Arizona Agrees to Major Improvements in Prison Health Care, Crucial Limits on Solitary Confinement in Landmark Settlement

October 14, 2014 -- The Prison Law Office, the American Civil Liberties Union-National Prison Project, the ACLU of Arizona, and co-counsel today filed a settlement agreement in Parsons v. Ryan, a class-action suit on behalf of more than 33,000 prisoners in Arizona

The settlement in Parsons v. Ryan requires the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) to meet more than 100 health care performance measures, covering issues such as monitoring of prisoners with diabetes, hypertension, and other chronic conditions; care for pregnant prisoners; and dental care. The settlement also requires ADC to overhaul the rules for prisoners with serious mental illnesses in solitary confinement. Instead of spending all but six hours a week in their cells, such prisoners will now have a minimum of 19 hours a week outside the cell, and this time must include mental health treatment and other programming.

The groups filed the federal lawsuit in 2012, challenging years of inattention to the health needs of state prisoners and improper and excessive use of solitary confinement, resulting in serious harm and unnecessary deaths. Judge Neil V. Wake of the U.S. District Court in Phoenix certified the case as a class action in March 2013, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed that ruling in June 2014. Last month, the groups filed reports by nationally recognized experts in corrections and in medical, mental health, and dental care, showing system-wide problems with the prisons.

In addition to the ACLU and the Prison Law Office, other attorneys on the case are Perkins Coie, Jones Day, and the Arizona Center for Disability Law, which is also a plaintiff in the case.

A copy of the settlement is available here Settlement

See news stories about the settlement:
--Associated Press: Arizona Agrees to Settle Prison Health Care Suit
--Wall Street Journal: Arizona Agrees to Improve Prison Health Care in ACLU Settlement
--12 News: Phoenix NBC affiliate, news segment"
--Arizona Capitol Times: State reaches agreement over

PRISONERS' ATTORNEYS ASK FEDERAL THREE-JUDGE COURT TO ENFORCE PRISON OVERCROWDING REFORMS

October 10, 2014 -- Prisoners' attorneys have filed a Motion and Reply asking the federal three-judge court overseeing California's prison overcrowding case to enforce an order requiring the State to take certain population-reduction actions "immediately." These actions include increasing good conduct credits for minimum-security prisoners and some "second strike" prisoners and implementing new procedures for earlier parole of some non-dangerous prisoners.

In February 2014, the three-judge federal court granted California's request for a two year extension of time to fully reduce prison overcrowding to the 137.5 percent level required and approved by the U.S. Supreme Court. Read the Opinion and Order. The Order requires the State to do certain things that will result in some prisoners paroling earlier than they otherwise would have. Click here to read our informational letter about the order and what the State is doing to reduce crowding.

For more background information on the case, see the Overcrowding section on the Major Cases page.

EXPERT REPORTS DESCRIBE UNCONSTITUTIONAL CONDITIONS IN ARIZONA PRISONS

September 9, 2014 -- The Prison Law Office and co-counsel attorneys for prisoners in a class action lawsuit have issued a Press Release and filed a series of Expert Reports describing the Arizona prison system's widespread use of inhumane segregation units and failure to provide basic medical, mental health and dental care.

Read the news stories about the reports: Think Progress, Arizona Republic, Tuscon Weekly, Arizona Public Media, Arizona Daily Star, CBS 5, Phoenix New Times.

MEDIA EXPOSES ABUSE IN ARIZONA PRISONS

August 1, 2014 -- Channel 12 News has broadcast two detailed reports on the appalling lack of medical and mental health care in the Arizona Prisons. View the May 22, 2014 Investigative Report and the August 1, 2014 Investigative Report.

NEW SPECIAL MASTER REPORT IN DIVISION OF JUVENILE JUSTICE CASE

July 31, 2014 -- The Special Master in the Farrell v. Cate case released the Twenty-ninth Quarterly Report. Farrell is a lawsuit brought to remedy abysmal conditions in the DJJ, the state's lock-up units for young offenders. For more information on the case, or to review prior expert and special master reports, please visit the Major Cases page.

CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL RECOMMENDS TESTING PRISONERS FOR VALLEY FEVER

July 21, 2014 -- The Centers for Disease Control has conducted a study and issued a Report on reducing Valley Fever infections among California prisoners. The report recommends that California prison staff test prisoners for immunity to Valley Fever and exclude non-immune and high-risk prisoners from placement at the two prisons with the highest risk of infection (Avenal State Prison and Pleasant Valley State Prison).

33,000 ARIZONA PRISONERS NOW CAN SUE STATE OVER HEALTH CARE, SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

June 5, 2014 -- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit unanimously ruled that a federal lawsuit, Parsons v. Ryan, can proceed against the state of Arizona on behalf of all 33,000 prisoners in the state's 10 prisons and all future prisoners. The ruling is critical to obtaining necessary systemic changes to conditions on confinement in the Arizona Department of Correction, and is a key victory for civil rights plaintiffs throughout the country. The lawsuit challenges years of inattention to the health needs of state prisoners and improper and excessive use of solitary confinement. The lawsuit was filed in 2012 by the American Civil Liberties Union, The Prison Law Office, and the law firms Perkins Coie and Jones Day. Trial is set to start in October 2014. Read the Opinion and Press Release. You can also read the Complaint filed in the case in 2012.

FEDERAL COURT ISSUES ORDER PROHIBITING CALIFORNIA FROM APPLYING PROPOSITIONS 9 AND 89 TO SOME LIFERS (BUT ORDER IS STAYED PENDING APPEAL)

March 5, 2014 -- A federal court has held that California Propositions 9 and 89 unlawfully increase punishment for life prisoners who committed their crimes before the effective dates of those propositions. For lifers whose crimes were committed prior to November 4, 2008, the court's order would forbid the Board of Parole Hearings from applying a Proposition 9 provision that increases the length of time between hearings. The order also would forbid the Governor from using his Proposition 89 review authority to increase the time served by lifers whose crimes were committed prior to November 8, 1988. The order currently stayed while the state is pursing an appeal. Read the Gilman v. Brown Order.

NEW SUPPLEMENT TO THE CALIFORNIA STATE PRISONERS HANDBOOK NOW AVAILABLE

January 2014 -- The 2014 Supplement to The California State Prisoners Handbook is now available. The Supplement contains 185 pages of information on legal developments between 2008 and the end of October 2013, plus some updated forms and resource lists. Check out our Handbook Order Form.

PRISON LAW OFFICE DIRECTOR NAMED A "CALIFORNIAN TO WATCH IN 2014"

December 26, 2013 -- The Sacramento Bee has named Prison Law Office Director Donald Specter a Californian to Watch in 2014 based on his successful efforts to bring an evidence-based approach to prison overcrowding problems. Read the Article.

REPORT PUBLISHED ON EUROPEAN-AMERICAN PRISON PROJECT

October 31, 2013 -- The Vera Justice Institute has published a Report on the European-American Prison Project, which was funded by the Prison Law Office. The Project's goal was to expose American correctional officials to radically different systems and practices in Germany and the Netherlands, in order to advance an international dialogue around effective corrections and to stimulate reform efforts in the United States.

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Photo courtesy of Ruth Morgan


Photo courtesy of Ruth Morgan


Photo courtesy of Bob Gumpert


Photo courtesy of Bob Gumpert