PO BOX 20494


Established: July 18, 2009
Editor: Peggy Plews

This site is 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. If you're unfamiliar with prison abolition, check out Critical Resistance. I'm a freelance writer and human rights activist, and have no legal training, FYI.


THE I-Files: Teens in Solitary Confinement


AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Judge Wake re: Graves v Arpaio: jail medical care still sucks.

I heard some time ago that supervision of the MCSOs health and mental health care services for prisoners was going to be winding down due to their increasing compliance, though I kept hearing horror stories coming out of Joe's jails - like the young woman who lost her unborn child due to food poisoning last winter, soon before the men and women alike tried to launch a hunger strike to protest being fed garbage unfit for human consumption (Arpaio made it sound like they were just upset about going vegetarian - like they really wanted that green bologna and mystery meat back). 

The MCSO is also holding mentally ill children in solitary confinement - which has been shown to be devastating to such prisoners' mental health. I'd love to see the ACLU and Judge Wake take that one on next. Then again, maybe this current suit would cover solitary for those kids, if I can get evidence to the court that it's damaging already-compromised, mentally ill youth, and that their ultra-isolation isn't serving any penological interest. Hmm...

Also, check this link out in re the racial profiling lawsuit against Sheriff Joe and the MCSO, now under orders to reform by US District Judge Murray Snow:

"The ACLU of Arizona has launched a website, (in English)/ (in Spanish), so that the public can keep up with the court-ordered reforms of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office."

--------from the ACLU-AZ---------

Arpaio's Jails Ordered to Stop Endangering Prisoners' Health

Judge Finds Maricopa County Jails Fail to Provide Adequate Medical and Mental Health Care

September 30, 2014

Alexandra Ringe, ACLU national,
Steve Kilar, ACLU of Arizona, (602) 773-6007,

PHOENIX – More than four years after a federal judge put the Maricopa County jails operated by Sheriff Joseph Arpaio under court order for neglect of detainees, that same judge, Neil Wake, has ruled that the jails must remain under the order. Judge Wake found that the jails continue to provide detainees with inadequate medical and mental health care. The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Arizona showed during an evidentiary hearing that concluded in March that the scarcity and poor quality of the jails' medical and mental health care caused unnecessary suffering.

"Those in charge of Maricopa County's jails can no longer skirt their constitutional responsibility for detainees' health," said Eric Balaban, staff attorney for the ACLU's National Prison Project. "Judge Wake found severe problems with the jails' medical care, from intake to treatment. Detainees have had serious illnesses that the jails' staff missed or ignored, causing permanent injuries and even deaths. With today’s decision, every detainee at Maricopa County should have access to adequate medical and mental health care. At last."

In August 2013, Maricopa County commissioners and the Sheriff asked the court to lift the order placed on it in 2008 – an order which itself resulted from the jails' failure to provide constitutionally adequate health care and abide by the terms of a 1995 federal court order requiring improvements in health services.

As Balaban explained, "Last year, the Maricopa County jails requested an end to the 2008 court order, claiming that they'd done what was necessary for the detainees' mental and physical health. We said, 'Not so fast.' We investigated, bringing medical and mental health experts to the jail, and what we found showed Judge Wake that the jails have a long way to go before his order can be lifted."

In addition to the ACLU and the ACLU of Arizona, Osborne Maledon, P.A., has assisted on the case.

Read the ruling here:

Solidarity with the women of Perryville: Never Surrender.

UPDATE September 30, 2014 7pm: I'm sorry, there's still no news on how this prisoner is faring. But if you pray, please send one up tonight for her and her kids, because no matter how this turns out, its going to be a tough one...

Last week, a dear friend of a dear friend was reported to have ended her life on Santa Cruz yard in Perryville prison. Over the weekend I learned a little about the kind of blessing this woman has been in the lives of  her friends and fellow prisoners, and determined to do something special to help remember her by.  As of yesterday morning the DOC still hadn't posted her death notice, and her record on line only showed that she was sent out  to the hospital on  9/25. Sometimes the DOC is pretty slow on those, though, and I was pretty sure of my sources. So, first thing Monday morning I hit Central Office to build a memorial for her and the other women who have died from suicide or gross neglect under the Brewer/Ryan administration. There are quite a few, some whose names and stories I don't even know. Some stories  I am all too familiar with, though, like that of the beloved Gloria Rogers, whose suffering I'll write about more in due time...

I returned home to process the photos from that action to find a shred of hope in a Facebook message, however: word from a friend of hers that she is apparently on life support, which explains the silence from the DOC. A hush has now fallen across the pages where she was being mourned, as all are now holding their breaths and saying their prayers for her recovery right now.

No one in this  woman's life saw a suicide attempt coming, by the way - she had just been returned to prison in August, having relapsed since her parole last year. She had just done a decade behind bars, and was now looking a six more years in prison, away from her family, as was her partner in crime. But she was tough, and seemed like she could handle it. She was certainly plagued by her addictions, but those who contacted me about her didn't know of any serious mental health history that would suggest she was at risk for this. They felt completely blindsided, and devastated. Many successful suicides occur without clear warning, though.

Out of respect for her privacy and that of her family's, I'll defer naming this good soul until she recovers enough from this trauma to give her permission or tell her story herself - or until the DOC posts a death notice, if it turns out she passes away. Until then, those of you searching for what happened to your friend on Santa Cruz last week should just keep good thoughts in your hearts for her - she may yet be holding on. And be sure to take advantage of this time of uncertainty about her fate to tell those you love how much they mean to you - especially if they are struggling now, or in exile. You never know if you'll have the opportunity to do so tomorrow.

Finally, those of you who are  struggling yourselves with thoughts of ending your life because you're in or are facing prison: chances are, there are people in your life who need you nonetheless - they need you to make it through this, or your death will haunt them forever. And there may be others down the road you can help if you can figure out how to survive your ordeal now.  So, please don't take yourself out - study your rights, and become a thorn in the DOC's side instead. Whatever you do, don't do their dirty work for them.

I'm attaching the images from yesterday's memorial to this post - with apologies to the women from Perryville who received misinformation and probably had to clean up after me. I pray I never have cause to write that name on the sidewalk again. The Ghosts of Jan Brewer number far too many already...

If you need help dealing with your own mental health crisis or that of a loved one, THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE is a free, 24/7 service that can provide suicidal persons or those around them with support, information and local resources.

800-273-TALK (8255)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

About the Solitary Confinement of youth...

I'm posting this article tonight because I'm outraged that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office routinely places mentally ill children,  in their custody because they are being tried as adults, in pre-trial solitary confinement for months at a time. The article isn't about Arizona - but it should be. The media hasn't bothered to even look at this here.

Not yet, anyway.

As the author below notes, its unacceptable to place children in solitary confinement for extended periods of time, even after they are convicted of a crime. That's not all that happens to them, though. When these poor kids say "fuck you" to a guard or get caught masturbating in their lonely hell, for example, they get punished even more severely than the kids in the general population of a juvenile center - or even the adults in the jail they're being held in would be, as they lose their calls and visits for weeks on end. That amounts to cutting them off from the outside world almost completely when they are most vulnerable and alone already - especially when, as is the case in Joe's Jails - the only mail they are allowed to receive are postcards.

The world has recognized that keeping children in solitary confinement - especially those who are already mentally ill - is extremely damaging; even in America, most mental health experts attest that it amounts to torture. The ACLU and the DOJ are suing jails and detention centers across the country for what Arpaio is doing to  mentally ill children - kids like Jessica Burlew, in solitary confinement at Estrella Jail since January of this year, when she was arrested at age 16. It's time the people of this state begin to agitate, and demand an end to such institutionalized child abuse. Let's start with trying to free Jessica from her isolation cell.

(EDITED SEPT 25, 2014 8:45PM - paragraph deleted)

Free Jessica!!!!

I'll be writing more about Jessica in the weeks to come, so stay tuned. In the meantime, message me if you want to join her support group - we have a lot of work to do. You can find me at


The Solitary Confinement of Youth

Ismael Nazario was raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., by his mom, a single parent who always emphasized the importance of education and doing well in school. When Ismael was 13, his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. As she underwent chemotherapy and radiation, Ismael began to struggle.

By 10th grade, he had lost interest in school and instead spent his time smoking marijuana and talking to girls. At 15, he got into a scuffle with another student and was arrested, placed in handcuffs and taken to the police station. A year later, at age 16, he was charged with assault and sent to Rikers Island jail to await resolution of his case.

There he was attacked by four inmates who demanded his phone privileges and commissary food and required him to ask their permission before sitting in a chair or using the bathroom. Ismael quickly learned that in order to survive, he needed to be ready to fight.

Although Ismael’s assault charge was ultimately dismissed, the two months that he spent in jail changed the way in which he saw himself and his place in the world. The following year, at age 17, he was once again held at Rikers — this time for two alleged robberies — as he could not afford to post bail. After getting into a fight with a group of other inmates, which guards characterized as inciting a riot, Ismail was placed in solitary confinement.

While there, he hallucinated, paced, talked to himself, cried and screamed. The New York City Department of Corrections disciplinary rules allow for inmates to be sentenced to punitive solitary confinement for such seemingly minor infractions as horseplay, noisy behavior or annoying a staff member.

Before Ismael left Rikers two years later, he had spent more than 300 days in “the box,” a six-by-eight-foot cell containing a bunk, sink, toilet, and metal door with no natural light and a small mesh window through which food is delivered. His longest stretch in solitary lasted four months. All of his time incarcerated at Rikers was in pretrial detention — he had not yet been convicted of a crime.

Ismael Nazario’s experience is representative of the many thousands of young people who are held in isolation on any given day across the globe. I’ve conducted new research that reveals that approximately 30 percent of the world’s countries either employ the practice or legally condone its use.

Whether the young person is held in a juvenile or immigrant detention center, adult jail or prison, the common denominator for all these settings is that the individual is under the age of 18, removed from the general population of the facility, and kept alone in a room or a cell for 23 hours each day, with one hour of exercise in what is often a small cage.

Frequently the triggering event for imposing isolation is a relatively minor misbehavior that violates the facility’s rules. Large percentages of teenagers in solitary have diagnosed mental health problems. Solitary may also be imposed during pretrial detention to coerce suspects into confessing or pleading guilty.

Government entities have long justified the practice of solitary confinement on only a few grounds. U.S. Bureau of Prisons regulations stipulate that solitary confinement is warranted to ensure the safety and security of the facility or as a sanction for committing a prohibited act. Corrections officers maintain that solitary is the best way to prevent violence among inmates, many of whom are mentally ill, and is necessary for prison guard safety. Studies have found that isolation is one of the key correlates for reports of illness, self-mutilation and jail suicides.

When the inmate is alone and living in disciplinary or segregated housing, violence toward staff has also been found to be significantly more likely. It has even been suggested that isolation and intensified control measures in prison settings generate a culture or ecology of cruelty, causing long-term psychological harm to the correctional officers who work in these units. Likewise, studies have found that subjecting prisoners to solitary confinement makes it more difficult for them to assimilate back into their communities, increasing the risk of recidivism.

There is no easy answer to the question of why the practice of isolating young inmates continues to persist despite extensive evidence of its harm. Since the 1980s, a major factor has been the tough on crime penal philosophy perpetuated by legislators and a lack of meaningful judicial review of the conditions of isolation. From the perspective of those within the prison industrial complex, it is easier to keep adolescent super-predators locked alone in cells than to implement the reforms necessary to create a healthy correctional environment.

This attitude is particularly pronounced when the young people are black or brown, have no one to advocate for them, and have been labeled bad kids or throwaway kids by the juvenile and criminal justice systems.
These factors are further compounded by the high percentages of imprisoned youth who are mentally ill, have drug or alcohol addictions, or both, presenting even greater challenges to facilities with few resources.

Ismael Nazario, who spent more than 300 days in “the box” in Rikers Island jail, is now in his mid-20s. His mother survived cancer, and she and her son are still close. Ismael eventually pled guilty to one of the robbery charges and the other was reduced to a misdemeanor, enabling him to avoid a felony conviction.

Since his release he has found meaningful employment — for three years he worked as a case manager with at-risk adolescents in Brooklyn and more recently with adults and teenagers who have been released from Rikers Island. Ismail does not talk with his clients about his own time in the box, but he has seen what the experience has done to other boys.

Most young people who are held in isolation are not as fortunate as Ismail. Yet, the question of whether to continue to isolate youth cannot be characterized as merely another intractable issue about which reasonable minds may differ. The justifications that allow governments to keep teenagers alone in cells for hours, days and weeks at a time are not the result of rational thinking based on evidence. Instead, the solitary confinement of youth is one more byproduct of the systemic problems that continue to plague modern society: the vanishing social safety-net, generational poverty, implicit bias, the school-to-prison pipeline, mass incarceration and the criminalization of mental illness. Ending the practice of isolating children is an important step toward confronting these broader issues.

Tamar. R. Birckhead is associate professor of law and the director of clinical programs at the University of North Carolina School of Law. Her research on solitary confinement will be published in 2015 in the Wake Forest Law Review.

Monday, September 22, 2014

ASPC-Winslow/Kaibab: Homicide of Fabian Lozano, 26.

UPDATE 9/23/14: 

Fabian's family reports that he was strangled to death by another prisoner at ASPC-Winslow after being denied Protective Custody three times...sounds like he fought for his life to the end.

There will be a car wash to try to raise funds for Fabian's funeral expenses on Saturday, September 27 from 8am-3pm in Mesa at the corner of Mesa Drive and Broadway - there's a tire shop across from the Circle K there that will host them. Please support. He left 4 kids behind, so they can use all the help we can give them.


Condolences to this young man's loved ones. If anyone knows anything about Fabian's life or death, please contact me at or PO Box 20494 Phoenix, AZ 85036.

If you are Fabian's family and need help getting records from the AZ DOC or contacting an attorney familiar with suing the state, please contact me as well - I'll do what I can to help. My name is Peggy Plews. My number is 480-580-6807.

Fabian Lozano, 26

------------from the AZ DOC website---------------


(602) 542-3133


For Immediate Release

For more information contact:
Doug Nick
Bill Lamoreaux
Monday, September 22, 2014

WINSLOW, (Monday September 22, 2014) – Inmate Fabian Lozano, 26, ADC #260873, was pronounced deceased on September 19, 2014.  The cause of death is under investigation.

Lozano was sentenced out of Maricopa County and was serving one and a half years in prison for aggravated assault.  He returned to ADC custody on March 7, 2014 and was housed at ASPC – Winslow.

All inmate deaths are investigated in consultation with the county medical examiner’s office.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Parsons v Ryan: Experts report on Arizona's Other Death Row...

Per the ACLU of Arizona: "Every week, on average, a patient who has been neglected or mistreated dies in the Arizona prison system..."

Thank you, ACLU and Prison Law Office, as well as the folks at Perkins Coie and Jones Day, and the AZ Center for Disability Law for fighting Parsons v Ryan.  Thanks as well to Wendy Halloran at KPNX/Channel 12 News, and Bob Ortega at the Arizona Republic for exposing the AZ DOC's and their medical care providers' failings.
I urge all of you who are helping prisoners fight Corizon now for their medical care to read these reports (links are here). There may be something in there your loved ones can use for their own cases - after all, its the pattern of deliberate indifference that makes  the AZ DOC director personally responsible for their suffering, even if he didn't know about them individually or their conditions. 

  Along those lines, prisoners really need to follow the AZ DOC's medical grievance policy (DO 802) to the letter if they are going to get any help, so download and study that policy first, yourselves, and send them a copy. Send them this one as well, DO 1101 on accessing health care services. Then send them this thing, the Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook from the National Lawyers' Guild. It'll tell them why they need to file grievances and what to do when they don't get the answers they need.

If you need more info on strategies for fighting DOC and Corizon, check out this newsletter and these blog posts:

Corizon's deliberate indifference: fighting back. (Thursday, May 30, 2013)

Corizon and the AZ DOC: Prisoners & Families, Know Your Rights. (Tuesday, March 5, 2013)

 a loving sister remembering Nelson Douglas Johnson, one of many AZ DOC prisoners
 who committed suicide in solitary confinement under Jan Brewer's administration...

Here's also a list of civil suit attorneys that I know have sued the AZ DOC before, as well as a few other resources. Now, that's not an endorsement of anyone in particular - check them out yourselves. Just make sure you get someone who understands prison law - it's really not like any other civil litigation.

The class action suit is scheduled to go to trial on October 21, 2014 in US District Court in Phoenix, so plan to be with us that week, at least!!!

---------from the ACLU of Arizona---------

Arizona Prisons’ Widespread Failings Detailed 
in Newly Released Reports

 Healthcare in Arizona Department of Corrections Facilities 
Does Not Meet Minimum Standards, Experts Find 

Sept. 9, 2014 

CONTACT: Steve Kilar, ACLU of Arizona, 602-773-6007,

PHOENIX – Nearly two dozen expert reports that detail widespread problems with the Arizona Department of Corrections’ healthcare system, as well as its use of solitary confinement, were made public late Monday. 

“I observed locked, dark and empty rooms that I was told were exam rooms, but lacked basic medical equipment,” wrote Dr. Robert Cohen, an expert in correctional medicine, in one of his reports (11/8/13 report, page 5). “Medical equipment was broken, covered in dust, and in some cases based on logs attached to them, had not been repaired or checked in more than a decade.” 

Dr. Cohen found that almost half of people who died “natural deaths” while in ADC’s care over a six-month period received “grossly deficient” medical care (2/24/14 report, pages 1-2). Every week, on average, a patient who has been neglected or mistreated dies in the Arizona prison system, according to these expert reports. 

“In some of these cases, the poor care clearly caused or hastened their death,” Dr. Cohen wrote (2/24/14 report, page 1-2). “It is alarming that almost half of the natural deaths occurring during the brief half year period under review would reveal such significant problems with delivery of basic medical services.” 

Dr. Cohen uncovered shocking delays in treatment including the case of a 38-year-old prisoner whose death from cancer was avoidable according to ADC’s own documents (2/24/14 report, pages 19-25). Another prisoner died of untreated lung cancer after being accused by nurses of lying about his medical condition; they said in his medical records that he was “playing games” and “seeking attention” (2/24/14 report, pages 25-32). A 24-year-old man died of AIDS-related pneumonia after his AIDS went undiagnosed and untreated for a year, despite his pleas for HIV tests and treatment, Dr. Cohen found (2/24/14 report, page 52). 

These are not isolated cases. Dr. Cohen’s findings, and the findings of the plaintiffs’ other experts, point to systemic deficiencies in ADC’s healthcare. 

“[T]here were multiple cases in which the lapses were so shocking and dangerous that I felt ethically obligated as a medical professional to bring them to the immediate attention of the ADC and Corizon staff,” Dr. Cohen said (11/8/13 report, page 4). Corizon is the company contracted by the state to provide healthcare to prisoners. 

The other experts made equally damning discoveries. The 23 expert reports, which were previously confidential, were made public yesterday pursuant to a court order in anticipation of an October trial relating to ADC’s failure to provide more than 33,000 prisoners in 10 prisons healthcare and conditions of confinement that meet constitutional standards. 

“[T]he chronic shortage of mental health staff, delays in providing or outright failure to provide mental health treatment, the gross inadequacies in the provision of psychiatric medications, and the other deficiencies identified in this report are statewide systemic problems, and prisoners who need mental health care have already experienced, and will experience, a serious risk of injury to their health if these problems are not addressed,” wrote Dr. Pablo Stewart, another expert hired by plaintiffs’ counsel to tour ADC’s prisons and review prisoners’ medical records, in one of his reports (11/8/13 report, page 10). 

Dr. Stewart, a psychiatry professor with expertise in prison mental health care, uncovered numerous preventable suicides by prisoners, lengthy and serious delays in care, insufficient and unlicensed staff and inadequate medication protocols. One prisoner hanged himself after ADC neglected to give him his prescribed mood stabilizing drugs for more than three weeks, Dr. Stewart found (11/8/13 report, pages 21-23). 

The reports also detail significant, dangerous problems with ADC’s use of solitary confinement. Some people, for instance, are put in isolation simply because other beds are full (Vail 11/8/13 report, page 9). Mentally ill prisoners are often isolated because ADC does not have treatment alternatives, according to one expert (Vail 11/8/13 report, page 13). 

“[T]he ADC health care delivery system is fundamentally broken and is among the worst prison health care systems I have encountered,” Dr. Cohen wrote (11/8/13 report, page 3). “[U]nless ADC dramatically reverses its course, it will continue to operate in a way that harms patients by denying them necessary care for serious medical conditions.” 

Plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit, Parsons v. Ryan, are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, the ACLU of Arizona, the Prison Law Office, Jones Day, Perkins Coie LLP and the Arizona Center for Disability Law. 

A trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 21. More expert reports will be made public prior to the trial. 

The complete reports now available can be found here. Reporters can email the ACLU of Arizona to request report summaries.