Arizona prison health care trial begins In Phoenix

Lena Weib

Kendall Johnson was a healthy 19-year-old who liked playing basketball when she entered the Perryville women’s prison in 2004. Now, at 37, she is confined to a wheelchair — a result of multiple sclerosis that went undiagnosed and untreated for years. Speaking via videoconference, Johnson testified in federal court Monday that she spends most of her time watching TV and “counting the ceiling tiles” in a special needs medical unit at Perryville.

“I’m pretty much not allowed to go outside,” she told the court.

Johnson was the first of eight incarcerated witnesses scheduled to testify over the next three weeks in a trial that could impact the way Arizona administers health care in state prisons, Jensen v. Shinn.

U.S. District Court Judge Roslyn Silver is presiding over the trial after rescinding a settlement agreement approved more than six years ago. The judge determined the Department of Corrections failed to live up to self-imposed benchmarks established to raise the level of care in Arizona’s 10 state-run prisons.

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