FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASECR
MONDAY, DECEMBER 6, 1999
TDD (202) 514-1888
MARICOPA COUNTY TO IMPROVE MEDICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH CARE FOR INMATES, UNDER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT AGREEMENT
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Maricopa County, Arizona, will improve medical and mental health care for inmates housed in its jail system, under an agreement reached today with the Justice Department.
The agreement, filed along with the government's complaint in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, resolves a four year investigation by the Justice Department. Throughout its investigation, the Justice Department found that the jail system, which houses approximately 7,000 inmates, failed to provide inmates with adequate medical and mental health care.
"We hope today's settlement agreement will help to ensure that inmates' constitutional rights to adequate treatment of their serious medical and mental health needs will be protected," said Bill Lann Lee, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.
The Justice Department began investigating the jail system in August 1995, under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), enacted in 1980 to protect the rights of people housed in state and local governmental institutions, including county jails. Although the initial investigation also involved allegations of use of excessive force by corrections officers, those allegations were resolved when the county agreed to the terms of a 1997 settlement agreement changing the way officers used force and mechanical restraints.
In order to improve the treatment of inmates' serious medical and mental health needs, Maricopa County will:
- hire additional medical and mental health staff, including physicians, dentists, psychiatrists, pharmacists, nurses, counselors, medical transport officers, and an infection control manager;
- improve medical evaluation, services, and staffing when inmates first enter the jail;
- make physical plant changes throughout the jails to improve medical services such as including additional space for medical evaluations at intake, 'suicide-safe' cells, transition rooms for inmates with mental illness, rooms for persons with infectious diseases, and medical transport vans;
- improve distribution of medications to inmates by requiring a minimum of twice daily distribution and informing inmates of and monitoring possible side effects.
- improve the processing of inmate requests for medical or mental health treatment;
- create an Infection Control Committee, which will maintain accurate data about infectious and communicable diseases, and other steps to protect inmates and staff; and,
- improve quality assurance mechanisms to assess the quality of medical and mental health services by randomly auditing inmate medical and mental health charts and implementing the county's existing quality assurance plans.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the parties' mutually agreed upon experts will review the county's implementation of the settlement agreement in approximately six months. If the county has substantially complied with its terms, the Justice Department will dismiss its complaint.