Less than a week since a national health-care accrediting group took the rare step of denying Maricopa County’s appeal to keep its jails accredited, little has changed in the jails, says the Arizona Republic. The decision by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care so far has had little impact on the day-to-day operations in the jails. County administrators say the decision was politically motivated and fundamental changes in jail health care are unnecessary.
Taxpayers could begin to bear the burden of that decision soon as attorneys for inmates bolster their claims against the county with the commission’s determination that medical care in the jails falls short of national standards. “The financial implications and public-relations fallout are reasons enough for county officials to be concerned about the accrediting agencies,” said Dan Corsentino, a former Colorado sheriff who had accreditation in his jails denied in 1997. Maricopa County’s jail system, the third-largest in the nation and typically home to nearly 10,000 inmates, joins just a handful of others that have been denied accreditation by this group. Federal law does not require that county jails be accredited. When the federal agency investigates the conditions of jails, it focuses on constitutional violations. Arizona law requires sheriffs annually to determine if jails meet standards that are adopted by either a national corrections commission on health care or an American correctional association.