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Lawsuits & Litigation

Arizona Department of Corrections Health-care Lawsuit Enters Trial Phase

— November 2, 2021

The state has been held in contempt of court twice, but still blames the state of its prisons’ health-care on private contractors.

On Monday, the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry delivered its opening arguments in a lawsuit centered on the state’s provision of health-care for inmates.

According to 12News, the lawsuit has been making its way through Arizona courts for nearly a decade.

The original class action, says 12News, was filed by more than a dozen inmates who claimed they suffered an assortment of medical issues. These issues, states the complaint, were not promptly or properly addressed by prison physicians.

The lawsuit identifies the plight of one late inmate, identified by The Marshall Project as Walter Jordan, who said that Arizona’s private health contractor delayed his cancer treatment so long that he was “lucky to be alive for 30 days.”

Jordan, adds the Project, had a common form of skin cancer that is rarely life-threatening and can be easily treated in its earliest stages.

However, the state’s medical contractors failed to treat his cancer, leading him to suffer memory loss, and intense pain resultant from improper care.

Barbed wire/prson. Image via Pixabay/user:jodylehigh. Public domain.

Jordan, says The Marshall Project, eight days after writing his complaints.

Corene Kendrick, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who has been on the case since 2012, said that Arizona inmates do not receive timely treatment.

“People with very serious medical conditions, heart conditions, cancer and the like not sent to see specialists in a timely manner,” Kendrick said. “People with serious mental illness not getting proper medication, treatment or therapy and repeatedly engaging in acts of self-harm or committing suicide.”

As has reported before, Arizona has yet to reach common ground with its inmates.

While the A.C.L.U. reached a settlement in 2014, Arizona failed to fulfill its part of the agreement. Since 2014, the state has been held in contempt of court twice.

According to 12News, Arizona has tried to blame its inability to live up to its promises on its contracted health-care providers. But Kendrick says the state is simply making excuses.

“That’s not an acceptable excuse,” Kendrick said. “Because at the end of the day, legally the state of Arizona and the DOC are legally responsible to provide basic services to the people that the state has chosen to lock up and to incarcerate.”

The Marshall Project notes that, since the lawsuit’s inception, the Arizona Department of Corrections has been forced to oust its lawyers, directors—even the case’s original judge was dismissed.

The original plaintiff in the case, adds the Project, died in 2019 after being shot in a police stand-off outside his girlfriend’s apartment.

In an interview conducted before Parsons’ released, he said he was proud to be part of the case—and that, despite prisoners’ forfeiture of freedom, he believed inmates should not have to die for want of a better system.

“Even though people forgo their freedoms when they come to prison,” Parsons said, “they shouldn’t have to forgo their lives.”


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