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Friday, November 15, 2013

Privatization turns AZ prison system into human rights nightmare

Salon - Arizona prison horror: 'Critically ill' inmates told to 'pray' for healing
Salon: A new report alleges illegal and deadly mistreatment of Arizona inmates whose medical care the state contracted out to the country’s largest private prison health care provider.

The report, released last week by the American Friends Service Committee, a progressive Quaker group, comes as an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against the Arizona Department of Corrections awaits an appeals court ruling over the state’s challenge to its class action status. The ACLU alleges “grossly inadequate” care that creates “grave danger” for inmates, including “critically ill” people who were told to “be patient” or “pray” for healing, or that “it’s all in your head.”

Shortly before that lawsuit was filed in March 2013, the state contracted with its current for-profit health provider, Corizon, to replace the departed company Wexford. But the AFSC charges that “Correspondence from prisoners; analysis of medical records, autopsy reports, and investigations; and interviews with anonymous prison staff and outside experts indicate that, if anything, things have gotten worse.” Among the allegations: “delays and denials of care, lack of timely emergency treatment, failure to provide medication and medical devices, low staffing levels, failure to provide care and protection from infectious disease, denial of specialty care and referrals, and insufficient health treatment…”

Asked about the report, Corizon sent a statement saying that since March, it has “increased the number and skill level of our healthcare staff with the goal of continually improving patient outcomes.” Corizon said that its facilities are accredited and subject to internal audits, and that “ADC inmate patients receive care that meets their healthcare needs and satisfies constitutional requirements.” It added that “As with any large healthcare provider, litigation does arise from time to time. However, the vast majority of lawsuits filed against Corizon are without merit and are dismissed or settled with no findings of wrongdoing.” The Arizona Governor’s office did not immediately respond to an early morning Wednesday inquiry.
Part of the problem is that the prison-industrial complex is ripe for abuse. When you mention “people in prison,” people’s brains short circuit and they hear “people who deserve it.” For some reason, they imagine these sorts of things happening to rapists, murderers, or child molesters and forget that other, less terrifying people are in prison too.

The other part is that privatization is largely a scam. Prison health was the province of government for decades, with medical staff being employees of the Department of Corrections with the occasional visiting doctor from private practice.. The idea that corporations can do things cheaper than government is an offense to simple math, since government is non-profit and corporations are for-profit. Government can — and does — provide services at cost, while the private sector needs cost-plus-profit.

But that’s just your standard “everybody does it” level of government corruption, where you rip off taxpayers to send some easy business someone’s way and they help you out around election time. This is not that — or rather, it is that and much, much more. It’s not hyperbole to call this evil. People should go to the prisons they’ve turned into nightmares over this. The Justice Department should step in and shake out the prisons and the Arizona government and prosecute anyone and everyone remotely responsible for, or even aware of, this monstrosity. This isn’t some penny ante government corruption, this is a human rights abuse case.

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