PHOENIX - Prison healthcare is once again front and center in federal court in downtown Phoenix Tuesday during a mediation hearing before U.S. Magistrate John Buttrick.
Attorneys from the ACLU National Prison Project, Arizona Center for Disability Law, ACLU of Arizona, Prison Law Office, Perkins Coie and Jones Day who settled a class-action lawsuit filed against the Arizona Department of Corrections in 2012, Parsons v. Ryan, say the ADC is not coming close to meeting their obligations to improve healthcare under the Parsons settlement.
12 News has been inundated with emails and phone calls from families of prisoners alleging their loved ones are not getting the treatment they need. We aired a series of reports beginning in 2011 regarding mental health care and medical care in the Arizona prison system.
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A 2014, 12 News investigative series revealed inadequate healthcare by the state's contracted healthcare provider, Corizon, resulting in deaths.
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Documentation 12 News obtained details specific cases where inmates appear to be in real medical trouble but their pleas for help may be going unanswered.
Doctor Todd Wilcox identified a number of prisoners who required urgent action so as to avoid imminent harm.
He detailed an inmate at the prison in Tucson needing surgery for a severe and painful fistula between his intestines and bladder.
A 34-year-old inmate suffering 2 to 3 seizures per day had filed health needs requests to see a neurologist but has not seen one.
A 60-year-old inmate who noticed his foot was turning black had to have his leg amputated. Two days later his knee was removed as well and he has still not been fitted for a prosthetic device.
An inmate's gum line is fully exposed to the roots and bone on the lower jaw despite filing numerous requests to see a dentist.
A chronically ill inmate at the Eyman prison who's at risk for pneumonia or death blames Corizon for not providing him with a voice box or tracheotomy tube to plug an open tracheostomy hole. Dr. Pablo Stewart stated that this inmate is at a high risk of developing pneumonia if he aspirates his food, or of choking to death if food or other objects get stuck in his windpipe.
Other documentation reveals a 30-year-old inmate experienced extreme delays in detection and treatment of testicular cancer which has since spread to his internal organs and is now inoperable and untreatable. That inmate, according to Dr. Wilcox, has been given less than a year to live.
ADC spokesman Andrew Wilder issued the following email statement to 12 News:
"The Department of Corrections is strongly committed to providing high-quality healthcare to its inmate population. We firmly disagree with the plaintiffs’ allegations. Allegations are not evidence. Moreover, anecdotal complaints are not evidence of substantial non-compliance among a patient population in excess of 35,000. We are confident that the Court will agree when these issues are presented for judicial resolution."
David Fathi, director of the ACLU National Prison Project told 12 News that Tuesday's mediation was inconclusive but that the two sides agreed to keep talking.
Fathi, however, says none of the major issues were substantively addressed. But he added, "We remain extremely concerned that, more than a year after the settlement went into effect, ADC remains out of compliance with critically important provisions designed to protect the health, safety and lives of the 34,000 men and women we represent. While we continue to hope for a negotiated resolution, we will not hesitate to return to court if necessary to enforce our clients' right to minimally adequate health care."
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