Lawyers want state to cover costs of monitoring inmate care

December 31, 2019 GMT

PHOENIX (AP) — Attorneys challenging the quality of health care in Arizona’s prisons want to force the state to cover all costs in monitoring whether the state is fulfilling its promises in a legal settlement to improve inmate care.

The lawyers who represent inmates are asking a judge to remove the settlement’s $250,000 cap on the state’s annual monitoring costs, saying they have had to pick up $1.9 million in unreimbursed monitoring costs and expenses since 2015 due to stubborn noncompliance by the state.

“If faced with the actual cost of monitoring their continued refusal to comply with the stipulation (the settlement), defendants may actually comply with it,” the attorneys said in a Dec. 24 court filing.

The state has been dogged for several years by complaints that it has been dragging its feet for years in complying with the settlement.

The noncompliance led to a 2018 civil contempt-of-court finding against then-Corrections Director Charles Ryan and a $1.4 million fine against the state.

A second round of contempt fines has been threatened by another judge, who had raised the possibility of throwing out the settlement. Attorneys for the state and prisoners are trying to craft a new settlement.

The Department of Corrections declined to comment Monday on the request to lift the cap on monitoring costs.

Attorneys for the inmates say the state’s noncompliance has required them to do more intensive monitoring efforts, such as writing letters to the state that document failures to provide care to inmates. They say they have done more than 30 tours in Arizona prisons since mid-2015.

In asking for the settlement to be modified, attorneys for the inmates say they could not have anticipated the state’s bad faith in complying with the agreement.

The 2014 settlement arose out of a lawsuit that alleged that the state’s prisons didn’t meet the basic requirements for providing adequate medical and mental health care.

It said some prisoners complained that their cancer went undetected or that they were told to pray to be cured after begging for treatment.

The state denied allegations that it was providing inadequate care, and the lawsuit was settled without the state acknowledging any wrongdoing.