Lawsuit Charges Arizona Prison Officials with Failing to Provide Adequate Health Care, Inhumane Use of Solitary Confinement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org PHOENIX – Prisoners in the custody of the Arizona Department of Corrections receive such grossly inadequate medical, mental health and dental care that they are in grave danger of suffering serious and preventable injury, amputation, disfigurement and even death, according to a federal class-action lawsuit filed today by a legal team led by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Prison Law Office. The lawsuit also charges that thousands of prisoners are routinely subjected to solitary confinement in windowless cells behind solid steel doors, in conditions of extreme social isolation and sensory deprivation, leading to serious physical and psychological harm. Some prisoners in solitary receive no outdoor exercise for months or years on end, and some receive only two meals a day. “The prison conditions in Arizona are among the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Donald Specter, executive director of the Berkeley, Calif.-based Prison Law Office. “Prisoners have a constitutional right to receive adequate health care, and it is unconscionable for them to be left to suffer and die in the face of neglect and deliberate indifference.” Specter was the lead counsel in Brown v. Plata , a similar case from California in which the Supreme Court last year reaffirmed that prisoners have a constitutional right to adequate health care. “Courts have consistently ruled that solitary confinement of people with mental illness is unconstitutional because it aggravates their illness and prevents them from getting proper treatment,” said David Fathi, director of the ACLU National Prison Project. “Even for those with no prior history of mental illness, solitary confinement can inflict extraordinary suffering and lead to catastrophic psychiatric deterioration.”