Federal Judge Threatens More Fines Against Arizona In Prison Health Care Case
A federal judge is threatening additional fines against the Arizona Department of Corrections over the continued failure to meet health care standards in state prisons.
In an order issued Monday, United States District Court Judge Roslyn Silver outlined what she called “unacceptable levels of noncompliance” as the state prisons continue to fail performance measures established in the Parsons versus Ryan prison health care settlement.
“Defendants’ continued excuses for noncompliance do not reflect the seriousness of their prolonged breach of the Stipulation or the ramifications of their failure to meet their obligations in the affected fundamental aspects of health care delivery,” Silver wrote.
Silver identified several categories of specific concern, including a failure to provide medicine and schedule follow-up care in a timely manner. The judge said performance at the Eyman prison in Florence was “woefully deficient and reflects a wholesale breakdown in the medical unit’s operations.”
Corene Kendrick, an attorney for the inmates in Arizona state prisons, says her clients personally confirmed similar allegations after a recent tour of the Eyman prison.
“People we talked to said that repeatedly the nurses line would be canceled and that pill lines when people get their insulin and their medication were canceled because there were so few nurses,” Kendrick said.
Kendrick says monthly staffing reports her office receives show continued levels of low staffing for health care positions at Eyman.
“The March reports show that there are only 6.4 registered nurses working at Eyman and there’s supposed to be 20,” Kendrick said, in accordance with Corizon Health’s contract with the state.
“This has a huge impact on people’s access to care because the nurses are the gateway for them to see a provider, and also the nurse distribute medication,” Kendrick said. “So truly the nurses are the backbone of delivery of care.”
Silver appointed Dr. Marc Stern to perform an independent review of Arizona’s prison health care system, but in her most recent order, the judge raised the possibility of more fines against the state.
“While the Court expert’s analysis and opinion are pending, the potential of further contempt sanctions is also appropriate because of Defendants’ failure to honor its obligations under the Stipulation and to the prisoners in their charge,” Silver said.
Judge Silver ordered the state to comply with a list of performance measures at specific state prisons by July 1 or face potential fines of more than $1 million.