The State of Arizona agreed to settle a pending class-action lawsuit filed against the Arizona Department of Corrections (“ADC”), pursuant to a stipulation of settlement filed on October 14, 2014 in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona, involving prisoners in the custody of the ADC.
The class of plaintiffs is all prisoners who are now, or will in the future be, subjected to the medical, mental health, and dental care policies and practices of the ADC. There is a subclass of all prisoners who are now, or will in the future be, subjected by the ADC to isolation, defined as confinement in a cell for 22 hours or more each day or confinement in the specified housing units.
Pursuant to the stipulation, which must be approved by the judge, the ADC has agreed to request that the Arizona Legislature approve a budget to allow ADC and its contracted health services vendor to modify the health services contract to increase staffing of medical and mental health positions. The ADC also agreed to comply with the health care performance measures set forth in the Stipulation.
The ADC has agreed to offer all prisoners an annual influenza vaccination; offer all prisoners with chronic diseases the required immunizations as established by the Centers for Disease Control; offer all prisoners ages 50 to 75 an annual colorectal cancer screening; offer all female prisoners age 50 and older a baseline mammogram screening at age 50, then every 24 months thereafter unless more frequent screening is clinically indicated; provide for a dentist to train dental assistants at ADC facilities about how to triage HNRs into routine or urgent care lines as appropriate and to train dentists to evaluate the accuracy and skill of dental assistants under their supervision; provide language interpretation for healthcare encounters by a qualified health care practitioner who is proficient in the prisoner’s language, or by a language line interpretation service; provide all reasonably available steps to prevent heat injury or illness for prisoners taking psychotropic medication who suffer a heat intolerance reaction (if all other steps have failed to abate the heat intolerance reaction, the prisoner will be transferred to a housing area where the cell temperature does not exceed 85 degrees); provide maximum custody prisoners housed at certain ADC complexes with no less than 6 hours per week of out-of-cell exercise (specified additional minimum out-of-cell exercise time is dependent on the prisoner’s classification); provide eligible maximum custody prisoners an additional ten hours of unstructured of out of cell time per week, an additional one hour of out-of-cell mental health programming per week, one hour of additional out of cell pyschoeducational programming per week, and one hour of additional out of cell programming per week; follow certain specified restrictions on the use of pepper spray and other chemical agents on maximum custody prisoners under specified conditions and at specified ADC complexes; and, provide all maximum custody prisoners with meals equivalent in caloric and nutritional content to the meals received by other ADC prisoners, et cetera.
The federal lawsuit was filed in 2012, challenging years of inattention to the health needs of Arizona state prisoners and the improper and excessive use of solitary confinement that resulted in serious harm and unnecessary deaths. The federal judge certified the case as a class action in March 2013, which certification was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in June 2014.
If you or a loved one were injured as a result of the lack of timely and/or proper medical or health care while incarcerated in a federal, state, or local prison, jail, or other correctional facility in the United States, you should promptly speak with a local prisoner rights/prison medical malpractice attorney in your state who may investigate your claim for you and represent you in a prison medical malpractice lawsuit, if appropriate.
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