PHOENIX — Arizona plans to ask a company that previously provided health care to its prisoners for reimbursement of a $1.1 million contempt of court fine that the state just paid for failing to comply with a legal settlement requiring improvements to inmate care.
Such a request would mark the second time the state has tried to pass along the financial burden for a contempt fine for noncompliance with the 6-year-old settlement to Corizon Health Inc., the state’s prison health care contractor for five years until another company took over in mid-2019.
The Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry confirmed Wednesday it was planning to seek reimbursement from Corizon, which covered the costs of a $1.4 million contempt fine that the state paid in 2018 for failing to follow through on its promises in the settlement. A third round of contempt fines threatened by a judge in the case would cover violations in the last 10 months of 2020 and could reach as high as $17 million.
Corizon didn’t respond to a request for comment about the prospect of being asked to pay another contempt fine against the state. The $1.1 million fine, which was handed down two weeks ago and paid by the state on Wednesday, covers violations in June 2019.
When the first fine was imposed in 2018, attorneys for inmates argued the state shouldn’t be able to pass along the costs to and blame its vendor for problems for which it is responsible. Corene Kendrick, an attorney representing prisoners in the case, said the state’s contract with Corizon called for the company to pick up the costs of legal fees and fines.
The state faces a March 26 deadline for saying why it shouldn’t face a third round of fines.
A week ago, U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver warned the state against offering any past excuses for why it hasn’t complied with the settlement, which emerged out of a class-action lawsuit that challenged the quality of health care in state-run prisons. To avoid future fines, Silver said the state must point to conditions that officials didn’t or couldn’t have anticipated during the previous six years of the settlement.