PHOENIX — In a scathing rebuke of the Arizona Department of Corrections, a federal judge has ordered that the state agency will face trial for repeatedly violating a settlement agreement in a long-standing lawsuit over prison healthcare.
Judge Roslyn Silver found that ADC should be prepared to go to trial no later than November 1, 2021, according to her recent ruling which vacated the settlement.
“(The Department of Corrections has) always deflected their failures and employed scorched-earth tactics to oppose every attempt to resolve outstanding noncompliance,” Silver wrote.
The judge also said the state has repeatedly acted with “a lack of good faith and fair dealing.”
The ACLU National Prison Project filed a lawsuit in 2012 against prison officials alleging unconstitutional levels of healthcare and conditions inside maximum security units.
The two sides settled the case in 2015 with the state promising to fix the issues.
However, the court has repeatedly found that the state officials have done everything possible to do as little as possible.
“The judge is now saying to Governor Ducey, the Department of Corrections, and to the legislature that enough is enough and you will be held accountable,” said Corene Kendrick, an attorney with the ACLU.
State prison officials declined to comment, saying it’s department policy to not discuss pending litigation.
In her ruling, Silver wrote that sanctions and monetary fines have done nothing to bring the state into compliance with their own settlement agreement.
So she said that a trial is necessary to determine the scope of the problems and determine what can be done to force the state to provide a basic level of healthcare for prisoners.
Kendrick said the ACLU will argue that the court should require the state to hire more healthcare and custody staff.
ABC15’s ongoing reporting on the state prison system has shown that staffing vacancies are responsible for many problems.
Earlier this month, the station exposed leaked videos showing inmates brutally attack a lone officer for several minutes before any backup arrives.
Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at Dave@ABC15.com.