Arizona must significantly improve health-care and mental-health-care treatment for about 33,000 prison inmates under a proposed settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought in 2012 by prison-rights groups, the Arizona Republic reports. That suit charged that the state unconstitutionally denies adequate care to inmates in state prisons and routinely keeps mentally ill prisoners in solitary confinement under brutal conditions. Under the settlement announced yesterday, the state does not admit any wrongdoing.
The settlement would reduce the amount of time mentally ill inmates spend in solitary confinement and would restrict guards’ use of pepper spray to control those inmates. Spray could be used only to prevent serious injury or escape. Corrections also agreed to meet more than 100 separate health-care performance measures and to allow attorneys for the prisoners to monitor compliance. “This has been a broken system for a long time,” said David Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project. “This settlement will help ensure that prison inmates get the care they need.” The likely cost to the state couldn’t immediately be determined.