Today the first step in ameliorating the horrific health care and poor conditions in Arizona prisons was taken when the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) settled with the ACLU of Arizona in a historic legal case, Parsons v. Ryan. This settlement is a win for Arizona prisoners and the improvement of health care in the future and is undeniably cause for celebration.
The lack of adequate medical and mental health care for Arizona prisoners has been an ongoing and worsening crisis for years. Since the handing off of health care to private for-profit companies (first Wexford and currently Corizon), conditions and care have only become graver. As evidenced in Death Yards (2013), the death rate has risen dramatically, neglect has become commonplace, and the plight of the mentally ill throughout ADC facilities, but especially in maximum-security facilities has intensified.
According to the ACLU of Arizona, this settlement will provide for greater out-of-cell time for seriously mentally ill prisoners in conditions of solitary confinement, important limits on use of chemical agents, and “requires the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) to meet more than 100 health care performance measures”. On top of these requirements, the settlement provides for monitoring of ADC and the administration of its health care to insure that the requirements are being met.
Here’s one quote from the ACLU press release from today:
“The Arizona Department of Corrections has agreed to changes that will save lives,” said Don Specter, Director of the Prison Law Office. “This settlement will bring more humane treatment for prisoners with serious health care needs, and the potential for their conditions to improve rather than worsen.”