Arizona wants to renegotiate prison health care settlement

November 4, 2019 GMT

PHOENIX (AP) — The state of Arizona hopes to negotiate a new legal settlement over the quality of health care in state prisons after facing persistent complaints that it was dragging its feet in complying with an earlier agreement over inmate care.

Lawyers for the state say in a filing Monday that they would like to negotiate a new settlement, rather than reaffirm their promise to comply with the 2014 agreement or bring the case to trial.

Three weeks ago, U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver made it clear she won’t tolerate the state’s failure to follow through on its promises.

Her ultimatum to the parties about how they want to proceed came about a week after an expert issued a report saying understaffing, inadequate funding and privatization of health care services are significant barriers in improving health care for the 34,000 inmates in Arizona’s 10 state-run prisons.

Attorneys for the prisoners say their preference is to go to trial, explaining they believe it’s clear the state has no intention of complying with all provisions of the current agreement.

They also said they are willing to renegotiate the agreement under certain conditions, such as having an official who monitors compliance with a new settlement.

Lawyers for the state say the expert’s report appears to be a solid basis to negotiate the new agreement, explaining the expert believes certain performance measures required under the settlement can be eliminated.

In the summer of 2018, then-Corrections Director Charles Ryan was found to be in civil contempt of court, and the state was fined $1.4 million for noncompliance with elements of the settlement.

Earlier this year, Silver threatened a second contempt fine, which could be as high as $1.2 million, for its continued noncompliance.