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Virginia Attorneys > Blog > Medical Malpractice > Arizona Prisons Provide Extralegal Death Sentences Via Medical Malpractice

Arizona Prisons Provide Extralegal Death Sentences Via Medical Malpractice


A recent report uncovered gruesome abuses in Arizona prisons. While prisoners don’t necessarily make the best plaintiffs, they are among the most vulnerable populations in the world. Once the state uses the legal process to remove a citizen’s rights, the state takes on the responsibility to care for the prisoner no matter how egregious their crimes are.

Among the allegations coming from a scathing and demoralizing report concerning Arizona prisons, a paraplegic man was left to deteriorate until his penis had to be amputated, a man with undiagnosed lung cancer lost 90 pounds and died slowly without any pain medication, and a third prisoner’s multiple sclerosis was left untreated until she was left completely paralyzed.

Understanding the problem 

Prisons are big money, even when they’re operated by the government. Counties compete for lucrative prison contracts and earn census figures based on their prison population. This means more funding, more jobs, and a better local economy.

On the other hand, prisons cost a lot of money to run. While prisoners provide some capital to the prison in the form of lawful slave labor, it costs real money to provide someone with room, board, security, and medical expenses. For that reason, more prisons have been outsourcing their medical services to private companies that guarantee they will cap their expenses at a certain amount. This means allocating a finite number of resources to the entire prison population. It also means making decisions as an insurer would. But you run a prison the same way you would any business, you cut costs you can justify and increase your profit margin as much as possible. Meanwhile, the counties competing for the prison contracts get lucrative government money to operate them.


The lawsuits against Arizona’s prison system began in 2012. Attorneys were able to force the Arizona DoC to accept certain terms and improve the quality of medical care in their prisons. Several years after the settlement, a federal judge and attorneys litigating on behalf of prisoners claim the DoC has not fulfilled their end of the bargain. Doctors-turned-whistleblowers outline the moral bankruptcy of a system that allows vulnerable people to languish in pain, die of treatable conditions and experience catastrophic medical consequences from untreated problems.

In 2018, the Arizona DoC was fined $1.4 million for their failures to uphold their end of the settlement agreement. A federal judge then proceeded to hold the department in contempt and fined it another $1.8 million. But the courts are going to have to levy much heftier fines until the Arizona DoC does anything to remedy the situation. The money will be taken from public coffers, meaning that no individual is responsible for repayment. Meanwhile, the prison’s medical budget has another justifiable shortfall.

Talk to a Charlottesville, VA Medical Malpractice Attorney 

Prisons can be sued, but more frequently, the medical service providers are private companies that are liable for damages when medical malpractice occurs. This means that sovereign immunity does not apply. Call the Charlottesville medical malpractice attorneys at MichieHamlett today for more information on holding a prison system accountable for causing harm to patients.



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