attorney David Fathi, who represents prisoners in the class-action lawsuit, expressed hope that Gov. Katie Hobbs would appoint a corrections director who will treat the health care of incarcerated people seriously.

Corrections Director David Shinn, who was appointed by then-Gov. Doug Ducey in October 2019 and announced his resignation in late December, was criticized previously by Silver for testifying that prisoners often have greater access to health service than people who aren’t locked up. Silver had said the claim was “completely detached from reality.”

“You can’t turn around the Titanic on a dime,” Fathi said. “There has been a broken system for a long time. It will not be fixed overnight.”

The corrections department, which in the past had denied it provided inadequate care, declined to comment Tuesday on the judge’s filing. In a statement, Hobbs said her office is committed to ensuring Arizona’s prisons operate within constitutional requirements.

“Years of failed leadership have left this institution without adequate staffing, medical care, or accountability,” the governor said. “The system is broken and will require a committed, long-term plan for implementing fair standards to improve the health and safety conditions for correctional officers and incarcerated individuals.”

In a blistering verdict last summer, Silver said the state’s inaction showed it is acting with “deliberate indifference” to the risks of inadequate care and said the state has adopted a health care system for prisoners that has led to preventable deaths. The judge had said prisoners weren’t getting timely access to emergency treatment, medications, treatment for chronic diseases and specialty care.

Lawyers representing prisoners had previously asked Silver to set up a receivership where the court would take over health care operations in state prisons and appoint an official to run those services there.

Though she has shied away from a receivership, Silver said she would revive that possibility if the state acts in bad faith or fails to comply with the court-ordered changes.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Eight Croatian nationals charged with attempting to traffic children, outside the magistrates court...
Associated Press

8 Croatians in Zambia face new charges of child trafficking

LUSAKA, Zambia (AP) — Eight Croatians rearrested in Zambia will face new charges of child trafficking and are expected to appear in court on Thursday, a Zambian official announced. Earlier this week a court dropped child trafficking charges against the eight — four couples — and ordered them to leave the country within 48 hours. […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Belarus hands 8-year term to journalist for top Polish paper

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — A Belarusian court on Wednesday sentenced a journalist and prominent member of the country’s sizable Polish minority to eight years in prison, amid an ongoing crackdown on critics of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime. Andrzej Poczobut, 49, was found guilty of harming Belarus’ national security and “inciting discord” in a closed […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Belgian police seize $1.6 million in sex trafficking probe

BRUSSELS (AP) — About 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million) in cash were seized during raids in Belgium targeting an alleged criminal organization suspected of sending Chinese women to Europe and forcing them into prostitution, the federal prosecutor’s office said Wednesday. In addition, investigators took hold of four tons of coins with an unspecified value, prosecutors […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Blaze at US drone plant in Latvia; arson not suspected

HELSINKI (AP) — Firefighters worked for a second day Wednesday to fully extinguish a blaze at a U.S. company’s drone plant in Latvia. Local police said nothing had been found so far to indicate sabotage. Latvia’s State Fire and Rescue Service was alerted Tuesday afternoon that a fire had broken out at Edge Autonomy’s drone […]
1 day ago
FILE - People walk past a Microsoft office in New York on Nov. 10, 2016.  (AP Photo/Swayne B. Hall,...
Associated Press

UK watchdog says Microsoft’s Activision deal hurts gamers

LONDON (AP) — Microsoft’s stalled $68.7 billion deal to buy video game company Activision Blizzard has hit a fresh hurdle in the United Kingdom, where the antitrust watchdog said Wednesday that it will stifle competition and hurt gamers. Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority said its in-depth investigation found that the deal could strengthen Microsoft’s position […]
1 day ago
People walk past St. John's Baptistery, one of the oldest churches in Florence, central Italy, Tues...
Associated Press

Visitors can see Florence Baptistry mosaics up close

FLORENCE, Italy (AP) — Visitors to one of Florence’s most iconic monuments — the Baptistry of San Giovanni, opposite the city’s Duomo — are getting a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see its ceiling mosaics up close thanks to an innovative approach to a planned restoration effort. Rather than limit the public’s access during the six-year cleaning […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Judge outlines fixes to poor health care in Arizona prisons