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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Judge backs county inmates in jail case

A federal judge has sided with inmates' claims that conditions in Maricopa County jails continue to violate their constitutional rights.

U.S. District Court Judge Neil V. Wake on Wednesday modified a 1995 judgment that laid guidelines for a wide range of issues in Maricopa County jails, including medical and mental-health care, population control and record keeping.

Maricopa County sheriff's officials said they plan to comply with the judge's orders.

Wake effectively pared down the original 115-point decision to 16 paragraphs that outline what the Sheriff's Office must do to at least maintain constitutional standards for pretrial inmates. The judgment also requires the Sheriff's Office to submit quarterly reports to inmates' attorneys in order to show compliance.

"Sheriff Arpaio's horrendous treatment of detainees, especially those with severe medical and mental-health problems, has caused terrible suffering for years," said attorney Margaret Winter, associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Prison Project.

A number of the violations included Correctional Health Services, which is required to provide medical care for inmates. Wake said CHS violated inmate rights by not giving timely and adequate assessment of health needs and not identifying and appropriately treating many detainees with serious mental illness.

A national organization began an effort to pull accreditation from the county's jails last month after learning of potentially damaging testimony that emerged during the trial, but the jails remain accredited while county officials appeal the decision.

Sheriff's officials have long made the distinction between their role and that of Correctional Health Services, though Arpaio's critics have contended that the office's indifference in getting inmates to CHS medics violates the constitution. [Mark Godsey]

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