Thursday, February 19, 2015

Inmates Win: State Prisons Are Gonna Have to Provide Good Health Care and Control Use of Solitary Confinement Now

Posted By on Thu, Feb 19, 2015 at 10:00 AM

  • Courtesy of Shutterstock

Yesterday afternoon a federal court approved a settlement in a suit against state-run prisons' health care and excessive and improper use of solitary confinement (which oftentimes resulted in deaths that could have been prevented) on behalf of more than 33,000 inmates. The hearing was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and the decision was out by 6 p.m.

“Today’s settlement will save lives, bringing drastic improvements to a prison system where the sick grew sicker and even died due to insufficient medical attention. At last, the Arizona Department of Corrections will provide its prisoners with adequate medical, mental health, and dental care. This is what the Constitution and our consciences demand," said David Fathi, the director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project.

The terms of the settlement were drafted last October by the ACLU, ACLU of Arizona and the Prison Law Office and the corrections department.

Now that it's been OKed, the state corrections department is required to meet more than 100 health care performance measures, including monitoring prisoners with diabetes, hypertension and other chronic conditions, caring for pregnant prisoners, as well as providing dental care, according to the ACLU of Arizona.

Prisoners with serious mental illness have to get a minimum of 19 hours per week outside their cell, rather than the previous six hours a week, and mental health treatment and other programs are a requirement. 

There will be ongoing monitoring and oversight by the prisoners' lawyer to make sure the state is following through with the settlement.

The lawsuit was filed back in 2012, but it wasn't until last summer that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the inmates could proceed with it. 

Read the settlement here.

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