Settlement Ensures Improved Health Care and Conditions of Confinement
PHOENIX, Ariz. (October 16, 2014) - Perkins Coie, together with co-counsel from the Prison Law Office, the ACLU’s National Prison Project, the ACLU of Arizona, the Arizona Center for Disability Law and Jones Day, is pleased to announce the settlement of a class-action lawsuit against the Arizona Department of Corrections (AZ DOC), achieving substantial and far-reaching relief for more than 33,000 inmates of Arizona’s state prisons. The settlement agreement in Parsons v. Ryan was filed Tuesday, October 14, just one week before trial was set to begin in the federal case alleging that Arizona’s prison system overuses solitary confinement and provides inadequate medical mental health and dental care.
The settlement, which is pending approval by the district court, requires the AZ DOC to meet more than 100 specific outcome measures to improve health care and conditions of confinement in isolation units. Some of the key requirements include improved medication delivery, mental health evaluation, dental staffing and scheduling, and out-of-cell time and mental health treatment for prisoners in isolation. Under the agreement, plaintiffs’ counsel has the right to request documents and to tour the prisons in order to monitor the AZ DOC’s compliance. The court also has the authority to enforce the settlement agreement if the department fails to comply. The settlement also requires AZ DOC to pay the plaintiffs $4.9 million for attorneys’ fees and costs.
“This case was a massive effort that involved widespread effort and support from several different dedicated groups,” said Phoenix partner Dan Barr, who led the Perkins Coie team. “The commitment of extraordinary people and what they have accomplished will have long-term benefits for tens of thousands of people for years to come.”
The case began more than three years ago with a small team investigating whether to bring a lawsuit to provide better care for seriously mentally ill prisoners housed in solitary confinement—a small segment of the prison population. Perkins Coie joined the case early on, sending attorneys to interview prisoners about their conditions. The Perkins Coie team’s investigation uncovered much broader health care problems throughout the AZ DOC.
“Throughout the case,” Dan continued, “we won every significant battle. The only step left was trial, and so Defendants finally came back to the settlement table. Over several weeks of negotiation, the parties reached the final settlement agreement to help literally thousands of society’s most vulnerable members.”
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