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It's interesting, the state of medical care at Arizona prisons. Maybe the right word is appalling, but sometimes I wonder if I am over-using it when it comes to Arizona news. While the authorities do everything in their power to obtain enough drugs to execute a few inmates on Death Row, getting medicine to treat illness and keep inmates from dying, not so much of a priority.

The Arizona Republic has documented four cases of inmates dying for lack of adequate health care in the last two fiscal years, along with dozens of other preventable deaths -- suicides, homicides, accidents. Wildfires of outrage ensue over Arizona when organ transplant patients get their chances cut by the Austericons in the state legislature, and rightly so; but meanwhile, inmates suffer and die.

At least we haven't built the prisons up into amusement parks. There may be hope for us yet...well, unless some of the state reps stay up late watching Toonami.

From the Arizona Republic article:

A review by The Arizona Republic of deaths in state prisons over the past two fiscal years found at least four inmates, in addition to Dix, whose medical care was delayed or potentially inadequate leading up to their deaths. The records of these cases, together with interviews of officers, medical staff and inmates point to a system in which correctional officers routinely deny inmates access to timely care, and in which treatment sometimes falls short of accepted standards.
In spite of this, the Director of Corrections, Charles Ryan, denies that the health care is inadequate. I'm sure it's the best in the world, right? When you can get it. Perhaps that just makes it slightly worse than outside of the state prisons.

I found it interesting that a Republican representative in the state legislature, Cecil Ash, was the one pushing for improving health care in the prisons. His reasons were perhaps more...pragmatic, wanting to avoid lawsuits like the one filed in March by the ACLU and the Prison Law Office. Credit where it's due, I suppose, he tried. But his attempt was futile in the current legislature. This was Rep. Ash's explanation.

"They're out of sight, out of mind. And they don't vote," he said of inmates.

There is also a general lack of public sympathy for prisoners, particularly those who have committed heinous crimes.

And every time the papers report on a heinous crime, I see examples of that if they allow comments on the articles. Every time. This is what allows the state gov't to cut payments to their health care contractors; this is what allows them to set up a privatized health care system for the prisons that is likely destined for the same failure.
By the end of June, Wexford Health Sources Inc. of Pittsburgh will assume responsibility for medical and mental-health care at Arizona's state prisons under a three-year, $349 million contract. Wexford's contract includes performance standards for inmate care, including deadlines for inmates to be seen following a request for care and guarantees that prescriptions will be filled within a specific time.
This move to privatize the system and, of course, turn our gov't into a corporate ATM, is something I've written about before. The Dept. of Corrections has long denied systemic problems regarding their health care system, and wanted organizations like the Prison Law Office to name names of inmates, and now they've got some: names of the dead, who died on the department's watch.

Critics of the plan cited in the AZ Republic article are skeptical of privatization improving care, and they can count me in on that skepticism, too. But I don't know why society sees fit to capture and hold these people and not treat them like human beings. It seems to run counter to society's stated principles. I still don't know what to think about that. But sometimes it takes a lawsuit to force the issue. We get that a lot in Arizona.

Originally posted to The Tytalan Way on Tue Jun 05, 2012 at 10:23 AM PDT.

Also republished by Baja Arizona Kossacks.

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