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Federal Judge Losing Confidence In Arizona Department Of Corrections

The latest status hearings in the Parsons v. Ryan prison health care settlement showed the state is still failing to meet many health care performance measures.

As the state attempted to present evidence it was making progress, an Arizona Department of Corrections lawyer referred to data from the wrong month.

When the state showed temperatures in Arizona prisons were often above 100 degrees, they also submitted fabricated, incomplete and inaccurate recordings.

On Wednesday, a lawyer from the Attorney General’s Office failed to call into the hearing on time.

The persistent gaffes prompted Judge David Duncan to repeatedly rebuke the state. “People’s lives are at stake and the lawyer doesn’t even know what month we’re talking about,” the judge said.

The judge asked nearly every ADC employee that testified to look at an email the state had produced with inconsistent dates and times and none could explain the anomaly.

Duncan said the ADC was eroding his confidence. “It’s not as if I’ve just cherry-picked and said 'oh this is this bad apple,'” the judge said. “It’s looking at the tree as diseased.”

The judge threatened to fine the state in response to what he called long-term failures.

“It makes me think that there’s some profoundly systemic error here," Duncan said. "You almost think the tree needs to be cut down and a new one planted.”

Jimmy Jenkins is a senior field correspondent at KJZZ and a contributor to NPR’s Election 2020 and Criminal Justice station collaborations. His work has been featured on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Marketplace, Here and Now, The Takeaway and NPR Newscasts.Originally from Terre Haute, Indiana, Jenkins has a B.S. in criminology from Indiana State University and a master’s degree in journalism from Indiana University.Much of his reporting has focused on the criminal justice system. Jenkins has reported on Tasers, body cameras, use of force, jail privatization, prison health care and the criminal contempt trial of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.