Arpaio's Jails Ordered to Stop Endangering Prisoners' Health

Affiliate: ACLU of Arizona
September 30, 2014 10:33 pm

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Judge Finds Maricopa County Jails Fail to Provide Adequate Medical and Mental Health Care

September 30, 2014

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PHOENIX – More than four years after a federal judge put the Maricopa County jails operated by Sheriff Joseph Arpaio under court order for neglect of detainees, that same judge, Neil Wake, has ruled that the jails remain under the order. Judge Wake found that the jails continue to provide detainees with inadequate medical and mental health care. The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Arizona – which have represented the detainees for close to 20 years – showed during an evidentiary hearing that concluded in March that the scarcity and poor quality of the jails’ medical and mental health care caused unnecessary suffering.

“Those in charge of Maricopa County’s jails can no longer skirt their constitutional responsibility for detainees’ health,” said Eric Balaban, staff attorney for the ACLU’s National Prison Project. “Judge Wake found severe problems with the jails’ medical care, from intake to treatment. Detainees have had serious illnesses that the jails’ staff missed or ignored, causing permanent injuries and even deaths. With today’s decision, every detainee at Maricopa County should have access to adequate medical and mental health care. At last.”

In August 2013, Maricopa County commissioners and the Sheriff asked the court to lift the order placed on it in 2008 – an order which itself resulted from the jails’ failure to provide constitutionally adequate health care and abide by the terms of a 1995 federal court order requiring improvements in health services.

As Balaban explained, “Last year, the Maricopa County jails requested an end to the 2008 court order, claiming that they’d done what was necessary for the detainees’ mental and physical health. We said, ‘Not so fast.’ We investigated, bringing medical and mental health experts to the jail, and what we found showed Judge Wake that the jails have a long way to go before his order can be lifted.”

In addition to the ACLU and the ACLU of Arizona, Osborn Maledon, P.A., has assisted on the case.

Read the ruling here:

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