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

David Rovics: We Are Everywhere

To my fellow activists now struggling through life - let this be a reminder that you are not alone and that we desperately need you here. All the injustice, grief, war, and human suffering calls for us to stay and do everything we can about it - you can't help us anymore when you're gone. Don't give up the fight - your last shred of hope may just keep someone else alive, too.

Monday, June 25, 2012

MCSO Brutality: Catching up to the killers of Marty Atencio

I read this and wept. Thank you to Stephen Lemons for staying on it...

Marty Atencio, beaten, tased, stripped and left to die 
by cops and guards in a "safe cell" at the 4th Avenue Jail
Phoenix, December 15 2011

----------from the Phoenix New Times-----------

Jailhouse Goons Make Fun Of and Kill a Mentally Ill Inmate
By Stephen Lemons
Thursday, Jun 14 2012

It takes a twisted individual to delight in the sufferings of the mentally ill. A special type of sick, sadistic bully. The kind employed in spades by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.

The December 16 killing of Army veteran Marty Atencio is the latest example of the above, one of the most recent in a string of corpses that punctuates the timeline of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's nearly 20-year career as this county's top lawman.

As reported last week in my Feathered Bastard blog, the Atencio family's attorney, Mike Manning, has filed notices of claim, totaling $20 million, with both the city of Phoenix and Maricopa County in Atencio's brutal demise at the hands of Phoenix cops and MCSO detention officers working in the Fourth Avenue Jail.

Since the 44-year-old's death occurred just hours after the U.S. Department of Justice issued its scathing report on the MCSO's pattern of discriminatory policing, racial profiling, and abuse of Latinos in Joe's gulags, much has been revealed about the circumstances surrounding the Atencio homicide.

The county medical examiner's autopsy noted Atencio's history of mental illness and hospitalization for psychosis.

Toxicology results from specimens, including those taken at St. Joseph's Hospital hours after Atencio's arrest earlier that day, showed no illicit drugs in Atencio's system.

Phoenix Police Department reports reveal that Atencio generally was passive and compliant during the two encounters with Phoenix cops that culminated in his arrest on December 15.

Indeed, Atencio "showed no signs of being a danger to himself or others," according to Phoenix Officer Sarah Roberts.

Rather, Atencio "simply appeared to be not medicated and engaged in very random conversation," Roberts said.

Atencio was arrested in West Phoenix for scaring a resident, Cathy Boyd, after kicking the apartment door of her neighbor.

Manning quotes from Boyd's affidavit recounting details of the incident:

"Marty did not physically threaten me at any time . . . I knew there was something wrong with him, and I just wanted him to . . . get some help."

Apparently, Atencio was treated well until he was taken to Arpaio's infamous jail, where cruelty is king and an idiotic environment pervades.

The most damning evidence of Atencio's mistreatment comes from interviews with detention officers and Phoenix cops carried out within days, sometimes within hours, of Atencio's beat-down and Tasing, referred to euphemistically by the Medical Examiner's Office as a "law enforcement subdual."

The interviews were done by MCSO detectives. Manning's law office obtained them through a public-records request.

Apparently, Atencio's mind at the time was like that of a child's. Disoriented, spouting nonsensical comments, he often referred to himself in the third person as "Tony" and seemed to be mimicking Robin Williams' character in Good Morning, Vietnam.

Some detention officers and cops thought Atencio was on drugs, claiming that he told someone during his stay in Fourth Avenue that he had smoked meth earlier in the day.

But toxicology reports don't lie. Cops and detention officers are another story. Soon after Atencio was taken, brain dead, to St. Joe's, they were making assumptions to rationalize their behavior.

Thing is, the breakdown in law enforcement discipline — including a Phoenix cop's pushing Atencio with his cuffed hands bent awkwardly and painfully — cannot be rationalized.

It also included MCSO detention officers mocking and humiliating Atencio as they took his mug shot.

"They encouraged him to make funny faces and . . . kept saying, 'Let's make this one the Mug Shot of the Week,'" one witness said.

Another witness noted that when they took Atencio's picture, "It was a big joke" and "they all stood around and laughed about it."

This hilarity turned deadly once Atencio was surrounded by officers demanding that he remove his shoes. When in Phoenix custody, cops had gotten Atencio to take off his shoes by just being patient and repeating their request. Here, Phoenix police and MCSO guards were far from patient.

Two Phoenix police officers who were there to help process detainees initiated what Manning calls a "jailers' riot," even though Atencio was standing before them, arms crossed, presenting no threat.

The notice of claim identifies the Phoenix cops as Patrick Hanlon and Nicholas French.

Several MCSO gendarmes joined the fray, in what one onlooker called "a big ol' dog pile." Though Atencio was smothered by officers, MCSO Sergeant Jason Weiers Tased Atencio several times.

Anthony Hatton, a detention officer who since has left the MCSO, punched Atencio in the face three times. Hatton claimed the strikes were necessary, but a couple of his fellow guards did not agree.

"He shouldn't have been punching him," detention Officer Sergio Salinas told investigators. "It was excessive."

Later, after Atencio was hauled to a "safe cell," where he would be stripped of clothing and left to die, Hatton continued the abuse, kneeing Atencio as guards held him down.

Detention officer Blas Gabrial told detectives that he yelled Hatton's name upon seeing the force used on Atencio. When asked why, he said, "Because I didn't think it was necessary."

While Atencio was lying motionless and naked in the safe cell, where he would breathe his last breath without life support, what were many of these men and women of law enforcement doing?

Laughing, joking, and cutting up like teenagers. Video shows two women — one in uniform — dancing and bumping butts. Hatton laughs and demonstrates what looks like a fighting move to other officers. A Phoenix cop eats an orange and grins.

Minutes later, they're all gathering around the door, precious seconds slipping away as they take their time getting it open.

"[Prisoners] play that game a lot," Weiers told an investigator, referring to Atencio's stillness. "You know, playing like they're dead."

Atencio wasn't playing. He already was gone. But CPR was performed, and he was rushed to St. Joe's. On December 20, his family removed him from life support.

If you saw grown men and women abusing a mentally ill or disabled person, would you do something about it?

Likely so. Which is why, ultimately, I blame the voters of Maricopa County for what happened to Atencio.

They've been told about a lot of such brutality in Arpaio's jails over the years and, so far, have looked the other way.

Previous Posts: 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Shut Down Tent City, June 2012

Showing support for the protest outside Arpaio's Tent City last night. Anarchists weren't welcome by the peace-loving crowd there, though, and I had a big sign that said "Fuck Power and Their Police," so we left (after I made a pass in front of all the police lines with my message).

Friday, June 22, 2012

Resisting SB1070, Tent City, and White History's Lies

Excellent reflection below by the director of Puente Arizona on the immigrant rights movement this eve of the decision about SB 1070 from the US Supreme Court. 
Signs of resistance by Peggy Plews. 
Please come out to this weekend's:

Saturday, April 23, 2012 at 8pm. 
2939 W. Durango Street
"Imagine no prisons..."
maricopa county jail: tent city
phoenix AZ april 2011

----------------as posted at

Arizona, Arpaio and SB1070 Spur Crusade for Immigrant Rights


The migrant rights movement in this country is about to enter a new phase and every person, no matter their position, will have to decide how they will relate to it.

While many are waiting to see the decision of the Supreme Court related to the Department of Justice’s SB1070 case, a human rights crisis of epic proportions is already roiling in Arizona.

The status quo we face now and the results of even the best possible decision from the Supreme Court still represent a steady march toward anti-immigrant attrition that the state has constructed over years. First we faced efforts to restrict our ability to function in society: drivers’ license bans, denial of social services, and English only rules. Then they built ways to humiliate and dehumanize us through Sheriff Arpaio’s outdoor jails and Florence’s expanding penal colonies.

From 2007 to 2010, even before SB1070 was introduced, our community faced checkpoints, bore witness to women forced to give birth in shackles, and traveled to work and school on a daily basis already wondering if we would reunite with our families and loved ones at the end of each day. In 2010, Arizona sought to erase us from history with a ban on ethnic studies and remove us altogether through SB1070.

In what amounts to a state of war by attrition on our community, it could get worse this summer as we expect that the injunction will be lifted on some of the remaining portions of SB1070. Further criminalization and tools demanding all law enforcement to investigate and deport in massive numbers is set to become law.

But that will not be our future. We are on the move, and we’re not going anywhere. We’re not running away as the authors of SB1070 had hoped, we’re moving our communities forward, and we will not let the last violent gasps of a dying generation’s prejudice stop us.

This struggle has both destroyed parts of our community and made us stronger. In the past years, we have learned important lessons and developed new ways to fight. The name ‘Arizona’ currently is a mark of embarrassment that makes people think of bigotry. But in the not too distant future, people will think of the birthplace of a new human rights movement when they hear talk about the state.

For more than a decade, we petitioned Congress for immigration reform only to be kicked around as a political football by both parties. We hoped things would change with President Obama but instead of feeling our pain, he caused more of it. Instead of executive action to grant us relief, he gave us record deportations and unprecedented quotas. When all else failed, we looked at the courts but even they seem ready to deny us our humanity.

Since Governor Brewer signed the bill meant to send us running, migrant communities have responded by losing our fear and peacefully defending ourselves. By learning our rights and more importantly, how to defend them when law enforcement tries to ignore them, we have created networks of protection that are prepared for the raids and the wrongful arrests. We have deepened our culture and celebrated our vision for a world without hate. People who before hid in our homes for fear of being picked up by police now are leading marches and supporting neighbors in efforts to keep our families together.

If Arpaio wants to find us, we will instead find him because we have learned that we are safer coming out of the shadows than living in them. When undocumented people confront the system, it crumbles and it becomes clear that they are more afraid of us than we are of them.
If undocumented people are willing to risk everything by confronting Sheriff Joe Arpaio, what are other supporters, allies, and family members willing to do?

As more of SB1070 is poised to go into effect and federal policies spread the same nation-wide, what will you do as we learn to defend our neighborhoods?

We have declared that we will not comply with hate. Every single person and institution must make the same evaluation. Will the federal government willingly deport Sheriff Arpaio’s victims when he hands over those caught in his raids? Will school districts agree to ask kindergarteners for the documents? Will neighbors draw the shades when checkpoints go up on their block?

Or will we refuse to comply and as a result prevent SB1070’s strategy from working?

SB1070 signs of resistance
AZ State Capitol, PHX
June 22, 2012
If they are coming for us now, they will be coming for you next. Immigrants are today’s scapegoats but there will be someone next to blame and fill the private prisons.

As undocumented people fill the vacuum of leadership on these issues and demonstrate real courage, all of us are called to follow their example.

The truth is that the suffering in Arizona isn’t caused by the cold hearts and bigoted minds of our adversaries. It is the apathetic souls of those who look upon Arizona and stand idly by. Perhaps people hear ‘immigrant’ and believe it does not apply to them or that we somehow deserve the treatment we receive.

White fear of the re-browning of this continent and general worry over unemployment and economic security has turned many against migrants as an easy scapegoat. But if we look deeply enough, we see that we hold in common both the cause of our troubles and the solution to our suffering. Around the world, people are toppling those who have ruled by broken promises and brutal policies. Arizona and the US will be no exception.

Change has always come when people challenged and broke unjust laws. Nonviolent civil disobedience has been used to historically to challenge racism and inequality from factory floors to lunch counters and buses.

And so, this is a call to action whether you are a community member directly affected, consider yourself an ally, or someone who up until now has been a bystander in the immigration battles. The undocumented youth movement has set an example of what it is to be unafraid, and the bravery they display far outweighs the courage elected officials lack. They have proven that the safest place for anyone targeted by these laws is out, proud, and part of an organized community.

As the migrant rights movement steps into this new phase, we do not do it alone. Allies can harbor anyone targeted, hire anyone fired, and refuse to allow Arizona or Arpaio to become the new normal. At the end of June, we will rally together in Phoenix at Sheriff Arpaio’s self-described ‘concentration camp,’ tent city and begin a summer of resistance in the state and across the country where these laws and their champions are calling for a challenge.

The present may feel heavy but the future is bright. Because love always overcomes hate. Our numbers are on our side. The truth is on our side. With or without those in power, history is on our side. We just have to put our shoulders to the gears of history and push.

Carlos Garcia is the director of Puente Arizona, a Phoenix-based human rights organization dedicated to empowering migrant communities.

Freewayblogging the SB1070 Resistance
Phoenix, AZ (July 28, 2010)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Marty Atencio's family fights back and files suit.

Thanks JJ and the AZ Republic for keeping up with this tragic case...and to Marty's family for holding the real bad guys accountable...

Marty Atencio

-----------from the Arizona Republic-------------

$20M claim alleges excessive force in AZ inmate's death

by JJ Hensley
Arizona Republic
June 8, 2012

The family of a man who died in December following an altercation with police and detention officers in a Maricopa County jail has filed a $20 million notice of claim against the city of Phoenix, the Sheriff's Office and the county agency responsible for health care in the jails.

The claim, filed Friday, alleges that excessive force, coupled with a series of failures by medical professionals to tend to Ernest "Marty" Atencio, contributed to the 44-year-old's death in December.

Atencio died four days after he was removed from a "safe cell" in the Fourth Avenue Jail.

document The notice of claim (WARNING: Contains graphic images)

The Maricopa County medical examiner last week issued a report that concluded that Atencio died of cardiac arrest, acute psychosis, medical problems and "law-enforcement subdual," but the report did not list a manner of death.

Atencio's family believes that the manner of death was homicide, committed at the hands of sheriff's detention officers in an altercation that began when two Phoenix police officers began to struggle with Atencio after he refused to remove his left shoe. They wanted the shoe removed to be scanned as he prepared to enter the jail.

The Phoenix officers took Atencio to the ground, and surveillance footage shows the detention officers dragging Atencio into a safe cell, where the number of officers in the small cell obscured their actions from the camera.
A safe cell is a room designed to reduce inmates' ability to injure themselves or others.

The claim contends that at least one officer punched Atencio and that another officer shocked Atencio with a stun gun six times, with several of those strikes coming within inches of his heart.

The notice of claim is a necessary precursor to a lawsuit against a public entity. State law requires a claim to list a dollar amount for which it can be settled. Atencio's family set that amount at $5 million for Phoenix police and $15 million for the county agencies.

The Sheriff's Office is continuing to investigate the incident and declined comment.

A pair of Phoenix police officers contacted Atencio twice on the night he was detained.

During the first contact, outside a convenience store, officers noticed that Atencio was acting erratically and told him to go home. Moments later, the officers received a call about a man kicking at a woman's apartment door in the 2800 block of West Laurel Lane. The officers recognized Atencio as the man they had encountered outside the convenience store, and they arrested him after the woman requested prosecution.

When Atencio arrived at the Fourth Avenue Jail's intake area -- where inmates are screened for medical and mental-health concerns and the most serious are supposed to receive immediate attention -- officers recognized his signs of mental illness but failed to respond, according to the claim.

"She (mental-health professional Monica Scarpati) admitted that she did not complete a full assessment of Marty and sent him to an isolation cell," the claim states. "Ms. Scarpati and (Correctional Health Services nurse Bill McClean) fell below the applicable standard of care by, in RN McClean's words, 'accepting' Marty into the jail and not doing anything to make sure that Marty got the immediate medical attention that he so obviously needed and deserved."

According to the claim, as Atencio waited for further processing, other officers noticed his mental state and began mocking him. According to an interview with an inmate who was nearby at the time, one officer thought Atencio's mug shot could be featured on the Sheriff's Office website that posts booking photos.

"An MCSO lieutenant stated in an interview that the process of taking Marty's photo was, 'Ah, you know, it's kinda comical,'" according to the claim.

As Atencio prepared to leave the booking area, he became uncooperative with Phoenix officers but was not violent or combative, according to interviews with officers contained in the claim.

Surveillance video shows that when a Phoenix officer placed his arm around Atencio's neck and took him to the ground, nearby officers joined in the effort to subdue Atencio. His family called the events that followed a "jailers' riot."

The claim does not request any damages from the Medical Examiner's Office, but it does allege that the office attempted to shield the county from liability by failing to name a manner of death from one of the four descriptions: suicide, homicide, natural causes or accidental.

"The medical examiner's report is part science and part defensive doublespeak designed to deflect and limit the county's liability," the claim states. "The notion that Marty's manner of death is 'undetermined' is a farcical sleight of hand by the county. The cardiac arrest was induced by the 'law-enforcement subdual,' so it was obviously a 'homicide,' i.e., caused at the hands of other human beings."

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ortega: AZ Prisons deadly for the sick.

AZ Crime Victim's Memorial
Wes Bolin Plaza, Phoenix
March 9, 2012
Here's the moving slideshow of prisoners put together by the AZ Republic for this series...check it out at the source.

-------from the Arizona Republic--------

Arizona Prisons Can be Deadly for the Sick
by Bob Ortega
Arizona Republic
June 4, 2012

For two years, Ferdinand Dix repeatedly filed requests with Arizona's Tucson state prison staff, asking to be examined for a chronic cough, shortness of breath and loss of appetite.

When Dix, who was serving five years on forgery and drug charges, finally received a checkup, the doctor didn't notice cancer had caused his liver to swell to four times its normal size. He told Dix to drink energy shakes.

It wasn't until he was "nonresponsive" and had been transported to an outside hospital that Dix was diagnosed with small-cell lung cancer. He died a few days later, on Feb. 11. He was 47.

Dix's case is cited in a federal lawsuit accusing the Arizona Department of Corrections of medical neglect. It's a charge the system has faced before, from activists, inmates' families and at least one Arizona lawmaker.

Citing the litigation, Corrections officials declined to discuss Dix's care.

A review by The Arizona Republic of deaths in state prisons over the past two fiscal years found at least four inmates, in addition to Dix, whose medical care was delayed or potentially inadequate leading up to their deaths. The records of these cases, together with interviews of officers, medical staff and inmates point to a system in which correctional officers routinely deny inmates access to timely care, and in which treatment sometimes falls short of accepted standards.

These deaths are among dozens of examples of preventable deaths uncovered in a broad investigation by The Republic into high rates of suicide, homicide and accidental deaths in state prisons.

Corrections Director Charles Ryan denies that health care in Arizona's prisons is inadequate or that there is an institutional indifference toward ailing inmates.

But Corrections officials do acknowledge that a long-planned privatization of prison medical care has made it difficult to fill vacancies. They also say care has been hobbled for more than a year by cuts to outside contractor payments, which state lawmakers imposed two years ago.

Allegations of substandard care, however, predate those developments. For example, the suit in which Dix is named -- filed in March by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Prison Law Office of San Quentin, Calif., -- lists dozens of allegations of inmates waiting months for medicine or medical treatment, and suffering permanent damage and disfigurement as a result.

"Our correctional health care is shocking; it's unacceptable," Rep. Cecil Ash, a Mesa Republican, told his fellow lawmakers last year.

Ash warned that providing inadequate care not only harmed inmates, it also exposed the state to costly lawsuits. His effort to fund improved care for prisoners garnered little support in the Legislature.

"They're out of sight, out of mind. And they don't vote," he said of inmates.
There is also a general lack of public sympathy for prisoners, particularly those who have committed heinous crimes.

Take Carey Wheatley, a convicted child molester serving a life term. He was 49 when he died of pneumonia on April 24, 2011, while in solitary confinement at the Florence state prison. For days leading up to his death, nurses offered him only the pain reliever acetaminophen, according to the Pinal County medical examiner's report.

Medical experts say antibiotics or antivirals are the standard course of treatment for bronchial pneumonia.

When Daniel Porter, who shot to death two clerks at a Circle K store in Tucson in 1986, was sentenced in 1992 to life on two murder charges, he begged to be put to death. But the Superior Court judge ruled that the murders were the result of mental illness -- paranoid schizophrenia -- which caused Porter to believe the clerks were trying to poison him. He also noted that Porter had been beaten and sexually abused as a child by his father and stepfather, and had been in and out of mental hospitals beginning when he was 13.

When Porter died, it was the result of hyponatremia, a chronic sodium deficiency that causes excessive thirst. Porter drank gallon after gallon of water for days, while correctional officers yelled at him to stop drinking or occasionally hit him with pepper spray, according to a report by Corrections investigators. He died in solitary confinement at Eyman state prison on Feb. 20, having literally drunk himself to death with water. Corrections officials listed his death as "accidental."

"His sodium deficiency was well documented," said Porter's sister, Elaine Faith.
"That he was allowed to go two, three days drinking that much water and they knew about it and didn't take him in because he needed IV therapy."

"I know nothing can bring my brother back, but prisoners deserve at least humane medical treatment," Faith said.

Kenneth Lucas, 65, died Oct. 4 at the Eyman state prison of a heart attack -- "natural causes," according to Corrections. But according to the same lawsuit that cites Dix's death, when Lucas collapsed in his housing unit the day before, other prisoners yelled to officers to contact medical staff but officers didn't take action.

Another inmate, finding no pulse, performed CPR, and Lucas began breathing again.

Officers then took him to the medical unit, where an appointment was set for a few days later. He died before he could be seen by medical staff.

The inmate who had performed CPR on Lucas was disciplined for breaking a rule that prohibits inmates from performing medical procedures, according to the lawsuit.

A Corrections spokesman declined comment on the case, citing the litigation.
Donna Hamm, a former state judge and prisoner advocate, said incarceration is the punishment for prisoners, not inadequate health care. And Arizona has a constitutionally mandated obligation to provide adequate care to prisoners, she said.

"The delays are just incredible," she says. "I've advocated for people who've been diagnosed with a lump or growth and who are supposed to be biopsied and have to wait six months, eight months, extraordinary amounts of time before being diagnosed."

A class-action ACLU suit alleges that medical and mental-health care in Arizona's prison system is so inadequate as to be unconstitutional and demands improvements in access to and quality of care, and "timely and competent" emergency response.

By the end of June, Wexford Health Sources Inc. of Pittsburgh will assume responsibility for medical and mental-health care at Arizona's state prisons under a three-year, $349 million contract. Wexford's contract includes performance standards for inmate care, including deadlines for inmates to be seen following a request for care and guarantees that prescriptions will be filled within a specific time.

The Department has struggled in the past two years with a medical-staff vacancy rate consistently higher than 20 percent, among other problems. Corrections spending on medical care fell 27 percent from fiscal 2009 to 2011, to $111.3 million, or an average of $3,258 an inmate.

Critics, though, citing Wexford's mixed record elsewhere, are skeptical about whether it will improve care. Regardless, Daniel Pochoda, the ACLU's Arizona director, said the change in management won't alter the legal demands for improvements in the suit.

Michelle Lependorf, the sister of Ferdinand Dix, said that she hopes the lawsuit leads to improved care.

"The real Ferdinand was loving, charming, fun to be around and caring," she said. Because of poor medical care, "the person they turned him into was angry, in pain, suffering and mistreated. ... He should have had a chance to live. They gave him none."

Ortega: AZ prisons deadlier than most...

mural and post-production rendering by Margaret J Plews     Photo by Robert Haasch
Sandra Day O'Connor Federal Courthouse, Phoenix
November 2010

Here's the moving slideshow of prisoners put together by the AZ Republic for this series...check it out at the source.

-------from the Arizona Republic--------

by Bob Ortega
Arizona Republic
June 5, 2012
At least seven Arizona inmates have been murdered over the past two years, a prison-homicide rate more than double the national average, an Arizona Republic investigation shows.

The killings have occurred amid rising violence behind bars. Between fiscal 2009 and 2011, as the state's prison population rose by less than 6 percent, inmate-on-inmate assaults jumped 90 percent, to 1,478, and assaults on corrections staff rose 18 percent, to 362.

The Republic investigation found two common threads in a majority of the killings: inmates housed with violent cell mates and inmates targeted by groups or gangs.

Among the victims was Eduardo Martinez, 51, who was beaten to death in the Yuma state prison in December, reportedly by the same men who six months earlier had assaulted him at the Florence state prison.

Martinez was serving time for writing bad checks, the result of his addiction to the painkiller Oxycontin, according to his mother, Helen Martinez. She says that her son had told her during his time at the Florence prison that he was being pressured to sell drugs for other inmates and that when he refused, the inmates had assaulted him, breaking his jaw. He thought he would be safe after he was moved to Yuma, but shortly before he was killed, he told Helen that the same men who assaulted him in Florence had been transferred to Yuma, she says.

Echoing the families of several prison-murder victims, Helen Martinez says she has been told little about the murder. "They haven't told me anything. I've asked and asked, and I get no response."

Corrections officials declined to comment on Martinez's death, saying only that they have referred the case to Yuma County for prosecution.

Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan denies the rising murder and assault rates indicate there's a problem with violence in the prison system.

He attributes the increase in assaults, in part, to staffing cuts before he became director in 2009 and to a change in how the department defines them. Ryan says his predecessor recorded assaults only that resulted in injury. The department now records a range of incidents as assaults, from inmates flinging urine or feces at officers through their cell's food slots, to attacks with crude weapons in which inmates or officers are badly injured.

Ryan predicted assault rates will remain the same or decline slightly for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. Having more corrections officers will improve safety for inmates and officers, he said.

Arizona's prison-murder rate equates to 8.75 murders per 100,000 inmates, while the national rate is four. (There are about 40,000 inmates in Arizona prisons.)

In at least three inmate murders over the past two years, the victims were killed by their cell mates, according to the department.

Two murders took place in two-man maximum-security cells at Eyman state prison: Jeremy Pompeneo, 25, serving a life term for murder, was killed on May 31, 2011. Nolan Pierce, 23, serving 25.5 years for burglary and armed robbery, was strangled on March 16, according to the Corrections Department.

"I talked to him four days before, and he sounded like everything was fine," said Mackenzie Smith, Pierce's girlfriend. She said the warden at Eyman told her several weeks after Pierce's murder that they had a confession. But neither she nor Pierce's mother has heard anything more, she said. "If the cell mate admitted to murdering him, why is it taking so long for the investigation?" she asked.

Prison officials said they have referred Pierce's and Pompeneo's cases to prosecutors.

The third cell-mate victim was Shannon Palmer, 40, a mentally ill man sentenced to three years in prison for climbing a utility tower during a thunderstorm. He was placed in an isolation cell at the Lewis state prison with a murderer, Jasper Rushing, who later told a PhoenixNew Times reporter that he slit Palmer's throat and castrated him on Sept. 10, 2010, because Palmer wouldn't stop talking.

Ron Ozer, an attorney representing Palmer's family in a wrongful-death suit against the state, said corrections officers should never have put Palmer in a cell with Rushing, nor should they have given Rushing access to the razor blade he used to kill Palmer. "If the Department of Corrections had followed its own policies, this murder would never have taken place," Ozer said.

Margaret Plews, who runs the Arizona Prison Watch website and monitors prison deaths, agreed that corrections officials should not have housed a mentally ill inmate with a murderer.

A corrections spokesman declined to comment on Palmer's death, citing the family's lawsuit against the state. The department has disciplined three officers involved in placing Palmer with Rushing.

Little is known of the circumstances surrounding two prison murders.
Shon Wilder, 33, who was serving nearly 20 years for car theft and extortion, was murdered at Winslow state prison on April 20, according to officials.
James Jennings, 59, who was serving three years for assault, was originally listed as dying of "natural causes" at Eyman in September 2010. Corrections officials now say that Jennings died of "blunt-force trauma" and that the case was "referred to the County Attorney's Office. However, they declined prosecution."

County medical examiners refused to release the autopsy reports in these cases, citing homicide investigations. Family members of the victims couldn't be reached.

The seventh murder acknowledged by the department is that of Dana Seawright, who was found stabbed in his cell at the Lewis state prison on July 8, 2010. While the Corrections Department has not released other details, the inmate's mother, Kini Seawright, says her son, who was Black, was murdered by a Black prison gang because he failed to carry out their order to attack a Mexican inmate.

More murders may have occurred during the two years examined by The Republic, including one described by the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office as "extremely suspicious for foul play."

The death of David Moreno, 40, who was serving a life term for murder when he died in his two-man cell at the Lewis state prison on Jan. 12, 2011, is listed as "under investigation." The autopsy report by the medical examiner notes that although Moreno was found hanging in his cell, and his cell mate claimed to be away using the phone at the time, "the cell mate's story was not consistent with the scene findings, and the cell mate had rope-type abrasions over his hands."
The report also noted contusions on Moreno's mouth and arms, suggesting he had been hit, a mop and bucket with red fluid found in the unit, and other details that couldn't be explained by a supposed suicide.

Corrections officials declined to comment on the Moreno case.

Fights and assaults on inmates range widely. Daily incident reports obtained by The Republic for May listed, among many other incidents, a fight on May 18 at the Yuma state prison's Dakota unit, involving 75 prisoners. Order was restored in less than 10 minutes, and only one inmate was transported for medical treatment as a result of the incident, according to officials.

On May 8 an inmate at the Douglas prison was stabbed 10 times on his abdomen and arm with a homemade weapon, and an inmate at Florence's Central Unit had to be airlifted with a collapsed lung to a hospital after being stabbed with a 5-inch piece of wire. On May 31, in one of five assaults that day, an inmate at Florence's East Unit had his arm broken by two other inmates. None of the reports explained the attacks.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Ortega: The prisons, their drugs, and our dead.

 Carlo Steven Krakoff

Here's the moving slideshow of prisoners put together by the AZ Republic for this series...check it out at the source.

-------from the Arizona Republic--------

 Arizona Prisons Struggle With Drugs

Bob Ortega
Arizona Republic
June 3, 2012

Orion Wilkins was a drug addict, hooked on painkillers he'd begun taking to fight the pain of an old high-school football injury.

In 2008, he used a wrapped block of Velveeta cheese, claiming it was a bomb, to rob several Valley pharmacies of pain pills to feed his addiction. He was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to 101/2 years in prison.

Three years later, on Dec. 7, 2011, Wilkins, 35, died of a drug overdose inside the Arizona state prison in Florence.

The presence of illegal drugs inside what are supposed to be the most secure buildings in the state has led to the deaths of at least seven inmates from overdoses, all involving heroin, over the past two years. The state Department of Corrections classified the deaths as accidental.

The Arizona Republic investigated these deaths as part of a broader look at the high rates of suicide, homicide and accidental deaths in Arizona's state prisons. The ability of inmates to get drugs and hypodermic needles while behind bars suggests that the Department of Corrections has its own drug problem: a porous security system that allows a steady flow of drugs to be smuggled into the state prison system by inmates, visitors and prison staff.

Department inspections in the year after three inmates escaped from the Arizona State Prison-Kingman in 2010 repeatedly revealed that officers at most prisons failed to properly search and screen staff and visitors. The department says it has improved security procedures.

Late last month, a multi-agency investigation, including Corrections, initiated by the Chandler Police Department, made 44 arrests and seized 32 pounds of heroin and 5 pounds of cocaine and uncovered a drug ring connected to a state prison.

A spokesman for the Arizona attorney general said one woman arrested had planned to take 10 ounces of heroin to the state prison's Lewis Complex in Buckeye. A family with three brothers inside state prisons operated the ring and had smuggled heroin in several times before, she said.

The Attorney General's Office did not release details of how the drugs were smuggled in.

Corrections officials say that drugs, cellphones and other contraband can enter prisons via visitors, incoming mail, off-site inmate work crews and staff. Corrections director Charles Ryan noted an incident two years ago at the Lewis unit in which a corrections officer was caught bringing in burritos stuffed with two cellphones and a package of marijuana. But he says that inmate visitors are the biggest source of drugs.

"We have visitors who may secrete contraband in a body cavity, and then pass it to an inmate who will secrete it in his body cavity," Ryan said. To combat that, he says, the department uses drug-detection and cellphone-detection dogs. "We also search visitors through a screening device where a fan blows across the visitor, the dog sits on other side of a wire-mesh fence, and the dog will alert if there is contraband," Ryan said.

Whether smuggled in by visitors, as Ryan says, or staff, as inmates and some corrections officers allege, drugs continue to get through. Internal incident reports for 28 days in May obtained by The Republic show that every day, correctional officers find heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana and spice, along with syringes and contraband cellphones that inmates can use to communicate with drug suppliers on the outside. During cell searches, officers frequently catch inmates hurriedly flushing objects down their toilets.

Examples from the incident reports:

On May 6, an officer at the state prison's Manzanita Unit in Tucson spotted a balloon, apparently filled with drugs, that fell out of the pants of an inmate who was being visited by his brother and sister. On the same day an inmate in solitary at the Eyman Complex in Florence was taken to Anthem Hospital with an apparent drug overdose.

On May 9, an assistant deputy warden at the state prison's Cheyenne Unit in Yuma was caught bringing a cellphone into the prison in her lunch bag. Corrections officials have not responded to queries about this incident, which was not publicly disclosed.

On May 23, a Tucson city employee spotted someone tossing a package over a fence to an inmate work crew. Inside the package were four bubble-wrapped cellphones.

On May 26, in separate incidents at four prisons, corrections officers found two packets of drugs, two syringes, a cellphone and, at the Florence prison's central unit, four gallons of alcohol in an inmate's cell.
Three-quarters of arriving inmates have significant substance-abuse histories, according to Corrections records, yet only one in 13 received substance-abuse treatment last fiscal year. A spokesman for the department said inmates usually don't receive treatment until they approach the end of their sentence.

The heroin-overdose death of Anthony Braun at the Lewis Complex on Nov. 14 has raised other questions about the problems of drugs in state prisons.

Tony Braun

An anonymous May 1 e-mail to prisoner advocate Peg Plews alleged that two correctional officers assigned to Braun's housing unit failed to do their security checks for at least four hours before inmates notified them Braun was having problems. The e-mail alleged one officer was asleep in the control room, and questioned whether Braun might have been saved if officers had done their jobs properly.

Corrections spokesman Bill Lamoreaux confirmed that one officer was dismissed, another resigned and a sergeant was demoted as a result of the incident, though he could not confirm whether it was for failing to conduct security checks. He said the case was referred to the Maricopa County attorney for possible charges against other inmates.

The mothers of two dead inmates blame the availability of drugs behind bars for the deaths of their sons.

Roberta Wilkins, the mother of Orion Wilkins, said her son became addicted to pain pills he started taking for back injuries from playing football. In an interview, she wept over his death but didn't excuse his crime. "It doesn't matter; he threatened and terrified people. We discussed his crimes and how stupid and idiotic they were."

But she said he had seemed to be drug free and was gaining weight for several months before his death.

Cynthia Krakoff's son, Carlo Krakoff, died of a heroin overdose in prison in Tucson on July 31, 2011. A former child actor who played the young Spock in "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock," he became addicted to the pain medication Oxycontin after his jaw was damaged in a tonsillectomy, says his mother. As the addiction progressed, it changed him, she said.

"He was always so levelheaded and loving," Cynthia said, especially toward his son, now four. "Then at a detox facility in Phoenix, they treated him with Methadone. He met some low-life people there, and all of sudden he was stoned all the time."

Cynthia said she was shocked when Carlo was arrested in 2009 on suspicion of robbing several Phoenix-area pharmacies with a gun. But she was more shocked when he died 15 months into his 13-year sentence.

"Nobody ever told me he could die in prison of illegal drugs," she said. "If they can't clean up the prisons, they need to find a different way to treat the drug addicts."

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Ortega: Why so many prisoners dead?

"Please stop killing your prisoners"
Arizona Department of Corrections: 
Central Office, Phoenix
(November 22, 2011)

 I disagree with Carl on this one - I think omitting witnesses, etc from suspicious death reports - that is, them "selectively" - does constitute falsification of a public record, which is a class 6 felony. I've read enough of the ADC's death records, and talked to enough family members and corrections officers, to be convinced that such damage control is itself criminal activity, and should be treated as such.

Here's the moving slideshow of prisoners put together by the AZ Republic for this series...check it out at the source.

-------from the Arizona Republic--------

DOC fails to list cause of death in 28 cases.

Bob Ortega
AZ Republic
June 2, 2012

The Arizona Department of Corrections listed no cause of death for 28 inmates who died during the past two years, stating only that the deaths were under investigation. No further information has been released.

In response to public-information requests submitted by The Arizona Republic seeking information about 36 inmate deaths, Corrections provided records for 10 cases. Those records often lack details such as how much time passed before medical responders were summoned and when they arrived to aid a prisoner.

Interviews with families, inmates and prison staff and records from county medical examiners and other sources yielded information about all but eight of the 36 inmate deaths. But Corrections officials have not released any information on those eight deaths, which include four that have been "under investigation" for more than 18 months.

In Arizona, correctional-death investigations are handled internally rather than by a police agency, as occurs in some states. The shift supervisor writes a draft report, which must be approved by administrators in the central office before it's published. The department's Office of the Inspector General assigns an investigator.

"The cleanup starts the moment the incident is reported: eliminating flag words, eliminating individuals who may be relevant to the situation, cut back the witness list," says Carl ToersBijns, a retired deputy warden who served at Eyman state prison. He emphasized that he doesn't believe reports are falsified but are written selectively.

"By the time it's finalized, the incident report is so clean and sterile you won't know what happened because it's already been filtered. The direction is given ... was it deliberate, accidental, suicide, homicide? They try to fix and create a summary for that report that they can defend," he says. "There's a couple of reports where the investigator had doubts and it was overwritten. A lot of drug overdoses are suicides; a lot of 'natural deaths' are people who have been suffering medical conditions but finally just expired. It's not reflected on those reports and never will be reflected in the news reports. Only the ones who were there know what happened."

Corrections officials say their reports are accurate.

Ortega: AZ Prison suicide attempts still on the rise.

Kini Seawright at the Herberger's Stage Door 
February 20, 2012

Even I didn't know about some of the reported circumstances surrounding these prisoner deaths below. Thanks, Bob Ortega and the other folks who care about human rights and human life at the AZ Republic, from myself and the many families devastated by these (and far too many more) AZ prison suicides under the administrations of Chuck Ryan and Jan Brewer. I think we're stuck with Brewer for the rest of her term, but it's way past time for Ryan to go.

Here's the moving slideshow of prisoners put together by the AZ Republic for this series...check it out at the source.

-------from the Arizona Republic--------

Critics: 'Maximum security' a factor in prison suicide rate 

Bob Ortega
Arizona Republic
June 2, 2012

Nearly every day, an inmate in an Arizona prison attempts suicide. In the past two years, 19 succeeded.

Among those who died:

Otto Munster hanged himself with his shoelaces while in solitary confinement.

Tony Lester slashed his throat, arms and groin with a razor blade he wasn't supposed to have because he was categorized as mentally ill. He bled to death.

Rosario Rodriguez-Bojorquez killed himself while in solitary after being denied a request to be moved to protect him from other inmates.

Duron Cunningham killed himself six days after Rodriguez-Bojorquez, while in solitary in the same unit, also after being denied a move into protective segregation. He had been raped and assaulted, according to prison reports.

Karot Phothong hanged himself with a bedsheet while in solitary confinement, or "maximum security," the term used by the Arizona Department of Corrections.

Corrections data and internal reports obtained by The Arizona Republic show 470 attempts by inmates to harm themselves or commit suicide in the 11 months through the end of May. Self-harm includes inmates slashing their arms, swallowing razor blades, repeatedly banging their heads against the wall and similar incidents.

The result: Arizona's official prison-suicide rate was 60 percent higher than the national average for the past two years, according to federal Bureau of Justice statistics.

A majority of the suicides -- 11 -- involved inmates locked in maximum security, where they are kept alone in windowless units with the lights on 24 hours a day and are allowed to leave their cells only a few times a week to shower or exercise by themselves.

While more than half of the suicides in Arizona prisons were by inmates in maximum-security solitary confinement, "max" inmates make up less than 9 percent of the total prison population of about 40,000.
Corrections officials defend the use of maximum security, saying it's necessary to protect inmates and maintain order.

But academic and human-rights critics believe the suicide figures reveal a problematic use of solitary confinement. They attribute Arizona's high suicide rate to three overlapping practices: the use of solitary confinement to house mentally ill prisoners, inmates who are unruly rather than violent and inmates who may be targeted by other prisoners.

"High rates of suicide in solitary units is a widespread problem; that's why many states no longer house mentally ill inmates in solitary," said Craig Haney, a psychologist at the University of California-Santa Cruz who studies the effects of incarceration. "The severity of the conditions in those units ... most mentally healthy people who go in are adversely affected. People can become so despairing, so desperate that they take their own lives."

Solitary as discipline


Arizona puts more prisoners in solitary for longer stretches than most states and the federal government. While many Arizona inmates are in maximum security because they are violent and present a threat to staff and other prisoners, 35 percent of the inmates currently in max were imprisoned for non-violent crimes, according to the state's own data. Corrections officials routinely assign non-violent prisoners to maximum security for disruptive behavior or for violating minor rules.

Carl ToersBijns, a retired deputy warden who served at Eyman state prison, among other places, said that maximum-custody units are filled with people put there because of repetitive misconduct. He said they should be placed in treatment programs instead.

"If a deputy warden finds you to be problematic, they can manufacture a packet to place you in max custody for 12 months. It's a year's review, and central office rarely goes against a warden's recommendations," he said.

That's how many mentally ill inmates wind up in maximum security -- because they can't control their behavior, says Stuart Grassian, a psychiatrist and former Harvard Medical School professor who has spent decades studying the effects of solitary confinement.

In Arizona, inmates sent to solitary for breaking rules have to show they can behave before they are allowed to get out. But this approach "is based on a false premise," says Grassian. "It's based on the notion that inmates in solitary can rationally calculate risks and benefits, that if you give them enough negative consequences they'll change their behavior in a positive direction. But the people who end up in solitary are precisely the least likely to be able to respond rationally."

Solitary "is a shortsighted, expedient approach to prisoner management," he said. "It's expensive; it's risky; and I don't believe there's a sufficient correctional justification for its use."

Many longtime correctional officials defend maximum custody and solitary as necessary to control dangerous or troublesome inmates. Ben Shaw, director of mental-health programs for Arizona's Department of Corrections, says that being in maximum custody doesn't in and of itself cause any decline in mental functioning.

Grassian disagrees. "Many people who didn't have a mental illness become psychotically ill as a result of being incarcerated in solitary confinement," says Grassian. And those who are already mentally ill become worse, he notes.

Haney said that inmates in solitary confinement can become more violent and less able to control themselves -- and more of a danger to the public when they're released.

An inmate's mental condition is usually established by the time he or she enters prison. Otto Munster, for example, was arrested for armed robbery in March 2011, and underwent three psychiatric evaluations before being deemed competent to enter a plea. At his sentencing, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Cari Harrison recommended that Corrections provide Munster with substance-abuse and mental-health treatment. Corrections officials declined to say whether Munster received treatment. He killed himself five months into a five-year prison sentence.

Many states, from California to Mississippi, no longer place mentally ill inmates in solitary because of what the clinical data shows about its impact and often because they stopped the practice to settle lawsuits.
In a suit filed in federal court March 6, a coalition of human-rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, accuses Arizona's Department of Corrections of "gratuitous cruelty" in its use of solitary confinement. The suit seeks to restrict the use of solitary, particularly for minors and the mentally ill.


Effects of solitary


Those who have been held in isolation say it's hard for those who haven't to understand its impact.

Sarah Shourd, who spent 14 months in isolation in Iran's notorious Evin prison after being seized at the Iraqi Kurdish border with two other American hikers in 2009, said in recent interviews that in her small cell she suffered from insomnia and panic attacks and would lose control, screaming and beating the walls, unaware of what she was doing. Two years later, she still struggles with the psychological aftermath, finding crowds or loud noises unbearable. She has become an adamant foe of the use of solitary confinement, which she calls degrading and inhumane.

"When I got out I was shocked to find that the U.S. had more people in solitary confinement than any other country," she told writer James Ridgeway. "And in this country it is used routinely as an administrative practice, not as a very last resort, which is how it should be used."

Two-thirds of Arizona prisoners in solitary are held at Eyman state prison, in Florence. Former inmate Ruben Bermudez has done two stints in solitary there -- the first when he was 16. He recalls vividly his time in a windowless cell with nothing except a box of letters from his family.

"There was s--t splattered all over my cell and it never got cleaned up," he said. "You don't ever see the outside. You don't see anything, night after night and day after day. ... I was hiding under my bed, crying, flipped out, having nightmares. You just stare at things. I would pace back and forth, back and forth. ... I was having panic attacks. You have nothing. You get one book a month. You go nuts just staring at the walls."

In many cases, disciplinary charges will land an inmate in solitary. Most often, such charges are for refusing an order to share a cell with a particular inmate, says prisoner-rights advocate Margaret Plews, who has spent years tracking Arizona inmate deaths. She said inmates who fear for their lives in the general inmate population will often deliberately rack up disciplinary charges.

That fear can stem from gang affiliations, or the lack of an affiliation and the protection it can provide. When an inmate asks for "protective segregation," the standard procedure is to put that person in a solitary detention unit while the request is considered.

That's where Munster was when he killed himself. It's also where inmates Rodriguez-Bojorquez and Cunningham were when they committed suicide within days of each other in September 2010 at the Florence state prison.

According to another inmate, Rodriguez-Bojorquez had recently been denied protective segregation when he killed himself. Cunningham was seeking protective segregation after being assaulted and raped, according to his mother.

Corrections officials didn't respond by deadline to queries about the case.

Inmates who attempt to harm themselves, or even talk about it, are placed in isolation in watch cells where they are supposed to be checked on at least every 30 minutes, in some cases every 10 minutes, or even kept under continuous observation.

ToersBijns, the retired deputy warden, said that many officers "go above and beyond in dealing with very challenging conditions, and save lives; but you also have officers who go off and spend time in the office when they're supposed to be on suicide watch."

Some inmates need to be protected from themselves; some need to be protected from others. Jesse Cabonias, 49, hanged himself last July in a porter's closet at the Lewis state prison. Due to a miscount by officers, no one noticed him missing for seven hours. Other inmates told a Corrections investigator that Cabonias had been repeatedly raped by a cellmate. The autopsy showed methamphetamine in his system at the time he died. He had previously requested and been denied protective segregation.

Forrest Day, 19, was serving a 3.5-year sentence for child abuse, after her infant son drowned when she left him in a tub unattended when she was 16.

She used her shoelaces to hang herself at Perryville state prison on Jan. 27. Her father, James Day, reported to the Maricopa County medical examiner that shortly before she died, Forrest Day told him officers were forcing her to have sex with them. The medical examiner's spokesman, Mike Molzhon, said the examiner took genital swabs and turned them over to a Corrections Department investigator for testing but the department did not test the swabs.

Corrections spokesman Bill Lamoreaux said, "Nothing in the investigation or autopsy showed that a sexual assault occurred."

He declined to say whether investigators contacted James Day or interviewed other inmates or officers about the allegations. James Day couldn't be reached for comment.

More units planned


Arizona has long been more aggressive than most states in its use of solitary confinement.

In 1987, Arizona built the first prison designed from scratch for permanent lockdown, one that would become the prototype for "supermax" solitary-confinement prisons around the country: the SMU 1 ("special management unit") at Eyman state prison. It has no windows, no recreation yard, no common rooms. The perforated steel fronts and doors of the cells allow prisoners to be handcuffed while locked in their cells; each small "pod" of cells is monitored centrally, with fewer correctional officers than older prisons. Inmates exercise alone in a windowless concrete pen.

Haver, Nunn and Colamer, the Phoenix architectural firm that designed the prison, trumpeted it in the industry magazine Corrections Today as a living example "of how tomorrow's maximum-security prisons will be designed." The firm won contracts to build California's similar Pelican Bay prison and many others. A supermax building boom followed. By 1999, similar prisons sprang up in 30 states; by 2005, in 40 states. Arizona soon expanded SMU 1 and built a second SMU, now called the Browning Unit, at Eyman.

Corrections Director Charles Ryan plans more isolation units: Next year's state budget includes $20 million to begin constructing another 500-bed maximum-security unit, at Lewis state prison. It's expected to cost $50 million to complete.

Despite the ACLU lawsuit in March, and an April report by Amnesty International charging that Arizona's use of solitary violates international human-rights treaties, Corrections officials have rejected any calls to change how they classify and assign inmates.

Last fall, the Department of Corrections said it gave six hours of training in how to recognize and prevent suicides to 8,806 staff members. The training advised staff to take all suicide threats seriously and not to "dare the inmate to try it." Staff were also given guidance on what to do in instances of hanging or cutting, the most common methods inmates use to harm themselves.

The training followed a lawsuit filed by the family of inmate Tony Lester, a mentally ill inmate housed in a two-man cell at the Tucson state prison who bled to death in July 2010 while correctional officers stood outside his cell for more than 23 minutes. Orlando Pope, one of those officers, said he'd never been trained in how to apply pressure to a wound.

The Lester family is seeking $3 million.

On May 17, the U.S. Department of Justice announced new national standards that call for restricting the use of solitary- and maximum-custody units for inmates who ask for protective custody. Ryan said his department will respond to those standards within the required 14 months.

Ryan also says "boots on the ground" help prevent suicides and said Corrections will add 103 correctional-officer positions next fiscal year, on top of 306 positions restored this year and last after deep cuts in the mid-2000s. He sees evidence of success in the decline in successful suicides so far this fiscal year -- to six, from 13 last year.

The actual number of suicides both years is almost certainly higher. The state's figures don't include 10 deaths that the department lists as still under investigation, or eight other deaths in which inmates died at their own hands but that Corrections has deemed "accidental."

Meanwhile, the number of self-harm and suicide attempts continues to rise, from 449 last fiscal year to 470 in the first 11 months of this fiscal year.

Reach the reporter at

The prisons of Chuck Ryan: Arizona's other death row.

AZ Crime Victims Memorial: Wes Bolin Plaza, AZ State Capitol
March 9, 2012
Mother of Dana Seawright, homicide victim, and aunt of Tony Lester, suicide victim, 
protesting the continuing abuse and neglect and violence 
perpetrated on prisoners of the state of Arizona. 
Both men were in the care of the AZ Department of Corrections when they died...

The intro to the following series from Bob Ortega and the AZ Republic on Chuck Ryan's growing body count. Fantastic work by all involved in the research, editing , and of course the writing of these pieces - but especially Bob Ortega.  

Here's the moving slideshow of prisoners put together by the AZ Republic for this series...check it out at the source.

-------from the Arizona Republic--------

 Arizona prison system sees high number of deaths.
Bob Ortega

Arizona Republic

June 2, 2012

Arizona's prison system has two death rows.

One is made up of the 126 inmates officially sentenced to death -- 123 men at the Eyman state prison in Florence and three women at Perryville. Seven convicted killers from that group have been executed over the last two years.

The other death row, the unofficial one, reaches into every prison in Arizona's sprawling correctional system. No judge or jury condemned anyone in this group to death. They die as victims of prison violence, neglect and mistreatment.

Over the past two years, this death row has claimed the lives of at least 37 inmates, more than five times the number executed from the official death row. Among them are mentally ill prisoners locked in solitary confinement who committed suicide, inmates who overdosed on drugs smuggled into prison, those with untreated medical conditions and inmates murdered by other inmates.

Unlike state executions, these deaths rarely draw much notice. Each receives a terse announcement by the Department of Corrections and then is largely forgotten.

But correctional officers and other staff who work with inmates say many of these deaths are needless and preventable.

Arizona will spend $1.1 billion this year to lock up its 40,000 prisoners.

But there is another cost, one measured not in dollars but in human lives.

Over four days, an Arizona Republic investigation will reveal a prison system that houses inmates under brutal conditions that can foster self-harm, allows deadly drugs to flow in from the outside, leaves inmates to die from treatable medical conditions and fails to protect inmates from prison predators.

Today, The Republic focuses on suicides in the prison system, where there have been at least 19 in the past two years. Arizona's official prison-suicide rate during that period was 60 percent higher than the national average. But suicides in prison are likely underreported, according to critics.

More than half of the suicides involved inmates in solitary confinement, including some with serious mental illnesses.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Trespassing charges dismissed against Phoenix Occupiers

I should have written a complete post on this matter myself, but it was a tiresome ordeal, all those court dates, and rather anti-climactic. I'm thrilled that the charges were finally dismissed, but wanted my day in court, too, and I feel for all those folks who plead out early to get on with their lives who now have the consequences of a criminal record affecting their employment and housing opportunities. If it wasn't a crime worth prosecuting for us, then why should they still be getting punished for it? They should all get their plea agreements squashed and the charges dismissed, given the prosecutor's stand on this.

Blessings again to all those I did my brief stint with in Joe's jail, and to all those good souls fighting for truth, peace and justice (which includes decolonization, fellow Occupiers) out in the world today..if all you suffer through are cold floors, green oranges, and funky bread with Blue HUGS, count yourself fortunate - especially if you endure it with your comrades in the span of less than 24 hours. Many people have been tortured, imprisoned, and died around the world for what we did so casually that night. That's not a celebration of the Phoenix Police or the US Constitution, by the way - plenty of Americans have suffered and died in protest at the hands of the American military and police, and still are - they just call the protest something else these days, like "terrorism" or "gang-related crime", so no one pays attention to what happens to suspects labeled by the state that way now. 

I believe that those of us who have survived such encounters with law enforcement unscathed - and have even come through stronger - have a duty to pay closer attention now to those who don't: like the folks in Phoenix who really don't have a place to lay their head at night without being threatened with arrest for camping, for example. Most of the rest of us had a choice about being vulnerable to arrest or going home for the night - they didn't. Occupiers aren't out under tents anymore, but we still have a responsibility to challenge that law because we know first hand it's implementation is unjust, and the consequences of fines and jail time are far more devastating to the poor and those who lack privilege than they are to the white middle class that was so active with the Occupations, but - as history shows - is so easily appeased and convinced to abandon such causes, because the system they complain no longer works can be fixed to work for them - but only as long as it continues to oppress others...

My thanks, by the way, to attorneys Joy Bertrand and Shannon Peters for all their unpaid work on my case, and to Jane Joyce for her assistance and encouragement (Jane is also a pretty good rocker!). I guess I wrote a post of my own after all. Now here's the news and the court document to go with it...

Abolish the Phoenix Camping Ordinance!
Occupation of Margaret T. Hance Park
October 15, 2011

Phoenix drops last charges vs. 'Occupy' defendants

JJ Hensley
Arizona Republic
June 1, 2012

Charges against the final "Occupy Phoenix" protesters accused of trespassing were dropped this week after city prosecutors determined that justice would be served by dismissing the charges.

Twenty suspects remained of the 45 who were arrested on suspicion of trespassing and loitering at Margaret T. Hance Park in mid-October for refusing to leave after the park had closed. Twenty five of those arrested pleaded guilty, but the remaining 20 decided to fight the citations in court.

The anti-Wall Street movement known as "Occupy" started in Manhattan and spread to cities throughout the country last year. Occupy Phoenix started as a relatively large group when about 300 protesters demonstrated on Oct. 14 near Arizona State University's campus in downtown Phoenix. Protesters ultimately moved to Cesar Chavez Plaza at Washington Street and First Avenue, where dozens of people took shifts at kiosks during the day and then left in the evening to keep from violating a curfew.

But on Oct. 15, when an estimated 400 protesters walked through Hance Park, dozens of protesters refused to obey the commands of Phoenix police officers who were trying to clear the park by its 10:30 p.m. closing time. At 12:16 a.m., police began to arrest the defendants, according to court documents.

Aaron Carreon-Ainsa, a prosecutor on the case, said the reasons for the arrests were clear: Police repeatedly told the protesters to leave and after waiting nearly two hours began to make arrests.

Carreon wrote in the motion to dismiss the cases that the freedom to assemble, speak and protest are fundamental values protected by the U.S. Constitution and that the police were there to protect the protesters' rights. But they were also there to enforce the park's hours.

"We evaluate each case on its own merits and in no way should the dismissal of the charges that occurred on May 30 in city court be interpreted to mean that future trespasses will not be prosecuted," he said.
The city spent at least $200,000 on officer overtime in the first two weeks of the protests, according to former interim Police Chief Joe Yahner. But those costs do not include salaries for other city employees, including park workers and prosecutors.

----------------Motion to Dismiss--------------

The prosecution's motion to dismiss from court this week was a cut and paste job that doesn't describe my own "criminal" act of trespassing or loitering accurately - this thing just reads the same for everyone, except for our names and personal pronouns. I was out running around the field filming the riot police as they advanced on us when they took me down. I was the first one they grabbed, in fact...I guess I was kind of in the PPD's face, having pissed them all off earlier with my camping ordinance protest (the raising of the tents). But I'll settle for this account of what I did instead, since the dismissal came with it. Just know that the state's narrative of crime and protest isn't always right, even if they claim to have reached a "just" verdict or punishment. It's so often based solely on the version they buy from cops taking shortcuts and committing crimes of omission on reports...a uniform, badge and a gun hardly makes one honest or right, it just seems to make it unlikely that their credibility will be challenged nearly as much as that of the accused and our witnesses are...