When U.S. District Court Judge Roslyn Silver ruled in June that Arizona’s prison health care system, and its use of restrictive housing, was unconstitutional, she asked attorneys representing incarcerated people and those defending the state to nominate experts to help her remedy the situation.
The ruling came after Silver scrapped a lengthy settlement agreement and kept one week-long trial in prison health care lawsuit Jensen v. Shinn between prisoners and the state of Arizona.
After reviewing proposals from both sides, Silver said in an order filed Monday that she was “inclined to appoint” Dr. Marc Stern.
Stern is no stranger to Arizona prison health care. Judge Silver previously employed the correctional health care consultant in 2018 to conduct a review of the troubled system.
In his report, Stern found that prison health care was grossly underfunded in Arizona, and that “privatizing correctional health care costs the state more than self-operation.”
But Stern’s recommendations did not push the state to meet the court-mandated performance standards set in Jensen v. Shinn.
Now Judge Silver said she is leaning toward selecting Stern “to help craft an order regarding medical care.”
Judge Silver has said the order could take many forms, including a takeover, in which she would appoint one or more people to take control of the state’s prison health care system.
Inmate advocates are pushing for Judge Silver to appoint a receiver to take over oversight of the prison health care system. In a separate notice filed Monday, they cited a recent order from a federal judge in Mississippi giving control of a county jail to a receiver as there were circumstances similar to the conditions and legal background in the Arizona prison health care case.
It’s unclear how the appointment of a receiver, or other forms of future injunction, might affect a new contract the state recently awarded to NaphCare.
The five-year contract will begin on October 1. NaphCare expects to earn nearly $10 million in annual revenue, according to procurement documents released by the state.. The contract represents a 74% increase in the amount of money the state pays to provide health care to each inmate each day.
Silver proposed that a hearing be held this week where all parties could discuss the potential appointment of Stern, as well as “whether Dr. Stern has any preferences regarding the appointment of additional experts to assist in drafting the future order that addresses mental health care and conditions in maximum custody”.
The proposed dates for the hearing are August 4 or 5. The parties in the case have until Wednesday to decide on a final date and time.
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