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Maricopa County to pay $1.1M to settle lawsuit over woman's death in Phoenix jail in 2012

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PHOENIX — Maricopa County will pay $1.1 million to the family of a woman who died after a drug withdrawal at a Phoenix jail in 2012.

The county Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed Wednesday to settle the wrongful-death lawsuit, according to the Arizona Republic (http://bit.ly/1pyPERx ).

The suit, which named county Sheriff Joe Arpaio and county Correctional Health Services employees as defendants, alleged Tracy Lynn Johnson died because of negligible and apathetic medical care while in custody.

She was arrested on Aug. 6, 2012, on suspicion of stealing $350 worth of scrap metal in Phoenix and died several days later.

The lawsuit alleged gross negligence during both the medical screening phase and by placing Johnson behind 103 other inmates in line seeking medical care despite her medical condition.

It also alleged that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to the medical needs of their pretrial detainees.

Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox said the vote to move the settlement forward was "the right thing to do."

Supervisors have asked the county manager to work with the Sheriff's Office to prevent these occurrences from happening again, Wilcox said.

The settlement comes at a time when sheriff's administrators are asking a federal judge to remove court-ordered oversight of some aspects of jail operations, including medical care.

The sheriff's jail conditions have been a regular source of criticism of Arpaio and have resulted in lawsuits, including wrongful -death claims.

Since Arpaio took office in 1993, the county has paid about $25 million in settlements and judgments over treatment in county jails.

But sheriff's officials say the county has made strides in making the changes required by the judge, such as expanding screenings for medical issues, suicidal risks and other issues for people who are entering jail. The county also says there are no current systemic constitutional violations within the jails.


Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com

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