State Capitol News
1:46 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

State Department of Corrections Faces Class-Action Lawsuit

A federal appeals court gave the go-ahead today for a class-action lawsuit against the state Department of Corrections. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer reports.

Credit npr.org


The lawsuit filed by 13 inmates claims the policies at the agency create dangerous delays in needed physical and mental healthcare — and sometimes outright denial. There also are claims that inmates put into isolation go months or years without any meaningful interaction with others. The Department of Corrections has denied the charges.

But, more to the point, it wanted the upcoming trial to focus solely on the complaints of the 13 named plaintiffs — and be required, if ordered, to deal only with those problems. Attorney Dan Barr, part of the legal team representing the inmates, said the appellate court said that’s not the appropriate way to handle the case.

“It’s a case not about any one particular prisoner or group of prisoners but the entire prison health care system which puts all inmates in the state of Arizona in danger of receiving unconstitutionally low levels of healthcare,” he said.

And Barr said that means if the trial judge finds constitutional violations he can order the Department of Corrections to change its policies for all current and future inmates. The agency had no immediate comment about the ruling.