It’s not every day that you read a statement by a federal judge describing government actions of any kind as “absurd.” But that is word used by United States Magistrate David K. Duncan after his review of a proposed plan by the Department of Corrections to improve health care in Arizona’s prisons.
The genesis of the statement was a class action lawsuit filed several years ago by the ACLU. The lawsuit claimed that there were numerous systematic failures in the Arizona prison system, and said that the ADC was simply ignoring them, including health care for prisoners.
The lawsuit was successful, at least in a legal sense. It resulted in a settlement, which was approved by a federal court in February of last year. The terms of the settlement included what would basically be an overhaul of the rules regarding health care for prisoners. Some of the notable measures are:
- Monitoring prisoners with certain chronic medical conditions (hypertension, diabetes, etc.).
- Health care for pregnant prisoners.
- Provisions for dental Care.
- Revising the rules for treatment of prisoners with mental illnesses.
The settlement included involved over 100 health care measures that had to be addressed by the ADC.
The “Solution” Proposed by the ADC
After reviewing the plan proposed by the ADC, Judge Duncan was not impressed. At a hearing late last month, he stated that his review led him to believe that the ADC didn’t even understand the problem with health care in the state’s prisons. For our part, we’re not sure if it’s not understanding the problem, or not caring one way or the other whether the problem is dealt with effectively.
Whatever the reason, here’s one example of the kind of solution offered by the ADC. Instead of complying with one performance standard regarding inmates with a particular mental health issue, the ADC reclassified the inmates to make it appear that they were in compliance.
Ultimately, with the exception of the measure described above, the judge approved the remediation plan. Time will tell whether the plan will have the effect aimed for in the settlement.
The Feldman Law Firm PLLC
1 E. Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85004