A federal judge is ordering the Arizona Department of Corrections to pay more than 1.4 million dollars in fines for failing to adequately provide healthcare to prison inmates. Governor Doug Ducey says ten people have been hired to evaluate how health care is being handled at the prison system.
In 2014, the department agreed to comply with more than 100 different performance measures, many related to health care as part of a settlement in the case of Parsons v. Ryan. It mandated that prison officials had to provide adequate health care to inmates in all the Arizona state prisons.
The ADC has failed to comply, according to Corene Kendrick, attorney at Prison Law Office.
"We really hope that what this order means is that the Department of Corrections is going to actually make efforts to protect the lives of the people who are in their custody," says Kendrick.
Kendrick says the department has failed to make sure inmates are receiving their medications in time and failed to make sure inmates are able to see outside specialists when they have serious conditions like cancer.
Governor Doug Ducey defended ADC director Charles Ryan in an interview with Fox 10 on Saturday, saying, "Not only is he doing good work as the director of corrections, but he's doing good work in terms of recidivism and making sure people can find an opportunity when they leave the prison. Ducey says ten people have been hired to evaluated how health care is being handled in the prison system."
Ducey also took a swipe at the judicial branch of state government, saying "We're going to run our administration. We're not going to let some unelected judge do that... we're confident that we'll prevail on appeal."
The Governor's office also released a statement saying the ruling was unjustified and that their office would challenge any judge who tries to set agency policy.
The ADC also released a statement that disagreed with the ruling. The statement said the agency is confident the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will reverse it, because it is contrary to both the evidence and the law governing the stipulation between the parties.
The Department of Corrections has said it will appeal the contempt decision. In the meantime, they will have to comply with Judge David Duncan's orders.