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2 Inmate Deaths In 1 Week In Arizona Prisons

Prison reform advocates say low staffing levels at the ADC could have led to the recent suicides in Arizona prisons.

There have been two inmate suicides in Arizona prisons in less than a week.

Arizona Department of Corrections said James Krauss died Friday at the Tucson prison and Pedro Gonzales died Monday at the Eyman prison in Florence. Both causes of death were described as “apparent self harm.”

The suicides come as the Department of Corrections is attempting to comply with settlement stipulations from a class-action lawsuit that alleged poor health-care conditions in Arizona prisons.

ADC contracts with private health care provider Corizon to staff and operate the prison health care system. But plaintiffs in Parsons v Ryan allege that several key mental health positions remain unfilled.

ADC Assisant Director Richard Pratt testified Wednesday that March staffing levels for Medical Directors, Staff Physicians and Psychologists were barely at 50 percent.

Corene Kendrick is a staff attorney at the prison law office. She said the Department of Corrections and private health-care provider Corizon share the blame for the recent deaths.

“The impact of not having mental health staff fully staffed is quite clear - we have prisoners dying in ADC’s custody," Kendrick said.

Corizon is obligated to staffing positions by at least 90 percent or face penalties.

Attorneys for the state declined to comment on the staffing levels.

Jimmy Jenkins was a producer and senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2014 to 2021.