ACLU Lawsuit Over Arizona Prison Health Care, Conditions Likely Headed to Trial

Categories: News

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Matthew Hendley
A class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of about 33,000 Arizona prisoners is likely headed to trial this fall.

Attorneys for the Arizona Department of Corrections had sought a summary judgment in the case, which would have prevented a trial, but U.S. District Judge Neil V. Wake denied that motion.

"It's going to pave the way for a trial," ACLU of Arizona executive director Alessandra Soler tells New Times.

The lawsuit against the state prisons department includes 17 claims, many of them alleging that the state doesn't provide proper health care for inmates. Other claims highlight various alleged sub-standard conditions at the prisons, like insufficient nutrition and a lack of recreation.

Soler says prison authorities haven't been eager to remedy the conditions, calling it a "sort of deliberate indifference from prison officials."

The lawsuit summarizes:

Prisoner Plaintiffs and the Plaintiff Class are housed in Arizona Department of Corrections ("ADC") state prisons, and seek declaratory and injunctive relief against Charles Ryan and Michael Pratt, (collectively, "Defendants") in their official capacities. Prisoner Plaintiffs and the Plaintiff Class are entirely dependent on Defendants for their basic health care. However, the system under which Defendants Ryan and Pratt provide medical, mental health, and dental care (collectively, "health care") to prisoners is grossly inadequate and subjects all prisoners to a substantial risk of serious harm, including unnecessary pain and suffering, preventable injury, amputation, disfigurement, and death. For years, the health care provided by Defendants in Arizona's prisons has fallen short of minimum constitutional requirements and failed to meet prisoners' basic health needs. Critically ill prisoners have begged prison officials for treatment, only to be told "be patient," "it's all in your head," or "pray" to be cured. Despite warnings from their own employees, prisoners and their family members, and advocates about the risk of serious injury and death to prisoners, Defendants are deliberately indifferent to the substantial risk of pain and suffering to prisoners, including deaths, which occur due to Defendants' failure to provide minimally adequate health care, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. "Just as a prisoner may starve if not fed, he or she may suffer or die if not provided adequate medical care. A prison that deprives prisoners of basic sustenance, including adequate medical care, is incompatible with the concept of human dignity and has no place in civilized society." Brown v. Plata, 563 U.S. __, 131 S.Ct. 1910, 1928 (2011).
A report by the American Friends Services Committee found that the state's medical spending in prisons dropped by about $30 million after the services were privatized. In the first eight months of 2013, as the new health care provider Wexford took over, 50 people died in ADC custody, according to the report, while 37 people had died in the previous two years combined. Still, many of the allegations in the lawsuit predate the changing of providers.

Claims from the prisoners include delays in receiving health care or treatment, a failure to get medications, insufficient care for chronic diseases, low staffing levels, and more. On top of this, only part of the lawsuit focuses on medical care.

Other claims include poor dental care and mental-health treatment, a lack of recreation, cases of extreme isolation, constant lighting of the cells, limits on inmate property, and poor nutrition.

The ACLU alleges these things amount to constitutional violations, and is seeking an order to implement a plan to remedy these things.

ACLU of Arizona Legal Director Dan Pochoda released a statement saying the following in response to the judge's ruling against summary judgment for the state:

"As expected, Judge Wake saw there was no merit to the state's claims that there were no systemic problems within the prison system that needed to be fixed

For far too long, the state has ignored the basic medical and mental health needs of prisoners confined to the state's corrections system and this deliberate indifference has caused pain, suffering and even death of prisoners. The judge found that there was plenty of evidence to demonstrate that the state has failed to address the serious constitutional problems within its prison system, and we're looking forward to demonstrating that at the trial later this fall."

The original complaint, filed in 2012, can be seen below:

Parsons v. Ryan

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35 comments
ronaldedwin
ronaldedwin

I was housed in Kingman, AZ in a Private Prison that was run by Management & Training Corporation. (MTC) what they call Medical was run by Correction Healthcare Corporation. The medical is a joke. I had a Quad Bypass late 90s and Stents put in in March of 2010 when I was admitted into prison and though requesting a Doctor (cardiologist) for the four years I was in, I was refused after every request which was monthly. When I was released on August 3rd of 2014 I immediately went to my Doctors Office on Monday and after 5 minutes was taken by ambulance to Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn taken to the Catherization Lab for an angiogram and had 3 stents put in due to 99% occlusion in my RCA and LAD arteries. The doctor told me a day or so more I would have died. This is a direct result of the blatant & negligent lack of basic medical care that I and all other inmates are entitled to under State & Federal Law. Even though I was guilty of the crime I committed, I still am a taxpayer in the State which paid a part of my incarceration.

Prison in AZ is all about making money. I would love to find the right person who would give me 30 minutes to listen to what I have to say. I am a Post Graduate Professional Person prior to my transgression and have acquired much knowledge of the Internal Operations of Prison due to the work I did while incarcerated. I have sensitive information that I would like to share with the right person who has the ability to expose the not only corruption of Private Prisons such as MTC but the embezzlement that is allowed to be perpetrated on the citizens of AZ who's taxes pay the high salaries and housing for the Inmates. I have names dates and all the information of MTC and DOC employees who have been fired, relieved of duty exposed and arrested as well as charged and convicted etc...etc...during my time in Prison....

I can be contacted at ronald_edwin@aim.com

RobertGraham29
RobertGraham29

People who want better healthcare should think about it before breaking the law and going to prison.

vchunter70
vchunter70

I didn't see one thing about the Inmates being forced to work at the Hickman Egg Plant in Arlington Az and nave been for years, for half of what minimum wage is. Plus when they go back after a Days Wrk half of them get sick, Just thought you should know. 


rh19541954
rh19541954

I seem to have attracted one of the local cyber trolls! I am always amused and flattered when they waste so much time trying to demand a toll from me for crossing their imaginary ownership of various cyber bridges!

rh19541954
rh19541954

Society has always sadists, often they do rise to positions of authority, leadership, but In the end the old biblical saying what does one gain to gain the whole world but lose ones immortal soul really get you? Humanity as always had these sick souls amongst us, who find pleasure in human misery, in past era's they brought their pic nic's to the public executions down through the ages, enjoying the show, satisfying their sadism, in ancient times they sat at the arena in Rome enjoying their favorite part of their nature, we are cursed with them until the end of time, but the good thing they will spend eternity in one place and those of us without this sickness of the soul will spend it separated from them in much different circumstances than they will have!

Regi Mendoza
Regi Mendoza

Send them to a Veterans Hospital and then the tough guys will complain even more...

rh19541954
rh19541954

The right wing since 2000 have lead us into financial ruin, made us a debtor nation to one of our not so friendly enemies China, they now are our bankers, middle east is crumbling into disaster as it was fore told, all the right wing can do is say their invasion succeeded and now is crumbling due to we left! Ignoring their president Bush Jr signed the very withdrawl we have to comply with!

Matt Heistan
Matt Heistan

Wake up people, prisoners being denied healthcare costs the taxpayer more money....for example, a type 1 diabetic. He gets less insulin than he needs from the inept staff at the health center...he goes into DKA & is admitted to ICU, could have been avoided, costs thousands in hospital fees, guards, transport, blah blah.

Francisco Cortez
Francisco Cortez

No surprise here! As Republicans line their pockets for jailing people for misdemeanors, they treat those inmates like animals.

Matt Barton
Matt Barton

go figure. they don't do much good on the outside either

Dan Silva
Dan Silva

Does basic needs include a doctor on site that can identify a badly infected ear??? I was in a GEO facility in 2012 and lied on my bed in excruciating pain, for several days, before I even saw a doctor. I am now completely deaf in one ear. I'm still alive and thankful for that, but had they given me a basic check up, perhaps my hearing could have been saved. Maybe I'm lucky to have came out of that place with a 100% loss of hearing in one ear, compared to other inmates,but this will effect me the rest of my life.

Mitch McCauley
Mitch McCauley

Alex Delarge, your statement makes zero sense. Inmates don't want "better health care than free people" they want basic needs to be taken care of. The UN charter ratified at the end of 1949 clearly states that "reaffirmed faith in fundamental human rights, and dignity and worth of the human person" What you are saying, is that they don't deserve that because they made multiple mistakes, that they should not be treated as human beings? You should be ashamed of yourself, good news for some with your moral views, corizon is hiring! Although, based on your views and inability (or clear lack of motivation) to research something before spewing small minded views, your educational prowess would be insufficient for even the bottom rung of corizon. Be a driving force for change in the world or save your opinions for other parts of the net, not criticize the people who are trying to help. Shame on you.

Mitch McCauley
Mitch McCauley

No they sure don't, my father shriveled up into nothing in a matter of months because they blatantly ignored his medical issues. Nothing will ever change, because we throw taxpayers money in the toilet to pay a corrupt system that has a moral and professional obligation to at the very least keep them healthy, but they choose to ignore it under the guise that prisoners are not human. It's going on RIGHT NOW with my friends husband. He got bit by a police dog while they were serving a warrant, and now it's getting infected because apparently they don't take insurance, and any debt owed for his surgery (because he requires surgery now that they left it untreated) will be taken out of his books. Another family left without a father, and no one will care, or help, it's policy. If you train the DO's to treat the inmates like dogs, then they should at least pay attention to them like you would a dog and keep it healthy.

Lori Reilly
Lori Reilly

Marsha powell suffered from metal issues medical failed to give her proper care, she died cuz she was refused water while locked in a cage no shade for over 8 hrs begging for water in dead of summer other damages were disciplined for attempting to give her water Gina Panttera died from leukemia cuz she was turned away after begging for months medical to just see her and they turned her away just cuz they are in prison our locked up didn't mean they deserve to die for being refused proper medical care !!

Alex Delarge
Alex Delarge

So ACLU lawyers make a bunch of money and nothing changes. Felons want better healthcare then free people, what a messed up country we live in!

Cozz
Cozz topcommenter

What it should read is: Those responsible for Arizona Prison Health Care Conditions Likely Headed to Prison.

Johann Casper
Johann Casper

Imagine paying into healthcare systems for more than 60 years and not being able to afford proper healthcare. From an old man's point of view, prison is starting to look good.

Nathan Schneider
Nathan Schneider

Why doesn't the ACLU sue the prisons that are run by private companies?

rh19541954
rh19541954

If one does some research states which try to defeat these law suits end up paying much more than had they simply fixed the problems, but Arizona is run by fiscal idiots who pretend to be fiscal geniuses! Time will tell will this state pay the hundreds of millions in tax payer dollars to fix what could have been fixed cheaper since the lawyers on both sides will be getting paid huge fee's let alone the judgments against the state and the subsequent appeals! I can think of three states which in past had to pay huge amounts to fix very similar issues, North Carolina, Alabama, LA., no surprise they were southern states run by folks with less than fiscal geniuses!

annarkey14
annarkey14

Arizonans.........forced to become human one lawsuit at a time. Shameful, isn't it?

ronaldedwin
ronaldedwin

@RobertGraham29 Mr. Graham, I felt the exact same thoughts prior to my incarceration. After meeting literally thousands of folks in Prison I can honestly say that there are miscarriages of justice....though I am sure most people that are incarcerated are guilty and deserve the punishment there are those that are just sentenced to Prison to keep the Corporations that run the private Prisons in Arizona and the bureaucracy that benefit off the High Salaries and Pensions that we the Taxpayers have to pay form our taxes. I would be delighted to elaborate on this subject if you so feel inclined....it's about time that We The People reform the Department of Corrections and fall in line with the other 49 States in the Union that have changed the sentencing guidelines...just like Texas who is the harshest on crime....we should follow their lead...if we put 25% of the money that is blown on Private Prisons and put it into Schools there wouldn't be a shortfall in the Education Department...out of 47 administrative positions in AZ Dept. of Corrections private prison in Kingman, AZ 31 are related to each other either through marriage or blood.....can you say NEPOTISM....I would be happy to elaborate on much much more if you want to actually do something about this abomination and corruptive on-going disaster.

ronald_edwin@aim.com

john043012
john043012 topcommenter

@rh19541954 You do know who is occupying the white house and who the majority is in the senate right. It is predicted that when Obama leaves the white house the national debt will be doubled since he took office that's 20 trillion. We all realize blaming Bush is Obama's mantra but one has to be one hell of dumb ass to believe what you just wrote, Obama is the boss the commander in chief and  with his administration being infested with left wing ideologues are to blame not Bush even Hilary Clinton is calling Obama a failure

john043012
john043012 topcommenter

really just republicans

john043012
john043012 topcommenter

not to mention the crime you committed

rh19541954
rh19541954

I would not want your karma for all the tea in china!:-)

annarkey14
annarkey14

Not better, just adequate and (here's a word Arizona doesn't seem to understand)



HUMANE!

annarkey14
annarkey14

@rh19541954 ,

Right on rh. Too bad the closest thing to a jobs program the cretins can come up with is guaranteeing full employment at the ACL.

Speaking of jobs, I heard on channel 3 this morning that Az. is ranked as the third HARDEST state in which to find full time employment.

rh19541954
rh19541954

@john043012 


2000-2008 is Deja Vu of 1928....! All the economic issues, housing bubble, stock market crash of Bush Jr era lays at his door step and the party which elected him via fraud, hanging chads! Your school yard childish antics of name calling amuses me, reminds me of the old corny child hood rebuttal but with a added touch of mine, sticks and stones might break my bones, bullets might even kill me, but words will never ever hurt me! You believe what every makes you happy, me I live in reality, unlike you I can post what ever I wish and all the cyber trolls lurking under every cyber bridge on the internet cannot change history, but feel free to try!:-)

rh19541954
rh19541954

@annarkey14 


I am retired twice, once military, once civilian, I have great sympathy for the young today, have two sons who will have a long time before they retire, and agree we have a broken political system where one party thrives on hate, greed, avarice, racism and playing division amongst the citizens, while doing nothing to fix our unemployment, infrastructure break down, sadly this one party will need a Herbert Hoover moment to wake up the American Public!

john043012
john043012 topcommenter

@rh19541954 Yeah you can type what ever foolishness you want although you must concede the fact your opinions do clarify to a lot of people what it is like living as a low common denominator.

eric.nelson745
eric.nelson745 topcommenter

@rh19541954 @annarkey14 Herbert Hoover openly scoffed at the mere suggestion that government action could do anything to pull the country out of the Great Depression. To him, prosperity was always "just around the corner." It is also true that FDR's New Deal didn't really help that much. That's because he didn't do enough. And to put one persistent belief out of everyone's mind, FDR was by no means a socialist. But he did believe that projects to put millions of men back to work would "raise all boats." No, the CCC and other projects were not enough. It was WWII that brought the country back to nearly 100% employment.

rh19541954
rh19541954

@john043012 


Wow you made me laugh so hard, since you truly think I care what you and your ilk think of me!:-)

rh19541954
rh19541954

@eric.nelson745 @rh19541954 @annarkey14 


Herbert Hoover famously said when asked what was he going to do about the US economic crisis "nothing let the free market fix it"! FDR won 4 consecutive elections, no matter how the right wing wishes to spin this era he was president when our nation was recovered! One can debate for all eternity why it recovered but ironically twice now in our history two Republicans saw us into financial down fall Hoover/Bush Jr and ironically a democrat is in office as we pull out of it again!

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