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ACLU decries Arizona rule requiring inmates to cover more medical costs

PHOENIX — A recent policy change from the Arizona Department of Corrections has inmates paying more for their hospital bill.

The new policy, revised on March 15, requires inmates who need to be hospitalized due to substance abuse to pay for all related medical expenses and cost of staff overtime.

Jared Keenan, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, wants to see this policy reversed.

“The Department of Corrections in Arizona has a long history in not providing adequate health care to inmates, and they seem to not care,” he said.

Clinton Roberts, president of the Arizona Corrections Association, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Wednesday that the policy is meant to alleviate costs and help curb drug use.

He said inmates have told him that the increasing availability of Narcan, a medication that can reverse opioid overdose, has made them feel comfortable in using drugs more freely because they know officers can save them if need be.

“If an inmate has overdosed, which is outside the scope of being incarcerated, after a disciplinary process, they’re going to be charged restitution in repayment of either life-saving efforts and/or hospital transportation (and) any overtime that may accrue,” Roberts said.

Keenan said the solution is treatment, not punishment, as many people enter prison already addicted to drugs and are currently not receiving any type of treatment.

He said the new policy isn’t fair to inmates, who often earn less than a dollar an hour in prison.

“You have people re-entering society, you expect to get a job and get everything back on track after spending time in prison. We’re burdening them with additional fines and fees,” Keenan said.

“In this case, it’d be in the form of a restitution order to pay back this money. All these hurdles we set up for people coming out of prison means that it’s more likely they’ll end up back in prison.”

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