What is the difference between misdemeanors and felonies in Arizona?

Attorneys for inmates suing the Arizona prison system over their health care allege in new court filings that certain prisoners have been harassed by Arizona Department of Corrections officials for testifying about deficiencies in their health care.

The documents were filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Phoenix as part of a class-action lawsuit against the DOC.

Prisoners claim in the filing that their belongings were taken, that they were threatened or that their cellmates were moved because they testified on July 14 about ongoing failures by the DOC to stay in compliance with court orders.

In 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and the Arizona Center for Disability Law filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of 14 inmates in DOC prisons who are mentally or physically disabled. The suit alleged that medical, dental and psychiatric care in the prisons was grossly inadequate.

The case was designated a class-action suit over the protests of the DOC. In 2014, without admitting wrongdoing or liability, the Corrections Department entered into a settlement that set parameters for medical care in Arizona prisons. The settlement also paid $4.9 million in attorneys’ fees and set aside up to $250,000 a year for monitoring.

U.S. District Court Judge David Duncan signed off on the settlement in February 2015.

But the attorneys representing the inmates maintain that the DOC has consistently reported non-compliance incidents. And they have consistently sought aid from the court.

“Over the course of two years, they have fallen off in a lot of categories,” said Corene Kendrick of the Berkeley, California-based Prison Law Firm and a lead attorney in the case. “They have reported woefully deficient numbers.”

Last month, on June 14, 2017, Duncan, frustrated with the continued deficiencies, ordered that “every single failure to comply will result in an order to show cause as to why a $1,000.00 fine should not be imposed.”

He further ordered the Corrections Department to report back in one month as to the number of infractions.

On July 13, as preparation for a hearing on July 14, the Corrections Department submitted its compliance report showing “2,127 separate incidents of noncompliance,” which could result in $2.1 million in fines just between June 14 and July 11.

Among the compliance issues were more than 1,100 instances in which inmate medications were not provided or transferred without interruption, more than 700 instances in which diagnostic reports were not reviewed within five days, and more than 130 times that specialty consultation reports were not reviewed or acted on within seven calendar days.

Four inmates were transported to court to testify at the July 14 hearing.

According to a notice filed Thursday by the plaintiffs, two of the prisoners who testified claimed they were retaliated against, one by having a deputy warden confronting him in front of other inmates and offering to move him to a cell closer to the medical clinic that was not in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Another inmate claimed that her cellmate was moved and that she was left alone in her cell at night, awakened more than once by staff, worried that contraband will be planted in her cell and “… concerned that she is being set up for injury by either staff or another inmate when she is alone in her cell at night, with no other witness to any physical or sexual assaults made against her.”

The filing notes that the Corrections Department dismissed the allegations as being “without merit.”

Corrections officials did not respond to an email from The Arizona Republic requesting response.

Duncan held a Friday afternoon telephonic hearing on the matter that was attended by Corrections Director Charles Ryan.

The judge was described by Kendrick as “livid” about reports that the prisoner witnesses may have been targeted for retaliation.

“He verbally ordered them to put everyone back to the status quo,” she said.


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