Arizona's Death Yards | Prisoner Deaths Under Privatized Medical Care

Increasingly, when Grassroots Leadership talks about for-profit prison privatization, we are talking about not only the private ownership or operation of prisons, jails, and detention centers, but we are talking about a monstrous field of prison-related privatization.  This field includes re-entry programs, halfway houses, “alternatives” to incarceration, as well as food services, transportation, and healthcare delivered to those incarcerated in both privately and publicly operated facilities.  As it becomes more and more difficult for for-profit private prison companies to procure new contracts due to decreasing rates of incarceration and other factors, other arms of the industry have adapted so that profits continue to be reaped on the backs of those behind bars.   


Similar to our findings on the pitfalls of management and operation of prisons by for-profit private companies, anecdotally we have found that the privatization of services also compromises the health, safety and well-being of prisoners.

Today our partners at the American Friends Service Committee, Arizona Office released a  first-of-its-kind, ground-breaking report on correctional health care in Arizona, where the state has entrusted the health and safety of 40,000 prisoners to private for-profit companies.  Drawn from extensive research, including medical reports, autopsy records, interviews with prison staff and outside experts, Death Yards: Continuing Problems with Arizona’s Correctional Health Care documents numerous system-wide problems—delays and denials of care, lack of timely emergency treatment, failure to provide medication and medical devices, low staffing levels, failure to provide care and protection from infectious disease, denial of specialty care and referrals, and insufficient mental health treatment—under the state’s current for-profit healthcare contractor, Corizon.

Major findings include the deaths of 50 Arizona prisoners, including eight suicides, in the first eight months of 2013 alone, a dramatic increase from previous years, including before the health care was privatized in Arizona prisons.  Death Yards also chronicles fourteen horrific case studies exhibiting gross mismanagement and neglect by health care providers.  There are so many prisoner deaths in Arizona that the Arizona Republic’s 2012 expose on the issue states, “Arizona’s prison system has two death rows.  One is made up of the 126 inmates officially sentenced to death...The other death row, the unofficial one, reaches into every prison in Arizona’s sprawling correctional system…”


Corizon provides correctional health care in over 500 prisons across the United States, and has a documented history of problems in many locations outside of Arizona.  Death Yards should serve as powerful indictment of Corizon’s inability to provide safe, adequate prisoner health care, and by extension a testimonial on the inadvisability of privatizing correctional health care everywhere -- period.  All people, whether incarcerated or free, should be afforded access to services and care to keep them healthy and to treat them properly when sick.