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$1 Million And Counting: Fines Mounting For Arizona Department Of Corrections

The latest court filings in an ongoing federal court case show Arizona could now be facing more than a million dollars in fines — just for the month of December.

On Wednesday, attorneys representing the Arizona Department of Corrections filed the latest results from the monitoring process in the Parsons v. Ryan prison health care settlement.

In 2015, the state agreed to meet more than 100 performance measures outlined in the settlement to provide better health care to inmates in Arizona prisons. But Arizona and its private contractor Corizon Health are failing to meet several of those benchmarks.

In October of 2017, Magistrate Judge David Duncan issued an order stating, “because of pervasive and intractable failures to comply with the Stipulation, the court is considering the exercise of its civil contempt authority.”

If Duncan uses his authority, the state could face $1,000 fine for every violation of the stipulation.

Duncan ordered the defendants to immediately comply with 11 health care performance measures.

The state previously disclosed more than 650 violations at six state prisons. The latest filing reveals more than 400 additional violations at the Eyman state prison for failing to meet a performance measure that guarantees “chronic disease inmates will be seen by the provider as specified in the inmate’s treatment plan, no less than every 180 days.”

Attorneys for the state have told the judge in recent hearings that Corizon Health is having trouble finding specialty care doctors to work with the contactor.

The new violations would bring the total fines for the month of December to more than a million dollars.

During a budget proposal at the statehouse on Tuesday lawmakers asked Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan about the impending fines. Ryan said if the fines are enforced, Corizon Health would pay. “I’ve already made it clear to the the vendor that they’re on the hook,” Ryan said.

Duncan could address the fines at a status hearing on Feb. 28.

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