For five years, Arizona has been dogged by a federal lawsuit that alleges the state provides shoddy medical care for prisoners. Now, the state is facing the prospect of millions of dollars in fines over its failure to carry out reforms of its medical system, the Associated Press reports. Arizona Corrections Director Charles Ryan was berated in court Tuesday by a judge who described the state’s efforts to overhaul prison health care as an “abject failure,” two years after it agreed to make such changes as part of a settlement of the lawsuit.
U.S. Magistrate David Duncan grilled Ryan over whether he tried to undermine a court order that prohibited retaliation against inmates who participated in the class-action lawsuit. Ryan denied the allegations. The case is among several problems to plague Arizona prisons, including a controversial 2014 execution, the rape of a teacher by a sex offender and the death of an inmate left in an outdoor cage. The 2012 lawsuit alleged that prisons didn’t meet basic requirements for providing adequate medical and mental health care and that prisoners faced dangerous delays and outright denials in receiving treatment. Ryan assured Duncan he would follow the court’s orders. “I believe, with all due respect, I want you out of this case as bad as anybody else,” Ryan told the judge.