Beginning with Parsons v. Shinn, the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry (ADCRR) was held in contempt for the second time in three years as a result of their failure to comply with their own stipulations as outlined in a settlement reached during October of 2014 regarding the health care and conditions within the State’s prison system. Since entry into the stipulated agreement, the ADCRR has been required by the United States District Court of Arizona to provide proper healthcare treatment to the incarcerated in their care. In this, the ADCRR continues to fall short.
In an example reported by KJZZ Phoenix’s Jimmy Jenkins last year, three incarcerated individuals in Arizona prisons died by suicide within a four-week span in 2020. When a medical expert reviewed these deaths, it was determined that the ADCRR failing to provide adequate mental health care directly contributed to their deaths.
From a recent update, also from KJZZ’s Jenkins, ACLU National Prison Project Director David Fathi and co-counsel asked United States District Judge Roslyn Silver, who oversees the settlement agreement, to define time requirements for beneficial mental health encounters between the health professional and the incarcerated person after learning that many of these encounters are lasting as little as one or two minutes. Judge Silver ordered that there should be a minimum duration of 10 minutes for patients on suicide watch, and all other encounters must be a minimum of 30 minutes in duration.
After these stipulations were outlined for the ADCRR to comply with the settlement conditions, six of the state prison’s compliance levels fell. For instance, Yuma, with nearly 100% compliance before the new threshold, fell to a disturbing 5% compliance. Tucson fell from 100% compliance to only 6%. Perryville, Arizona’s women’s prison facility, went from “passing” for nine months to 0% compliance. See Jenkins’ full report here. The Department was fined $1.4 M and $1.1 M in June of 2018 and February 2021, respectively, with fines continuing until they comply. They are also facing more than $24 M in additional contempt fines and possible receivership as their compliance rates continue to drop. More than ever, Arizona needs independent oversight of the ADCRR.