Retiring Arizona Prison Watch...

This site was originally started in July 2009 as an independent endeavor to monitor conditions in Arizona's criminal justice system, as well as offer some critical analysis of the prison industrial complex from a prison abolitionist/anarchist's perspective. It was begun in the aftermath of the death of Marcia Powell, a 48 year old AZ state prisoner who was left in an outdoor cage in the desert sun for over four hours while on a 10-minute suicide watch. That was at ASPC-Perryville, in Goodyear, AZ, in May 2009.

Marcia, a seriously mentally ill woman with a meth habit sentenced to the minimum mandatory 27 months in prison for prostitution was already deemed by society as disposable. She was therefore easily ignored by numerous prison officers as she pleaded for water and relief from the sun for four hours. She was ultimately found collapsed in her own feces, with second degree burns on her body, her organs failing, and her body exceeding the 108 degrees the thermometer would record. 16 officers and staff were disciplined for her death, but no one was ever prosecuted for her homicide. Her story is here.

Marcia's death and this blog compelled me to work for the next 5 1/2 years to document and challenge the prison industrial complex in AZ, most specifically as manifested in the Arizona Department of Corrections. I corresponded with over 1,000 prisoners in that time, as well as many of their loved ones, offering all what resources I could find for fighting the AZ DOC themselves - most regarding their health or matters of personal safety.

I also began to work with the survivors of prison violence, as I often heard from the loved ones of the dead, and learned their stories. During that time I memorialized the Ghosts of Jan Brewer - state prisoners under her regime who were lost to neglect, suicide or violence - across the city's sidewalks in large chalk murals. Some of that art is here.

In November 2014 I left Phoenix abruptly to care for my family. By early 2015 I was no longer keeping up this blog site, save occasional posts about a young prisoner in solitary confinement who I've been supporting, Jessie Burlew.

I will miss my work and the people who have supported me - but I have been most especially grateful to the prisoners who educated, confided in, and encouraged me. My life has been made all the more rich and meaningful by their engagement.

I have linked to some posts about advocating for state prisoner health and safety to the right, as well as other resources for families and friends. If you are in need of additional assistance fighting the prison industrial complex in Arizona - or if you care to offer some aid to the cause - please contact the Phoenix Anarchist Black Cross at PO Box 7241 / Tempe, AZ 85281.

until all are free -

MARGARET J PLEWS (June 1, 2015)


Columbia University's Jailhouse Lawyers Manual (PDF)

Columbia University's Jailhouse Lawyers Manual (PDF)
My primary resource for prisoners fighting the state. Download and mail relevant chapters.

Jailhouse Lawyer's Handbook

Jailhouse Lawyer's Handbook
Prisoner's guide to filing a Section 1983 Civil Rights lawsuit. Print and mail!

ACLU Arizona

ACLU Arizona
Please report abuses of constitutional rights in custody.
AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Help end the solitary hell of autistic teen, Jessie Burlew.

For a little over a year now, I've been corresponding with a young prisoner in Joe Arpaio's Estrella Jail, a now-17-year old girl by the name of Jessie. For virtually all of that time, over 400 days now, Jessie's been in solitary confinement (aka "close custody"), allowed out of her cage only one or two hours day for showers, phone calls, and an occasional stretch. She leaves her part of the jail only if in shackles and chains, returning, always, to her private hell through the trauma of body cavity/strip searches. That's the only physical human contact she's allowed to have - being handled like a piece of meat.

For what is called her educational programming Jessie gets chained to a desk and instructed in things like Algebra two hours a week. According to a couple of the youth, kids  can only take "more fun" subjects like science if they behave themselves. That must mean that the math is the punishment for those kids who are considered problematic - and this is what they do for a child who is entitled to special educational services under IDEA. Jessie, you see, is autistic and has a major mental illness. She's no longer very interested in school, either.

When disciplined for behavior arising out of her disabling psychiatric conditions, Jessie - already in isolation - loses her access to phone calls and visits.  Combined with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO)'s frequent refusal to allow her access to writing implements, this means she is nearly completely cut off from those who care about her during times of crisis. Jessie also loses the right to purchase items like toiletries and food from the inmate store - meaning the only sustenance she gets is that which is served to her by the MCSO - like stale sack lunches, moldy broccoli, and unidentifiable meat-substitute slop (with rocks thrown in for fun). The food there sometimes understandably frightens her. 

Despite being a victim of serious sexual abuse and exploitation before her arrest, and landing in jail on the heels of an extremely traumatic event (the death of her abuser at her hands), Jessie has had very little mental health treatment or counseling in custody short of "competency restoration proceedings" which are only designed to assure that she understands the legal charges she's facing and can assist in her own defense. 

Medical care has also been shoddy - her requests to have headaches and dizzy spells evaluated have been minimized or ignored since she arrived there. She was abruptly taken off her psych meds one week before her trial was originally to start, with no explanation or response to her complaints about withdrawal symptoms.

Jessie does have one alternative to sitting in her solitary hell: when she can't deal with it anymore and gets sent to the mental health unit, she's stripped naked and left alone in a cold cell with only a smock to wear and suicide blanket to cuddle. She isn't allowed to make phone calls or have a shower, even if there for a week - no one is. Apparently, one must sit in their stink on suicide watch until they spontaneously feel better about themselves, or at least swear not to do themselves in while in custody. 

This all amounts to cruel and unusual punishment being dished out to a kid who is supposedly still presumed innocent. And she's not the only one - there's also a few more I hear from, and god knows how many more kids in that hole who I will never hear from. In fact, no one may ever hear from any of these children about their experiences behind bars if we don't make it a point to try to reach them. 

Please stop and read about Jessie's story, then go here to see what you can do to help. We need to spread the word about the injustice of both her confinement and her prosecution.

Thanks to Megan Cassidy at the Arizona Republic for this well-done article this week.

--------from AZCENTRAL.COM--------

Activists back Glendale teen charged with murder in sex-act death

Jessica Burlew was 16 in January 2014, when police say the blue-haired Glendale girl admitted to killing 43-year-old Jason Ash in a sex act gone awry.

Burlew was 27 years younger than Ash and a year and a half shy of her 18th birthday, the age of consent in Arizona.

For those reasons, among others, a group of local advocates have started questioning how prosecutors are treating Burlew's case because they believe she should be defined as a sexual victim by the same prosecutors who are charging her with second-degree murder.

A 43-year-old could be eligible for a class 6 felony if caught having sex with a 16-year-old.

RELATED: Glendale girl faces trial as adult in death of man during sex

The advocates are asking County Attorney Bill Montgomery for a "humane" plea agreement.

The ad hoc organization, Free Jessie B Support Group, has also hurled criticisms against a host of state and county agencies, alleging a systemic failure to protect a minor with a history of behavioral issues and mental illness.

"There are so many human-rights aspects to Jessie's case," Burlew supporter Beth Payne wrote in an e-mailed statement. "She is a juvenile being tried as an adult, a juvenile being held in solitary confinement, a mentally ill person being prosecuted instead of given access to mental health care, a survivor of sexual violence and exploitation [and] a child who was supposed to be in the custody of the Department of Child Services and was the victim of a sexual predator."

But the stacking of the laws in Burlew's case allows for little latitude prior to her day in court. As of March 20, prosecutors have not offered a plea agreement.

If convicted in a trial, Burlew faces 10 to 25 years in prison.

Maricopa County Attorney spokesman Jerry Cobb said Burlew's defense is free to raise these issues in trial, and said mitigating factors may come into play during sentencing.

Further, he said, Burlew cannot be labeled a "victim" if Ash has not been convicted of a sexual crime. Given that he is dead, Cobb said, allegations are immaterial.

Cobb defended the state's charging decision, which by definition alleges "extreme indifference to human life," causing death without premeditation.

"We felt that the facts and circumstances surrounding his incident support a charge of second-degree murder," he said.

System failure?

Glendale police arrived at Burlew's mother's home on Jan. 18, 2014, to find a dead Ash, lying on Burlew's bed with an electrical cord wrapped around his neck, according to the police report. Razor cuts marked his face and arms.

It was Burlew's mother, Tracey Woodside, who had called police and identified Ash by his first name. He is described as Burlew's "boyfriend" in the police report, although her supporters have since taken issue with that assessment, given Burlew's age.

By the time police arrived, Burlew was nowhere to be found. Woodside told police her daughter had phoned her, telling her Ash was dead and saying to her it was "bad."

Woodside returned to her apartment to find Burlew and Ash, and called 911 from a neighbor's house. It was at this time Burlew, who had already been reported missing from a group home in Phoenix, disappeared again.

Police soon tracked the girl to a neighboring apartment after she had sneaked by police disguised in a burka, the report states.

Burlew quickly admitted to causing Ash's death, but maintained it was an accident, according to the police report. She told her mother Ash did not use the "safety word" the two had agreed upon, and she told police the strangulation was common and consensual in their sexual relationship.

The teen explained the incisions as initially an attempt to revive Ash, but told police the cutting evolved into a mechanism to relieve the stress of the situation. Burlew also admitted to cutting herself, police said. Paperwork found in Burlew's bedroom substantiated this claim, acknowledging an incident of self-mutilation.

In a statement released to the media, Woodside said her daughter had been plagued with mental-health issues. Psychiatric treatment, including therapy, various medications and stints in residential treatment centers, started when she was 4 years old.

Supporters say Burlew has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and autism.

Burlew was in protective custody under Arizona's Department of Child Safety, but that she had run away from the DCS group home shortly before the incident, according to her advocates. Her case manager's attempts to retrieve her were scant and futile, her supporters say.

A DCS spokesman for confirmed Burlew was previously under the department's care, but declined to comment further, citing pending court action.

"… [T]he system has failed us," Woodside said in the statement. "I failed Jessica by listening to and doing what mental-health professionals told me to do."

Laws fall into place

A group of local advocates have started questioning how prosecutors are treating Jessie Burlew's case. (Photo: Courtesy of Free Jessie B Support Group)

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a succession of findings in the past several years that bode in favor of juvenile offenders. The decisions effectively banned capital punishment and mandatory life sentences for juveniles, and prohibited life sentences for non-homicide offenses.

Rationale was often based on emerging science involving the development of adolescent brains and an "evolving standards of decency" on what constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

So far, Burlew's age, legal status as a victim and mental health conditions have provided little assistance to her case. She has been held in Estrella Women's Jail, under solitary 23-hour lockdown, since her arrest more than a year ago while awaiting a trial that has been pushed back from March to July.

Arizona prosecutors are required charge juveniles who are 15 or older as adults if they are accused of a violent felony, including murder.

Burlew underwent a hearing this fall, where a judge found her competent to stand trial.

And Maricopa County Sheriff's officials say the teen's intake screening classified her as a "closed custody" inmate.

MCSO spokesman Joaquin Enriquez said he could not disclose the reason Burlew was placed in closed custody. In general, he said, factors may include a history of institutionalized behavior, the nature of the charges or for fear that inmates will harm themselves or others.

The conditions of Burlew's confinement garnered traction at the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona. Representatives confirmed they sent a letter to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office but declined to comment on the case.

Burlew is not accepting interviews and her public defender has not responded to requests for interview.

Larry Hammond, an Arizona criminal defense attorney with experience in juvenile matters, said prosecutors should carefully review juvenile homicide cases, especially when there is reason to believe the minor has been "compromised mentally."

Hammond, who was briefed on the case but is not involved in it, believes mitigating factors should be considered at the front end of a case.

"If they are potentially schizophrenic, or if they have some other psychosis, those other conditions in a developing brain are always more problematic," he said. "Good prosecutors should know that."

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Arizona Prison Watcher: January 2015


Margaret J. Plews, Editor

January 13, 2015

New Year’s Greetings to those behind bars in the AZDOC:

This may well be my last letter to you all as Arizona’s Prison Watcher, since my family has recently called me home, where last week it was literally colder than Mars. I moved back East around Thanksgiving and immediately got caught up in my loved ones’ medical crises. Then my house burned down in December, just before I moved in - thank goodness no one was hurt. I’m crashing on a friend’s sofa now, and all my stuff is buried in the garage under the things that were salvaged from the house after the fire. That means my office is still in boxes, and may well sit there until spring, as I have no place else to put it.

Furthermore, while I did put in a forwarding notice with the post office before moving, a lot of stuff didn’t get forwarded for over a month and I got hit all at once with a ton of mail last week. So, I’m not blowing anyone off - I just haven’t been able to get back to most of you who have written in the past few months. That’s what prompted this letter, as I can’t answer all your requests for help - really, I’m having a time of it right now myself. The best I can do is refer you to my friends and comrades back in Arizona, in hopes that they can help you somehow. None of the following people have asked me to promote them or anything, by the way - I compiled this list as a favor to you, not them.

To fight the AZ DOC by reading up on their policies, your civil rights as prisoners, how to sue them yourself and such, contact the Phoenix Anarchist Black Cross. You can also report human rights violations to them. They’ll try to send you the info you need to fight back. This is a group of people I trust who have supported my work the most; they organized this ABC chapter specifically to carry it forward. Most are prison abolitionists/ anarchists like me, so you can bet your mail with them will be monitored, maybe even messed with by DOC. If you dont give a damn though, there are some pretty cool folks to correspond with and they’ll send you whatever info they can to help you fight the state...Just be careful about getting too radical in your own rhetoric with SSU reading - its so easy to get carried away when you find like-minded folks who want to hear your voice. You could become a politicized prisoner and end up buried in a lonely hole for the next decade, labeled an anarchist or some kind of extremist yourself. That could follow you, too, out the gate. Most of you would be best off if you simply state your issue and stick to the business at hand if you need some kind of resource from them. Their addy is Phoenix ABC PO Box 7241, Tempe, AZ 85281

Next up is my colleague Stacy Scheff. I’ve been following the work she’s done these past few years. She’s a civil rights attorney, not a free one, either - she has bills to pay. But she is very competent when it comes to prisoner rights litigation, can coach you through filing a suit yourself if need be, and will do a demand letter re: PC or medical care for a reasonable fee. DOC and the AG know her, and that she’s not to be taken lightly. She used to work with Vince Rabago, but has recently started her own practice in Tucson. If you need a legal consult on a matter of your rights as a prisoner, get a legal call to explain your issue and see what she might charge, or write to her. I get no kickbacks for referrals, by the way - I just know that if you have a case, she can kick the state’s a**, which makes me happy.  Law Office of Stacy Scheff  / P.O. Box 40611  / Tucson, AZ 85717-0611 /  (520) 471-8333  FAX: (520) 300-8033

Of course, there’s also the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona (ACLU-AZ). They sued the DOC in the class action over health care at the DOC, Parsons V Ryan. Ask them for a copy of the original complaint and the stipulations the DOC agreed to in the settlement - it might help you in your own fight for access to medical care. You should also report violations of human and constitutional rights to them. FILE GRIEVANCES over that stuff, first, though, and see them through - follow the policy or you have no chance in hell of holding DOC accountable in court down the road. Even if the ACLU doesn’t intervene in your individual case, its so important for prisoners to document with them what’s going on inside, that’s what get’s them paying attention to areas that may require litigation: a barrage of compelling testimony from prisoners and their family members, and evidence of unconstitutional policies and practices.  They are at: ACLU-AZ / PO Box 17148 / Phoenix, AZ 85011.

I’d also recommend reporting the abuse and neglect of prisoners with serious mental illness (SMI includes major thought and mood disorders, like schizophrenia or manic-depression) to the Arizona Center for Disability Law. The AZCDL has the “Protection & Advocacy” authority in Arizona, which is power to intervene with institutions where disabled individuals are being abused, neglected, or denied their civil rights. Historically they have not helped SMI prisoners on an individual basis (they litigated the DOC in Parsons v Ryan over the poor treatment of mentally ill prisoners and the abuse of solitary confinement), but they may make an exception if your case is representative of a bigger problem they’ve been hearing about. The only way to really drag them into this fight is for those they should be serving (or those looking out for them) to write to them. Even if they don’t help you, your letter may help them tune into what SMI prisoners are going through, and get them more involved on some other level. Their contact info is:

                                     Arizona Center for Disability Law
5025 E. Washington St., Ste 202            100 North Stone Ave., Ste 305
Phoenix, AZ 85034                                 Tucson, AZ 85701
(602) 274-6287 (voice/TTY)                   (520) 327-9547 (voice)
(800) 927-2260 (voice/TTY)                   (800) 922-1447 (voice)

If you’re fighting for your medical care, or dealing with extreme isolation, the folks to write to are at the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Tucson. They’re on top of prison and health care privatization, new legislation affecting criminal justice issues, and in the fight against solitary confinement. They wrote “Death Yards” about Corizon’s shoddy care, and a booklet on solitary confinement in AZ. They may have other resources that can help, and it’s good for them to hear from prisoners about what’s going on. Their contact info is: AFSC-Tucson / 103 North Park Avenue,  #111 / Tucson, AZ  85719 /  (520) 623-9141

Another place for prisoners (not solely people of color) to report the DOC’s bad conduct  to is the NAACP of Maricopa County.  The attorney who volunteers for them is in only once a week, but is good about checking the mail and will occasionally pursue a complaint on a prisoner’s behalf if it appears civil rights are being violated, whether it’s due to racism, homophobia, or other such prejudices. She’s advocated for the safety of gay and transgender prisoners as well, regardless of race. She’s a member of the National Lawyer’s Guild, too - I often see her at protests doing legal observing (cop-watching). She also goes around the state doing presentations to community groups against private prisons and mass incarceration - thank her for all her community service if you write. Send your letters “LEGAL MAIL” to: Dianne Post, Legal Redress  /  NAACP of Maricopa County / P.O. Box 20883 / Phoenix, AZ 85036

Now, for those of you who like to express yourselves, don’t care what the DOC thinks about it, and want to be a part of a larger community of AZ prisoners sharing poetry, art, essays, horror stories, or experience, strength and hope in a new prisoner-written zine or newsletter, write to the Free Verse at PO BOX 7241 Tempe AZ 85281 with your ideas and ask them what they’re working on - someone will get back with you. Those are my friends, too.

Take care, all.

                                       Peggy Plews

PS: here are the attorneys I know who have recently sued the AZ DOC successfully, in most cases, I believe. PAGE 1   PAGE 2

ART ATTACK at the Maricopa County Courthouse
Day of the Dead Prisoner: November 1, 2013

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Manfred Dehe: Corizon's deliberate indifference keeps killing...

Yes, Parsons v Ryan has been settled

                                    No, the prisoners havent stopped suffering yet.

--------from AZFAMILY.COM---------

Family claims prison health care killed father

by Brandon Lee

Posted on February 19, 2015 at 6:58 AM

Updated February 20 at 8:34 AM

PHOENIX -- The company that provides health care to Arizona inmates is Corizon. Its website states, in part, the company provides "high quality healthcare (sic)... that will improve the health and safety of our patients. Our people, practices and commitment to success through evidence-based medicine enable us to consistently meet and exceed client expectations."

But several nurses who currently work for Corizon Health tell 3TV that's not true.

What's more, one family says their father died because Corizon failed to live up to its promise.

"He was always in great shape," Mark Dehe said of his father, Manfred. "He walked all the time. He actually walked quite quickly."

Dehe said he spent as much time as he could with his father, but that changed when Manfred was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Dehe knew his dad would serve time but would eventually be released. The family would be reunited.

Dehe had no idea what three years inside an Arizona prison would do to his father.

"Infuriating," he said. "Infuriating."

Soon after Manfred went to prison, he complained to his family that he was in severe pain.

Dehe ignored him at first.

"I thought he was overreacting," Dehe explained. "I told him, 'Dad, this isn't the Ritz.' I told him it's prison you might just have to wait a little bit longer."

Medical records show that a prison doctor recommended surgery for a hernia on Feb. 21, 2012. It was categorized as an urgent priority.

On March 13, another medical professional recommended Manfred be seen by a doctor outside the prison, again for hernia-related issues.

One week later, medical staff again recommended outside treatment. It was again listed as "priority urgent."

I sat down with Dehe to talk about his claims that Corizon failed to provide proper care for his father.

Health care for violent criminal offenders is not at the top of most people's minds.

"I'm a little embarrassed to say I understand," Dehe confessed. "Prior to my father going to prison ... I didn't give it much thought. [M]y thoughts were 'Well if they didn't do anything wrong, then they wouldn't be in that position to begin with.

"But I also assumed that they were receiving and given adequate health care," he continued. "It may not have been the best. You may have had to wait a little bit, but I thought it met their needs. I was very ignorant."

3TV obtained hand-written notes from Manfred to prison staff. He seemed to be begging for help.

"I'm 77 years old. I don't feel right. I'd like to have a doctor fully examine me."

"To urinate is extremely painful. My hernias are also hurting."

"I'm not receiving any more meds for my urinary tract infection."

When Manfred was finally seen by doctors outside of the prison, lab tests came back with devastating results.

"Prostate cancer. Terminal prostate cancer. Stage 4," Dehe said.

Manfred's health deteriorated fast.

His family says he was supposed to receive monthly injections to slow the cancer. Medical records show that injections were sometimes missed because the medicine was not available, according to one doctor's notes.

Manfred continued to cry out for help. He wrote letters to management, saying, "I FEEL LIKE I AM BEING NEGLECTED. I NEED TO SEE A QUALIFIED DOCTOR AND GO TO THE HOSPITAL NOW!!!"

"From that time until he was finally seen for an exam, August 2013, 15 months had passed," Dehe said. "By that time, it was too late. He never left the bed. He never saw outside. He was never moved from one side to another and after two weeks he had severe bedsores. They would eventually get so bad you could see through to the bone."

Manfred's story is not unique. The state of Arizona has a contract with a private health care company, Corizon, to provide care for inmates. A report by medical experts hired by the ACLU to inspect and review the conditions at Arizona prisons found "almost half of the people who died natural deaths received grossly deficient medical care. And that the poor care clearly caused or hastened their death."

We even spoke to a current prison nurse who confirmed that inmates are dying because of poor care.

The prison nurse we talked with spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"People with ongoing diagnosis like leukemia, diabetes, or complications to some serious illnesses are being delayed care. Absolutely."

Nurses and doctors caring for Manfred tried to get him proper care.

"It is my medical judgement that this patient requires hospitalization," one doctor who saw him wrote to prison management.

One nurse even wrote a note that reads, "Department of Corrections short staffed and unable to provide security for ambulance transport. Consult Cancelled."

Dehe believes his father was sentenced to death because of poor health care.

"He was ridiculed by the staff," he said. "They didn't want to bathe him because quite frankly he smelled. One of the people even joked and said, 'Why don't you throw a sheet over him,' insinuating he smells like he's dead. He must be dead so cover him up."

Corizon recently settled a major class action lawsuit, promising it will make changes to provide better care to inmates. The case settled on Oct. 14, the same day Manfred lost his battle with cancer.

Manfred walked into prison at age 75. Three years later, he was dead.

"Do I think anything is going to change? Not a bit. Not a bit," Dehe said. "I have to assume that they act on the fact that there is no oversight, and therefore they can do whatever they want. If there's nobody watching me, I can do whatever I want. Who's going to complain? The inmate? Who's going to believe the inmate?"

Corizon declined an on-camera interview for this story. A spokesman did, however, respond with a statement.

"The oncological care provided Inmate Dehe from the time Corizon Health began serving the Arizona prison system met the standard of care and was appropriate to his condition. Federal and state privacy laws prohibit public discussion of details of patient conditions or courses of treatment."

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Corizon and the Arizona Department of Corrections have three years to make changes that will improve the health care provided to inmates.

PARSONS V RYAN settlement approved by US District Court Judge Duncan

---------------------from the AZ Republic-----------

Judge approves Arizona inmate health-care settlement

Craig Harris, The Republic | 

9:55 a.m. MST February 19, 2015

A federal judge on Wednesday approved a settlement that will provide improved health-care coverage for about 34,000 Arizona inmates in state-run facilities at a cost to taxpayers of at least $8 million a year.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arizona and the Prison Law Office, a prisoner-advocacy group, reached a settlement with the Arizona Department of Corrections last October, days before a trial was to start.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of state-prison inmates, alleged that Arizona's inmate health-care system was so flawed that it caused deaths and preventable injuries. It also accused the state of keeping inmates in solitary confinement for long periods of time.

The state denied the allegations, and admitted no wrongdoing in agreeing to the settlement.

"This is a small glimpse of justice," said Patti Jones, whose nephew, Tony Lester, killed himself in a state prison. "I think this is a just settlement."

Jones was one of seven people to address U.S. Magistrate Judge David K. Duncan, who approved the settlement. Duncan also authorized $4.9 million in fees for the attorneys who represented the inmates.

The fees must be paid by the state. Duncan noted the amount for plaintiffs' attorneys nearly mirrored the amount the state spent in legal bills defending itself, bringing the state's total legal tab to about $10 million.

Gov. Doug Ducey is asking lawmakers for $8 million in his proposed budget for the coming fiscal year so the state's contracted inmate health-care provider, Corizon Health, can hire 91 additional health-care workers to comply with the settlement requirements.

The settlement requires DOC to:

• Meet more than 100 health-care performance measures, covering issues such as monitoring prisoners with diabetes, hypertension and other chronic conditions.

• Offer all inmates annual influenza vaccinations. Those with chronic diseases will be offered required immunizations.

• Offer inmates aged 50 to 75 annual colorectal cancer screening.

• Offer female inmates aged 50 and older mammogram screenings.

• Provide no less than 6 hours per week of out-of-cell exercise time for maximum-custody inmates.

• Provide maximum-custody inmates with serious mental illness an additional 10 hours of unstructured out-of-cell time per week.

• Only use pepper spray or other chemical agents during an imminent threat.

The settlement also allows attorneys for inmates and their experts to conduct up to 20 daily tours of state prison complexes annually to make sure the agreement is being enforced.

Donna Hamm, executive director of Middle Ground Prison Reform, said she liked the settlement but is unhappy that the state will have up to two weeks' advance notice prior to a tour.

"Some of the visits should be spontaneous and not announced," said Hamm, an outspoken critic of the Arizona prison system. "But overall, this is an improvement."

Daniel Struck, a private attorney representing the state, said DOC already has started to implement changes called for in the settlement.

David Fathi, director of the ACLU National Prison Project, called the settlement "real improvement" in the care of inmates.

The settlement does not apply to the roughly 7,000 inmates in six private prisons across Arizona.


Craig Harris covers the Arizona Department of Corrections and other state and federal agencies, with an emphasis on government accountability and public money.

How to reach him
Phone: 602-444-8478
Twitter: @charrisazrep

Saturday, February 7, 2015

GOP support for early release in AZ legislature this year...

Shocking. Even the GOP in the Senate isnt completely on board with Chuck Ryan's plan for new prisons...


GOP legislator pushes Arizona bill to relieve prison crowding

PHOENIX -- A Republican state senator is pushing a bill to release thousands of non-violent inmates early in a bid to save money and ease pressure on crowded prisons.

Sen. Steve Pierce, R-Prescott, said the legislation would expand an existing Department of Corrections program to help prisoners transition into daily life with services including counseling, case management and substance-abuse treatment.

The bill comes at a time when Gov. Doug Ducey's executive budget calls for $40 million for a new prison with 3,000 beds. Pierce said the size of the project could cost $70 million per year.

Arizona housed more than 42,000 inmates last year, and the Department of Corrections expects to add nearly 1,000 prisoners per year through 2016.

During that time, the Department of Corrections released 943 inmates through its three-month transition program and saved nearly $1 million, according to an annual report by the agency.

Senate Bill 1390 seeks to increase the number of inmates placed in the program to a minimum of 3,500 prisoners in the first year, and 5,000 in the second year. The program would serve low-risk, non-violent offenders and exclude those convicted of driving under the influence, sex offenses, arson or domestic violence.

Pierce said his bill would save the state money and avoid having to build another prison.

"We are spending an awful lot of money putting people and keeping people in jail that are non-violent criminals," he said. "I think more people need to be in treatment than in jail." 
The program has already proven to reduce the rate of return offenders compared with the general population, Pierce said.

When asked if the bill would provide a cost-effective alternative to building a new prison, the governor's office said it had not yet reviewed the legislation.

Corrections Department spokesman Doug Nick said the agency is aware of the legislation and monitoring it as the bill moves through the Legislature, but did not provide further comment.