Arizona Reacts to Prisoners' Class Action

     PHOENIX (CN) - The Arizona Department of Corrections said it will replace its for-profit prison health care company with another profit-seeking firm, after a federal class action that claimed the state provides "grossly inadequate" medical care to prisoners.
     Corizon Inc., of Brentwood, Tenn., "will be responsible for the provision of health care to inmates at the Arizona Department of Corrections' ('ADC') state-run facilities" beginning March 4, according to a filing in the pending court case.
     Corizon will replace Pittsburgh-based Wexford Health Sources.
     The ACLU, which filed the class action nearly a year ago, was not impressed.
     "Merely replacing one for-profit prison contractor with another will only prolong the crisis in Arizona's prisons. There is no reason to think that anything will change under Corizon Inc.," ACLU of Arizona Legal Director Dan Pochoda said in a statement.
     The ACLU of Arizona filed the class action with the Prison Law Office of Berkeley, Calif., attorneys with Perkins Coie of Phoenix and Jones Day of San Francisco, and Jennifer Alewelt, with the Arizona Center for Disability Law.
     According to the lawsuit: "For years, the health care provided by defendants in Arizona's prisons has fallen short of minimum constitutional requirements and failed to meet prisoners' basic health needs."
     Named as defendants were Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan and the state's Interim Director of Health Services Richard Pratt.
     "Critically ill prisoners have begged prison officials for treatment, only to be told 'be patient,' 'it's all in your head,' or 'pray' to be cured," the complaint stated. "Despite warnings from their own employees, prisoners and their family members, and advocates about the risk of serious injury and death to prisoners, defendants are deliberately indifferent to the substantial risk of pain and suffering to prisoners, including deaths, which occur due to defendants' failure to provide minimally adequate health care, in violation of the Eighth Amendment."