Last month, a federal judge invalidated a six-year-old settlement which obliged Arizona to provide better health care for inmates. In her ruling, the judge said the state was not making a good-faith effort to live up to its own terms.
Arizona has appealed a harshly critical ruling that effectively invalidated a six-year-old legal settlement requiring the state to improve health care for thousands of prisoners.
According to AZCentral.com, corrections officials submitted court documents on Monday indicating that they wish to appeal Judge Roslyn Silver’s July 16th decision.
In her decision, Silver concluded that state officials have shown little interest in complying with the terms of the settlement. Consequently, Silver invalidated the agreement and has scheduled the case for trial.
Corene Kendrick, one of several lawyers representing the prisoners, told AZCentral.com that the state’s appeal is a “desperate move.”
“It shows the department and the state are very worried about going to trial, because they are going to have to defend an indefensible system,” Kendrick said. “So instead of preparing for trial or reforming the system, they are yet again spending taxpayer money on litigation.”
AZCentral.com reports that, over the past several years, inmates and advocates have repeatedly alleged that the state corrections department has all but refused to fulfill its promises to prisoners.
In her ruling, Silver noted that the $2.5 million contempt-of-court fines levied against the state have yet to motivate any tangible change.
“Defendants have in the past six years proffered erroneous and unreliable excuses for non-performance, asserted baseless legal arguments, and in essence resisted complying with the obligations they contractually knowingly and voluntarily assumed,” Silver wrote in her July 16 decision. “The present situation must end.”
The lawsuit, says The Arizona Republic, was first filed in 2012 by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Arizona Center for Disability Law, the Prison Law Office, and several private firms.
In their complaint, attorneys said that Arizona state inmates receive inadequate medical, dental, and mental health care. Furthermore, prisoners do not have easy access to physical exercise facilities or balanced, nutritious foods.
The inmates’ lawyers also claimed that the Arizona Department of Corrections routinely forced detainees into “conditions of extreme social isolation and environmental deprivation.”
In one instance, cited in the initial lawsuit, medical staff at one prison were unable to diagnose an inmate’s metastasized cancer. The inmate’s liver swelled to such an extent that he appeared to be in late-stage pregnancy.
Another prisoner named as a plaintiff had a history of prostate cancer. When he reported symptoms that his cancer had returned, he was forced to wait two years before getting a biopsy.
Arizona, like many other states, relies on for-profit contractors to staff many of its prisons’ medical facilities. Critics of the for-profit prison industry have repeatedly claimed that companies routinely deny inmates regular, quality care, and routinely understaff clinics to bolster their profits.