A federal judge has finally had enough with the medical neglect in Arizona prisons:
Arizona prison officials were deliberately indifferent to “grossly inadequate” medical and mental health care, violating inmates’ Eighth Amendment rights, a federal judge ruled Thursday in a long-running civil rights lawsuit.
Judge Roslyn Silver of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona agreed with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and several other law firms that the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation, and Reentry (ADCRR) has been flouting the terms of a previous settlement over gruesome medical neglect in its prison and found that unconscionable delays and incompetence put incarcerated people at risk of grievous harm and even death.
“No legitimate humane system would operate in this manner,” Silver concluded.
In an expert witness report filed during the trial in November, Tod Wilcox, medical director of the Salt Lake County Jail System, described several cases of preventable deaths that he says were offensive to him as a medical professional and showed that Arizona prisons put incarcerated people at unacceptable risks of harm.
The cases Wilcox reviewed included a paraplegic man that was left to physically deteriorate until his penis had to be amputated; a man with undiagnosed, untreated lung cancer lost 90 pounds and died “slowly and agonizingly” without pain medication; and a woman whose multiple sclerosis was ignored and misdiagnosed until she was left, at age 36, nearly completely paralyzed.
“A system that allows this level of sustained incompetence and cruelty, and fails to take decisive action to determine the causes of these myriad and horrific breakdowns and to ensure that the people involved in this case are thoroughly retrained and/or separated from service,” Wilcox wrote, “is morally bankrupt.”
Silver found Wilcox’s testimony persuasive, concluding that a toxic combination of short-staffed and under-qualified nurses puts incarcerated Arizonans at an unacceptable risk of harm and death.
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