Lawsuit against Maricopa County Sheriff's Office ends after 42 years

Posted 10/17/19

A federal judge ended a 42-year-old lawsuit over conditions in the jails in Maricopa County.

The lawsuit was filed in 1977 amid allegations that the civil rights of inmates had been violated.

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Lawsuit against Maricopa County Sheriff's Office ends after 42 years

Posted

A federal judge ended a 42-year-old lawsuit over conditions in the jails in Maricopa County.

The lawsuit was filed in 1977 amid allegations that the civil rights of inmates had been violated.

It lingered for decades, and a judge concluded in 2008 that the county provided inadequate medical and mental health care, unsanitary conditions and unhealthy food inside the jails.

Court oversight of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, which operates the jails, ended in 2012 when a judge ruled deficiencies in food and sanitary conditions had been corrected.

But oversight of the jails’ medical and mental health care operations — which are run by the county, not the sheriff’s office — continued until Judge Neil Wake ended the lawsuit on Sept. 19.

The original amended judgment encompassed 120 paragraphs and focused on issues such as cell occupancy, legal services, cleaning and sanitation, medical and mental healthcare, inmate recreation, records documentation, and food quality services.

In total, the lawsuit has impacted taxpayers, MCSO and the Maricopa County Correctional Health Services for 42 years and cost nearly $100 million, Sheriff Paul Penzone stated.

“The successful conclusion is attributed to the hard work, integrity, innovation and disciplines of the MCSO detention staff, CHS and Attorney Michele Iafrate,” Mr. Penzone stated. “Their diligence and commitment to excellence have evolved the Maricopa County jail system as one of the top in the Nation.”

As a result of these efforts, MCSO detention staff, along with CHS and various community partnerships, between 2017 and 2019, have received 10 awards from the National Association of Counties. These awards exemplify the exceptional work and innovated programs focused on the health and well-being of the inmate population.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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