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ACLU report blasts Arizona prisons, in advance of suit over conditions

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Friday, Sept. 19, 2014

By Stephen Hicks


AMY FETTIG/ACLU NATIONAL PRISON PROJECT: In arizona, I think the problem is so severe and so pervasive, and frankly people are losing their lives, that something had to be done and it had to be done now.”

STEPHEN HICKS/CRONKITE NEWS: That “problem” is allegedly poor treatment of prisoners by the Arizona Department of Corrections. And the “something” is an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against the state prisons that is scheduled next month.

In advance of that court case, the ACLU released a report this week that it says documents the “fundamentally broken health care system” that it said includes incidents of neglect treating illness and injury, as well as the prisons’ “destructive” use of solitary confinement.

AMY FETTIG: What they found was some of the most severe environmentally deprived, socially isolating conditions anywhere in the country.”

STEPHEN HICKS: The ACLU claims that the Department of Corrections used solitary confinement on mentally ill prisoners. That’s something human-rights experts – including the Human Rights Committee, the Committee Against Torture and the U.N. Rapporteur on Torture – all agree is a violation of their basic human rights.

DEBORAH GOLDEN/DIRECTOR, D.C. PRISONERS’ RIGHTS PROJECT: It’s completely destructive. It’s like denying someone air.

STEPHEN HICKS: Now, I reached out to corrections officials, who said in a statement that they strongly dispute the accuracy of the ACLU’s witnesses and that they will present their evidence and arguments in court. Those arguments, they say, will present an accurate picture of inmate health care.

Reporting in Washington, D.C., Stephen Hicks, Cronkite News.