I began this blog in May 2009 following the death of Marcia Powell at Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona. It is not intended to prescribe the path that leads to freedom from the prison industrial complex.

Rather, these are just my observations in arguably the most racist, fascist, militaristic state in the nation at a critical time in history for a number of intersecting liberation movements. From Indigenous resistance to genocidal practices, to the fight over laws like SB1070 and the ban on Ethnic Studies, Arizona is at the center of many battles for human rights, and thus the struggle for prison abolition as well - for none are free until all are. I retired the blog in APRIL 2013.

Visit me now at Arizona Prison Watch or Survivors of Prison Violence-AZ

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Accidental State-Assisted Suicide in AZ

Thanks again to Stephen Lemons for digging  a lttile deeper than the AZ Republic is ever willing to go (unless they're kissing someone's ass, in which case they have no limits). This is the first part of the article - you'll have to hit their site to continue. I guess I would have read the statute they refer to as giving the director the authority to CONTINUE medical care - since there was a minimal chance of recovery - not DISCONTINUE medical care.

The indication that Marcia was put in the cage as a sort of suicide watch is disturbing, since that's not policy, and clearly no one was watching. Since she was begging for water and relief from the sun, I can only assume she had changed her mind about wanting to die.

There have been so many cases of abuse, neglect and sexual exploitation throughout the department - the more I hear the more certain I am that we can't be satisfied that the Arizona Department of Corrections will suddenly transform themselves into a gentler, kinder institution. We must get transparency and close citizen oversight there, a strong prisoner rights presence, some kind of support for corrections officers and prisoners who go public, and legislative reforms.


Arizona’s Shameless About the Cage Death of Marcia Powell

Phoenix New Times
September 29, 2009

"Many of Powell's guards say she was given water, though inmates observing Powell in the cage say she was not and that her cries for water were mocked. Why she remained in the cage for so long is not adequately explained. Nor are the actions of a prison psychologist who supposedly ordered Powell "placed in a recreation enclosure" because Powell had threatened suicide if she remained in her cell."


After wading through the Arizona Department of Corrections' recently released doorstop report on the cage death of Marcia Powell, I'm not sure whom I'd rather see get a taste of Powell's open-air sunbake: acting ADC director Charles Ryan, his pathetic excuse for a boss, Governor Jan Brewer, or the simpering keyboard-tapper at the Arizona Republic who just penned an anonymous bravo for Ryan titled, "Corrections boss' candor laudable."

Powell, of course, is the 48-year-old who was locked in a shadeless human cage at Goodyear's Perryville Prison on May 19 and endured 107-degree heat for four or more hours (depending on what part of the report you want to believe), was forced to defecate in her cage and on herself like a dog, and was denied adequate, or any, water (more likely the latter) until she collapsed, apparently of heatstroke.

She did not die at Perryville. Rather, Ryan ordered the plug pulled on her at West Valley Medical Center when doctors there found her case to be hopeless.

Ryan, known to his detractors as "Darth Ryan," told doctors, according to the report, that he would be acting as Marcia Powell's guardian, in lieu of family members. Thing is, Powell already had a court-appointed guardian, Maricopa County's Office of the Public Fiduciary, which labored after Powell's death to find a family member who could take custody of her remains. An adoptive mom wanted nothing to do with the disposition of Powell's body, a representative of the Fiduciary's Office later told a judge looking into the matter.

The ADC's report states that "information regarding the guardianship of [inmate] Powell was not available," but, in fact, there was a record of Powell's guardianship; it's just that Ryan did not have the information. Indeed, the report states that a representative from the Fiduciary's Office had visited Powell in ADC custody in March — less than two months before her death. So ADC should have been aware of Powell's guardian.
The report suggests that Ryan acted within the parameters of the law, citing Arizona Revised Statute 41-1604.01, which states that when any person "under the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections, other than employees," needs emergency medical care, and there's no next of kin or legal guardian available, the ADC director "may authorize the performance of such necessary medical, surgical, or dental service."

However, when an ADC investigator questioned Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Gary Strickland, counsel for the Fiduciary's Office, about the statute, Strickland had a very different interpretation of it.
"Mr. Strickland stated Title 41 did not entitle the director of the Department of Corrections to make the decision to discontinue life-saving measures on Powell," reads the report, "and that his office, the guardian of Marcia Powell, should have been contacted."

Just a niggling detail — all this stuff about a guardian, right? After all, West Valley Medical Center's Dr. Mae Dumlao told an ADC investigator that Powell was "clinically dead" and there was only "an extremely minimal chance" that Powell could have somehow survived her heat-related injuries. Powell was actually having a heart attack as she entered the hospital, which was in "direct relation to heatstroke and hypobulemic [sic] shock."

Particularly chilling is the description by Dr. Kevin Hiselhorse, who treated Powell upon her arrival to the hospital. Hiselhorse confirmed that "Powell's eyes were dilated and fixed, which indicated brain damage due to her body temperature exceeding 108 degrees." Hiselhorse explained that he could only get a temp of 108 degrees "because thermometers in healthcare only go as high as 108."

Hiselhorse also informed the ADC investigator that he had never seen a patient recover from a 108-degree temperature and that "at that temperature, the body's organs began to melt and the brain begins to coagulate."

(finish article at the New Times' site)

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