Arizona could face fines over failures in prison health care

From the Associated Press:

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona could face up to $650,000 in fines for failing to improve health care for prison inmates.

Lawyers for the state filed court papers Monday listing more than 650 instances during December in which it was unable to comply with terms of a lawsuit settled more than three years ago.

A judge warned the state last October it could be fined $1,000 for each instance in which it failed to make improvements promised when it settled the class-action lawsuit over shoddy inmate care.

The lawsuit alleged Arizona’s 10 state-run prisons didn’t meet basic requirements for adequate medical and mental health care. It said some prisoners complained their cancer went undetected; some were told to pray to be cured after begging for treatment.

U.S. Magistrate David Duncan will hold a hearing Feb. 28 to decide whether the state should face fines for noncompliance. In the coming weeks, the state will have to disclose how many times it failed to comply during January.

Andrew Wilder, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections, declined to comment on the state’s filing.

Attorneys representing Arizona’s 33,000 inmates in the lawsuit have complained prison officials have been slow to make changes promised when the case was settled.

Duncan wants assurances that newly prescribed medications are provided to inmates within two days and that medical providers give inmates the results of diagnostic studies, such as pathology reports, within five days of receiving such records.

The magistrate has said he will impose civil contempt sanctions against Corrections Director Charles Ryan and another official who oversees inmate care if he finds they haven’t taken reasonable steps to make the improvements.

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