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N4T Investigators: Care Contempt - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

N4T Investigators: Care Contempt

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TUCSON – The family of a Tucson inmate is celebrating a judge’s contempt order involving the Arizona Department of Corrections' prison healthcare.

The state settled a lawsuit in 2014. The settlement required ADC to meet 103 specific standards to improve care. A judge fined the state $1,445,000 for not complying last month.

Tony Lester’s family joined that lawsuit. Lester died as an inmate at the Tucson correctional facility.

Patti Jones is Lester’s aunt. She said her nephew suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, having multiple personalities.

“Sylar that was the personality that commanded him to kill himself or hurt others,” Jones said.

Lester was in prison for assault with a knife.

“He was trying to kill himself,” Jones said. “He cut his neck, and 2 of the very close friends tried to take the knife. And he started swinging the knife around.”

While in the county jail, he was medicated so he could stand trial.

Jones said Lester told her, “‘I don't ever want to hurt anybody, and I don't want to hurt myself. So you have to make sure I stay on my medication.’”

Jones said he was not taking his medication in prison. He was communicating through letters.

“At the bottom of that letter, it said ‘Sylar,’” Jones said. “So I knew right at that point I was helpless. I couldn't help him. I knew something bad was going to happen.”

Lester cut himself in his cell. Corrections officers recorded video as they waited for the fire department. The officers were not giving first aid in the video.

“No care,” Jones said. “He was treated less than how we treat our animals, pathetic, disgusting, inhumane, unconstitutional.”

The state admitted some inmate deaths could have been prevented or delayed with better healthcare, according to the judge’s decision.

The state hired a company called Corizon to help meet the court’s standards.

The judge wrote, “The State turned to a private contractor which has been unable to meet the prisoner's health care needs. Rather than push its contractor to meet those needs, the State has instead paid them more.”

Corizon wrote about the decision on its website.

“We're proud of our team and the gains they have made to improve the quality of Arizona's prison health program,” according to a Corizon article.

ADC spokesman Andrew Wilder wrote in an email, “it is still disappointing that he chose to issue such a controversial ruling on the same day he leaves the federal bench. The Arizona Department of Corrections strongly disagrees with his ruling and is confident that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will reverse it because it is contrary to both the evidence and the law.”

Jones realizes the fine is not much compared to the department’s budget.

“This has brought out and shined light on the inhumane treatment,” she said.

Lester was scheduled for release next January.

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