AZ Corrections Chief Held in Contempt over Health Care

A federal judge found Arizona Corrections Director Charles Ryan in contempt of court for failing to meet conditions of a 2014 settlement over inmate health care. The American Civil Liberties Union complains that inmates “suffer needlessly for weeks and months, and some die preventable deaths.”

A federal judge found the Arizona Department of Corrections, its director, Charles Ryan, and its medical director, Richard Pratt, in civil contempt of court for repeatedly failing to meet the conditions of a 2014 court settlement over health care in state prisons, the Arizona Republic reports. Magistrate Judge David Duncan imposed sanctions of $1,455,000 for failed standards from December through February. He asked the parties to submit proposals on how that money might best be used for prison health concerns. State defendants are “missing the mark after
four years of trying to get it right,” Duncan wrote. “Their repeated failed attempts, and too-late efforts, to take their obligation seriously demonstrate a half-hearted commitment that must be braced.” The suit was filed in 2012 by the Arizona Center for Disability Law on behalf of 13 inmates, alleging the department provided inadequate care. It was joined by the American Civil Liberties Union and the California-based Prison Law Office.

Parties reached a settlement in 2014. Duncan became increasingly aggravated at the department’s failure to meet the stipulated benchmarks. Whistle-blowers testified as to the bad standards of care. Corizon Health, the health-care management company that provided health care for the system, would be responsible for paying any sanctions. The ACLU’s David Fathi said that the corrections department had promised “to provide basic health care to the 34,000 men, women, and children in its custody. It never delivered. The Department continues to provide such inadequate medical care that people suffer needlessly for weeks and months, and some die preventable deaths. This is inhumane, unconstitutional, and short-sighted.” The state will appeal the ruling.