The Governor creates a commission to study Arizona’s prison problems

The Governor creates a commission to study Arizona’s prison problems

PHOENIX — The Gov announced Katie Hobbs on Wednesday created a commission to study problems in Arizona prisons, including staffing levels and the health care offered to those behind bars.

The creation of the commission by Hobbs, Arizona’s first Democratic governor since 2009, came days after she ordered a separate review of the state’s death penalty protocols.

“We cannot deny the dire need to provide transparency and accountability in the Arizona corrections system,” Hobbs said.

The Commission will examine prisoners’ access to food, medicine and sanitary products; whether prison staffing levels are adequate; prison conditions, including security measures and whether they are overcrowded; rehabilitation and education programs for prisoners; and access to medical and mental health care and drug treatment programs.

David Fathi, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who represents Arizona inmates who have challenged the quality of health care behind bars, proposed the creation of the commission.

He said previous governors had taken an independent approach to prisons. “They were out of action and out of touch,” Fathi said. “Gov. Hobbs seems to be charting a very different course.”

Last summer, a federal judge concluded that Arizona had violated the rights of people incarcerated in state-run prisons by providing them with inadequate health care — and that the state’s failures had led to a preventable death.

Before trial in that case, U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver threw out a settlement because the state was not following through on many of the improvements to inmate care it had promised to make. She found that $2.5 million in contempt of court fines against the state did not motivate him to comply with the settlement.

In late 2021, Corrections Director David Shinn testified that inmates often have better access to health services than non-incarcerated people, a claim Silver later said was “totally out of place from reality”.

Members of the commission will include four state legislators, two who have previously served time in Arizona prisons, a doctor, a mental health professional and a family member of someone who has spent at least three years in Arizona prisons.

Last week, Hobbs ordered a review of Arizona’s execution protocols, prompting Kris Mayes, the state’s new Democratic attorney general, to hold off on seeking court orders to execute inmates until the review is complete. .

The review was announced just days after the governor appointed Ryan Thornell, a prison official in Maine, as Arizona’s new director of corrections.

The review will examine, among other things, the state’s procurement process for lethal injection drugs and lethal gas, execution procedures, news organizations’ access to executions and execution team training.

There are currently 110 inmates in Arizona. The state carried out three executions last year after a nearly eight-year hiatus due to criticism that a 2014 execution was botched and difficulties in obtaining lethal injection drugs.

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