Candlelight vigil held for those impacted by Arizona’s prison healthcare system

KOLD News 10-10:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Nov. 17, 2021 at 10:38 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - It was an emotional evening for dozens of people who attended a candlelight vigil at the Arizona State Capitol on Wednesday.

About 50 people gathered on the lawn outside the capitol to share personal stories of how they have been impacted by the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry’s healthcare system.

Among the candles, photos of inmates whose families say were failed by the healthcare system.

It is a system that is under fire in the landmark federal trial, Jensen v. Shinn.

In 2012, Arizona prisoners took the ADCRR and its leadership to court over allegations the state was violating their constitutional rights by subjecting them to cruel and unusual punishment by failing to provide adequate healthcare.

In 2015, the parties settled and the state agreed to meet more than 100 healthcare measures.

Over the years, federal judges have held the state in contempt and fined the department more than $2 million in fines.

In 2021, Judge Roslyn Silver ordered the parties to go to trial.

The capitol is just blocks away from where that trial is taking place.

Organizers said they typically host the vigil earlier in the year, but postponed the vigil so it could take place right in the middle of the trial.

Family members of incarcerated individuals, formerly incarcerated people and even the attorneys representing inmates in the case shared their stories.

Rita Lomio is a staff attorney with the Prison Law Office, and one of a handful of attorneys representing the prisoners in this case.

After wrapping up a day in court, Lomio and other attorneys attended the vigil.

“It’s really powerful to come to events like this where you see how many people have been affected, how many people recognized how important this is and I really hope the elected leaders are paying attention and realizing they are responsible for what’s happening in their prison, and they can’t continue to ignore it,” Lomio said.

Earlier this week, ADCRR Director David Shinn took the stand and testified prisoners receive better healthcare than he does.

The families at Wednesday’s vigil disagreed.

The trial is expected to continue into December.

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