Following a class-action lawsuit Jensen v. Shinn, which began in 2012, a judge on The United States District Court for the District of Arizona is bringing Arizona’s prison healthcare practices under harsh scrutiny. Judge Roslyn O. Silver claims that the practices are not only “plainly grossly inadequate,” but unconstitutional. The judge wrote that prison officials failed to perform their obligations and, regarding an earlier settlement of this case, kept inadequate records and misinterpreted the settlement’s requirements “to their advantage”. 

arizona prison healthcare

This 64-page order delivered to the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation, and Reentry (ADCRR) follows a longstanding fight for better healthcare in prison, and is especially apt in light of news that came to light just weeks ago: inmates of the all-women’s Arizona State Prison Complex – Perryville are claiming they were forced into labor without cause or consent. Three women claim to have been given procedures to induce labor before their due dates across four pregnancies. 

Judge Silver, in her order, explained that prison officials are failing to provide minimally adequate medical and mental health care. She also calls into question the harshness and depravity of the conditions in solitary confinement units. Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs released a statement following the order. 

She states: “Arizona’s correctional facilities have been in desperate need of systemic improvements for far too long. Years of failed leadership have left this institution without adequate staffing, medical care, or accountability. 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.”

Judge Silver’s Order is Making Basic Standards of Care a Requirement in Prisons

Among the requirements in the remedial order are that:

  • Arizona state prisons must ensure all healthcare is clinically appropriate.
  • Contractor prison healthcare providers must document all aspects of medical care and provide adequate and appropriate follow ups.
  • A sufficient number of correctional officers must be present to assist and transport inmates so they can receive proper healthcare.
  • Emergency kits and AEDs are in working order and available across the facilities to provide emergency care, including conducting daily checks of the equipment. 
  • Prison officials are to identify and document all significant healthcare and custody errors following the death of an inmate. 
  • Increased staffing of mental health providers and new requirements regarding the availability and timeliness of appointments.
  • Increased staffing to provide for the welfare of inmates in solitary confinement. 

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