Big-time reforms are in store for Arizona prisons after a federal judge approved a settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of 34,000 prisoners in the state.
The lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Prison Law Office over the conditions at Arizona's prisons was set to go to trial last year, but this settlement prevented the trial, as the state has agreed to a variety of health care and prison-condition reforms.
At the time the settlement was reached in October, David Fathi, the director of the ACLU's National Prison Project, told New Times, "It's one of the largest, if not the largest settlement in a prison-conditions case in recent years."
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit alleged that the prison health care system in Arizona was so inadequate it was causing preventable deaths.
In one case mentioned in the lawsuit, a prisoner requested HIV testing twice while in ADC custody, which he didn't receive, but he later died from an AIDS-related illness. In another case, a prisoner died of untreated Hodgkin's lymphoma. A doctor's review of the medical records points to delay after delay in his care, and calls the prisoner's death "shocking."
The ADC doesn't admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement, but the department does have to meet dozens of health care performance measures.
Don Specter, the director of the Prison Law Office, has said that these changes "will save lives."
Among the changes are monitoring of patients with any number of chronic illnesses, upgraded care for pregnant inmates, and upgraded dental care.
In addition to the health care reforms, there are also some changes in prison conditions. There's a provision to limit the solitary confinement of prisoners with serious mental illnesses, and restricts officers' use of pepper spray on these inmates. The plaintiffs in the case also get 20 "tour days" at state prisons to take a look at the facilities.
Take a look at the specific terms in the settlement agreement below:
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