MARGARET J PLEWS
PO BOX 20494
PHOENIX, AZ 85036

arizonaprisonwatch@gmail.com

480-580-6807

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.

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AS OF AUGUST 2014 I am dealing with a family emergency out of state, and will likely be gone for the next month. If you need assistance, write to my PO box and my friends with the PHOENIX ANARCHIST BLACK CROSS will try to help you. Or email me at arizonaprisonwatch@gmail.com, which I'll try to check at least a couple of times a week.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Prison (HBO)

America's prisons are broken. Just ask John Oliver and several puppets.

THE I-Files: Teens in Solitary Confinement

AZ PRISON WATCH ACTION ITEMS:

RESIGN, CHUCK RYAN

RESIGN, CHUCK RYAN
Petition by the family of Tony Lester, victim of suicide in AZ DOC custody.

Prisoners and Families: Send your SOS to the DOJ!

We really need those of you out there who have been in an AZ prison, have lost a child or other family member in an AZ prison, or have a loved one in an AZ prison now, to write a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder (that one is mine) about the need for a federal intervention here, and send me a copy, with a nice photo, if you have one, of the beloved prisoner - I don't have to post your letters and pictures, but please tell me if I may, with or without names.

If you need some motivation, see what the Governor had to say to him about the swell state things are in here. Don't let her pass that BS off on him unchallenged.

When the truth of prison rape and violence is made public and appeals for relief come directly from those affected, the rest of the community identifies better with prisoners as people, and it puts more pressure on the feds - as well as the governor- to act. And you are the ones with the most at stake here. So, please back me up on this argument I'm making, folks. If the feds listened to me, they'd have been here long ago - I need your support!

And don't just "like" me on Facebook or the Daily KOS - SHARE SHARE SHARE!!!

US Attorney General Eric Holder
US Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington DC 20530


Send word to your loved ones in prison to write the AG as well, and to send me copies if they want me to post their letters, too.

AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

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NOTE AUGUST 12, 2014: I am dealing with a family crisis out of state, and will likely not be available for the next month. Please write to my PO box (above) if you need assistance and my friends will try to help you.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Marcia Powell's Death Officially An Accident

Marcia Powell's Autopsy Report Rules Cage Death in ADC Custody an "Accident"


Marcia Powell, who died in ADC custody May 20

The Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office has released the autopsy report and toxicology results for Marcia Powell, the 48-year-old woman who died May 20 after being confined to a human cage at Perryville Prison in Goodyear for some four hours in the blazing Arizona sun.


The conclusion of Medical Examiner Mark Fischione is that the cause of death was due to "complications of hyperthermia due to environmental heat exposure." The manner of death is ruled an "accident." You can read the report for yourself, here.


The external examination revealed blistering and first and second degree "thermal injuries" on her upper body, arms and face. Toxicology showed that she tested positive for several medications, including Benztropine, a medication for Parkinson disease, the antipsychotic medication Haloperidol, and valproic acid, a mood-stabilizing drug used to treat depression and epilepsy.


Donna Hamm, with the advocacy group Middle Ground Prison Reform, said her group was concerned with the findings.


"We are trying to reserve judgment until we see everything, including the DOC investigation," said Hamm, whose organization ultimately took custody of Powell's remains, "but the autopsy does seem to raise the question of how far prison officials can go before something they do is ruled a reckless homicide. I guess the county attorney will make that final decision. We will certainly be interested in how this plays out."


Powell was serving a 27-month stint for prostitution at Perryville, when, according to an Arizona Department of Corrections statement released at the time, she was "placed in an outside, uncovered, chain-linked holding cell at 11 a.m.," on a day temperatures reached a 107 degree high.


"At 2:40 p.m., Powell collapsed," the statement continues. "Powell was taken to West Valley Hospital at 3:12 p.m. She was pronounced dead at 12:42 a.m. Wednesday [May 20]."


ADC honcho Charles Ryan gave the order for Powell's life support to be suspended on the advice of the physicians on duty, according to him. It was later learned that Powell had a guardian, the Office of the Public Fiduciary. Ryan told me following a memorial service for Powell at Encanto Community Church in Phoenix that he did not know Powell had a guardian when he gave the order suspending life support and that ADC had no record of a guardian in its files.


The fiduciary's office undertook an extensive investigation seeking a next of kin to take possession of Powell's remains. Powell's adoptive mother Joanne Buck, 76, of La Quinta, California was located by the fiduciary, but she said she'd had "very little contact" over the years with Powell, most of which was unpleasant. She told the fiduciary that she didn't want to take custody of Powell's remains.


Other leads on the whereabouts of Powell's family did not pan out for the fiduciary. A son turned up having been murdered. A daughter was adopted by family in Tempe, but there was no indication as to where the girl might be.


Another person by the name of Troy Troutman (with the alternative spelling of "Trautman") was listed in one of Powell's mental health files as "next of kin," with no further explanation. In testimony before Commissioner Michael Hintze concerning the matter, a representative for the fiduciary's office speculated that Troutman might be a son, but they could not locate him.


Hamm says that a prisoner who was in with Powell told her that Powell had a son named Troy. The medical examiner's report indicates Powell had several tattoos, one of which was the name "Troy" on her upper right arm. Others were of a flower, a teardrop, and the names "John" and "John C."


Powell's cremains were committed June 28 at Shadow Rock United Church of Christ in Phoenix. Her body may now be laid to rest, so to speak, but the questions concerning her death still resonate.


Why was she left in the 107 degree heat without water for about four hours, if not more? Did the drugs in her system, combined with the extreme heat and sunlight, exacerbate her condition? And why was ADC chief Ryan so quick to pull Powell's plug, when a little more time would have revealed a guardian and some next of kin?

Another Inmate Overdose: Florence

Inmate Dies At Florence Prison

KPHO.com
POSTED: 11:12 am MST August 31, 2009
UPDATED: 11:32 am MST August 31, 2009



One inmate at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Florence is dead after a suspected drug overdose, authorities said.According to the official Inmate Death Notification, Douglas Nunn, 33, died Saturday.Before his death, Nunn told staff that he took some pills, the notice said. When he started having seizures, officials took him to Casa Grande Regional Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
His death is under investigation.
Nunn was serving a seven-year, six-month sentence out of Yavapai County for aggravated assault and aggravated driving under the influence.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Remember Corrections Corporation of America (CCA)

August 21, 2009

Man's Death in Private Immigration Jail Bares Difficulty of Detention Overhaul

In the fall of 2006, a man's death brought a team of federal investigators to the large, privately run immigration jail in Eloy, Ariz. Medical care was so poor, the team later warned immigration officials, that ''detainee welfare is in jeopardy.''

Another death there soon spurred another inquiry, and another scathing report was issued about the care provided by the private company, the Corrections Corporation of America.

But the government scrutiny did not add up to much for Felix Franklin Rodriguez-Torres, 36, an Ecuadorean construction worker who wound up in Eloy that fall as an unauthorized immigrant after being jailed for petty larceny in New York City. By mid-December, a fellow detainee told the man's relatives, Mr. Rodriguez lay pleading for medical help on the floor of his cell, unable to move.

He died weeks later of testicular cancer, a typically fast-growing but treatable disease, which had gone undiagnosed and untreated during his two months at Eloy, which holds more than 1,500 detainees. And despite a discussion of his case among top federal immigration officials while he was dying -- captured in e-mail messages between Washington and Arizona -- his death on Jan. 18, 2007, was not listed on the roster of detention fatalities that the federal agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, produced under pressure last year and updated in April.

His death, and the damning reports that preceded it, are coming to light only through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.

On Monday, after inquiries about Mr. Rodriguez's death by The New York Times, the immigration agency added his name and nine others to the public roster -- including another unrecorded death at Eloy, in 2005.

The Rodriguez case echoes many others that have spurred demands for an overhaul of immigration detention. But in its details, it underscores the daunting challenge facing the Obama administration as it tries to improve detention conditions, starting with greater oversight of places like Eloy.

''The rampant problems of medical and mental health care aren't just going to go away if there's more oversight,'' said David Shapiro, a lawyer with the A.C.L.U.'s National Prison Project, which has called for legally binding rules on conditions in immigration detention. ''There have to be consequences.''

The Corrections Corporation of America referred questions about Mr. Rodriguez's case to the immigration agency, known as ICE, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Matthew Chandler, a spokesman for the department, said the administration had taken its first steps ''to improve medical care, custodial conditions, fiscal prudence and ICE's critical oversight of the immigration detention system, and we will find out why this death wasn't reported properly.''

The administration's long-term goal is a vastly different detention system, no smaller in size, but less penal in character.

At the same time, however, Janet Napolitano, secretary of homeland security, is expanding immigration enforcement. And officials said they would rely on the same prison companies and county jails.

In some ways, Mr. Rodriguez's case fits a priority of Ms. Napolitano's: detaining people accused of immigration violations who are already in jail for a crime.

Records show that Mr. Rodriguez, who had entered the United States on a visitor's visa in 1998 to represent Ecuador in a karate tournament, was transferred to immigration authorities on Nov. 8, 2006, after serving five months at Rikers Island. He had been accused of helping rob an acquaintance after a Saturday of soccer and beer in Corona, Queens.

Though he pleaded guilty to petty larceny, he maintained his innocence even on his deathbed, said his father, Felix Rodriguez, a legal resident who has been a deliveryman for a Manhattan jewelry company for 15 years.
''I understand a prisoner shouldn't be on a golden bed, but a prisoner is a human being,'' the father said in Spanish. ''He at least deserves respect when he is so sick he can't even eat.''

By the time the ailing detainee was taken to Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix, on Dec. 27, 2006, he had a mass in his neck that had ''tripled in size'' and obstructed his breathing, according to a government summary of his care. He was placed on life support, and died when it was disconnected.

While he was dying, a draft synopsis of his case was already circulating in Washington. It stated that he had been seen by the Eloy medical staff ''on numerous occasions,'' and first complained of a sore neck on Dec. 25. In their exchanges, officials did not question why the medical staff had failed to recognize symptoms of cancer.

Just weeks earlier, the agency's own investigations had linked two Eloy deaths to inadequate medical staffing by the Corrections Corporation, which was then reaping record profits from stepped-up immigration enforcement.

''Medical care in this facility does not meet ICE standards,'' the first investigating team wrote to John P. Torres, director of detention and removal operations, after the suicide of a 32-year-old Guatemalan detainee on Sept. 29, 2006. They noted that a sick call request from the Guatemalan, Jose Lopez-Gregario, had been ignored for a week, even though he was on suicide watch.

The medical staff -- ''overwhelmed due to a sudden loss of veteran staff'' -- apparently assumed he had already been deported. Cut off from care in an isolation cell and racked with guilt that he had left his family without enough food, he hanged himself.

A second team assessed Eloy again after a 27-year-old Colombian was found unconscious in an isolation cell there on Dec. 6, 2006; an ''unwitnessed seizure'' left him brain-dead.

''The facility has failed on multiple levels to perform basic supervision and provide for the safety and welfare of ICE detainees,'' the investigators wrote.

The Colombian, Mario Chavez-Torres, had shown symptoms of bleeding on the brain, and should have been sent for outside evaluation, the report said; a week after his written request for medical attention for ''headaches, dizziness and vomiting,'' he collapsed in the shower.

A call for medical help by a guard was answered an hour later by a vocational nurse who told him: ''I'm not qualified. To be honest, I'm just a pill-pusher.'' That lone night nurse was responsible for distributing medication to 300 chronically ill detainees among 1,500, the report said.

The first report had warned that most of the seasoned medical staff left Eloy that fall, months before a planned takeover of its medical unit by ICE's Division of Immigration Health in 2007. But authorities had continued to send detainees to Eloy, and Mr. Rodriguez was among them.

To his sister Janneth Montesdeoca, who lives in Ozone Park, Queens, Mr. Rodriguez seemed healthy until just before his transfer to immigration authorities. On her last visit to Rikers, she noticed that his head seemed swollen.

The swelling was most likely a sign that cancer was blocking his lymph system, said physicians consulted for this article, adding that it should have been caught in a full medical exam. Both reports had noted that though all immigration detainees are supposed to get a medical exam within 14 days of admission, timely exams were not performed at Eloy that fall.

Most testicular cancer is fast-growing, said Dr. David Weiner, a urologist at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in Manhattan, but even after spreading, ''it's a very treatable cancer in the vast majority of cases.''

In a phone call to his mother from Eloy on Dec. 18, 2006, Mr. Rodriguez said he had seen the doctor there many times, complaining of coughing and fever. When he stopped calling, his worried family repeatedly contacted his deportation officer, who kept assuring them that Mr. Rodriguez was fine, said his brother-in-law, Leonardo Montesdeoca, a United States citizen who works for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The family says they learned the truth about a week after Mr. Rodriguez had been taken to the hospital, in a call from another detainee.

''He said Franklin was very, very sick,'' Mr. Montesdeoca said. ''They would call the attention of the guards and they would just ignore, they would look the other way.''

Records show that on Jan. 12, 2007, the hospital told the detention company that he had as little as a week to live. But his sister says the deportation officer would not tell them where Mr. Rodriguez had been hospitalized. Instead, relatives said, he offered to release the detainee to their care if they paid for a plane ticket to New York -- a plan derailed, apparently, because the patient was too sick to travel.

It was a phone call from Mr. Rodriguez that brought the family to his deathbed. Against the rules, a nurse had lent him her cellphone.

''If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have known if my son was dead or alive,'' said his mother, Maria Torres, who lives in Queens.

His face lit up when he saw his parents arrive the next day, Mr. Montesdeoca said. They spoke for a few hours before the two guards at his bedside cut off the visit. The next morning, he was in a coma.

In the e-mail messages about his impending death, one official wrote from a BlackBerry, ''Thanks for the advance notice,'' after alerting Mr. Torres, the director of detention for the agency, and Gary E. Mead, the deputy.

Dr. Gene A. Migliaccio, director of the agency's Immigration Health Services at the time, was asked ''to reach out to Phoenix'' and ''to ensure that proper protocols are followed.'' One of his employees asked if anyone had the Eloy medical records: ''When this detainee is taken off life support, may I get a copy for my death chart?''

But there is no evidence that the medical records were ever collected. The death was automatically referred to the immigration agency's Office of Professional Responsibility in Washington, which simply sent it back to the Phoenix field office for an internal management review.

In March 2007, the matter was closed when the local office filed its terse conclusion: the detainee had died of aggressive cancer, and there was no evidence of negligence. The same month, a report by the Homeland Security Department's inspector general on the death of the Colombian detainee found no evidence of foul play or inadequate response.

But at least two more detainees died at Eloy in 2008 -- a 41-year-old Iraqi and a 52-year-old man from Ghana.

Mr. Rodriguez's ashes were mailed to his mother, and she carried them back to Ecuador for burial.
''I never want another immigrant to feel this pain,'' she said. ''Not knowing what to do, his suffering and no way of getting him help.''

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Another suspected prison suicide

Prison inmate serving 14 years dies in Tucson hospital

Reported by: Associated Press
Last Update: 8/24 3:24 pm
William Englebert
William Englebert 
 
TUCSON, AZ -- The Arizona Department of Corrections says a prison inmate has died at a Tucson hospital after being taken off life support.
 
Corrections officials say William Englebert was transported to St. Mary's Hospital on Aug. 16 because of a possible drug overdose and was placed on life support.
 
They say his family consented to the withdrawal of care and Englebert died last Saturday afternoon.
 
The DOC says Englebert was sentenced out of Maricopa County and was serving 14 years for armed robbery and identity theft.
 
He had been in prison since October 2005 and was being held at the state prison in Florence.
 
DOC officials say Englebert's possible drug overdose is under investigation.

Send them home.

Dear UNSHACKLE friends,

I came across this article on a bill recently signed into law that amends Maine's policies around jails and state prisons to allow early release for people who are terminally ill.

I know that many of you on this list have done tremendous work around compassionate release guidelines and petitions in various states. Please let us know if there is any further update on this policy, particularly how 'those who might pose a risk of reoffending' is being defined/is traditionally defined.

All my best,
Laura


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New Law Allows Some Terminally Ill Inmates to Leave Prison Early
http://www.mpbn.net/News/MaineNews/tabid/181/ctl/ViewItem/mid/3475/ItemId/8669/Default.aspx
August 14, 2009 Reported By: Anne Ravana

Today Gov. John Baldacci signed into law a bill that amends a few correctional programs. LD 1224, "An Act Regarding the Operation of County Jails and the State Board of Corrections," will allow terminally ill inmates to leave prison early if they do not pose a threat to public safety. And the law also expands domestic violence and sexual assualt victim notification requirements.

Originally Aired: 8/14/2009 5:30 PM Listen (Duration: 3:29)

Only about seven percent of Maine's jail and prison inmates are over the age of 55, but corrections officials say most of those older inmates are not in good health.

"We see every type of sickness coming through, I think known, to man and that's why our pharmaceutical bill runs about $15,000 a month," says Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross. "Hepatitis C is very common, alcohol problems, AIDS due to needle use, we have lots of problems with pharmaceutical abuse where people are coming in on many different types of drugs, and that combined with alcoholism, we have to try to get that person stabilized and off medicines that they're not supposed to be on."

Ross says he supports a new law that amends the state's home release program provisions, and allows some inmates to be released early into nursing homes or hospice care.

"There are those times when we have older individuals that have severe diseases that may succumb to those diseases, and the cost of keeping them in the jail or in the hospitals being guarded is astronomical," Ross says. "So there's no real good answer to this. I do support the new law if it's applied in a way that protects public safety, and you have people that are monitoring to make sure that the decisions are not purely financial and the risk to the community is the number one priority."

Under the law, which was amended in the last session of the Legislature, the home release program would not apply to inmates sentenced to life in prison or those who might pose a risk of reoffending, Ross says.

Many of the bill's provisions were recommended by the Board of Corrections, and Denise Lord, Associate Commissioner for the state Department of Corrections, says the bill brings more flexibility to the home release program.

"The early release programs that currently exist require prisoners to have served a certain portion of their sentence and to have a minimal amount of time left on their sentence before they're eligible for early release," she says. "For those prisoners who are severely medically incapacitated, those requirements go away."

Medically incapacitated, Lord says, means physically ill, not mentally ill. She says standards for release will be the same at all county jails and state prisons, and the new law leaves that decision to the sheriffs.

Sheriff Ross says there's always the question of how and where terminally ill inmates will be cared for after release, but the Volunteers of America, he says, have been a help.

"Here in Penobscot County we have a contract with Volunteers of America for release of inmates back into the community," he says. "And so that's a supervised community confinement program, basically, where we have somebody checking in on them. But we can set up conditions on inmates that are released to hospitals, or to homes and have them checked on by our VOA staff."

The Maine Department of Corrections says the state expects the percentage of inmates over 55 to grow in the coming years, and it's already higher than most states. Also in the new law is an expansion of the state's victim notification requirements. Now victims of Class D, or misdemeanor crimes, of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking may request notification when the offender is released from jail or prison.


--
Laura McTighe
Director of Project UNSHACKLE
Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP)
80-A Fourth Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11217
llmctighe@champnetwork.org
Office: (212) 937–7955, Ext. 20
Cell: (215) 380-5556
Fax: (401) 633-7793

www.champnetwork.org/unshackle

Friday, August 28, 2009

Jail Accreditation update


Arizona Republic
August 28, 2009
Maricopa County has taken the first step in getting its jails reaccredited.
Correctional Health Services, the agency charged with providing health care to nearly 10,000 inmates in county custody, submitted an application for accreditation this week with the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare.
The same agency stripped the county's jails of accreditation in January, saying the facilities failed to meet federal standards for care. The agency also alleged that county officials gave the accrediting group inaccurate information about the county's efforts to reform health care in the jails.
County administrators plan to bring in a separate team of consultants before the end of the year to inspect health care offered to inmates in anticipation of the accrediting group.
The county still is negotiating with the assessment team, but County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox said the outside evaluation team should cost less than $65,000.
"It's a check-and-balance. They bring in all the best policies from around the U.S.," she said of the consultants. "And it's more important if you get litigated against." A spike in litigation was exactly what jail health-care experts predicted when Maricopa County lost its accreditation. A trio of lawsuits filed in the past two months have cited the loss.
County officials repeatedly have been told that Correctional Health Services operations are inadequate and pose a danger to inmates.
Over the past 10 years, faced with hundreds of lawsuits, a federal court order and the loss of accreditation, the Board of Supervisors has paid more than $250,000 to consultants to find solutions to improve care.
Since 1998, the county has paid $13 million in legal fees, settlements and jury verdicts to inmates and their families for injury and death claims against the Correctional Health Services.County administrators have contended that the jails always met national standards and the decision to pull accreditation was based on faulty information.

Women's Resistance Behind Bars

Beyond Attica: The Untold Story of Women's Resistance Behind Bars
By Hans Bennett
Alternet
July 21, 2009

As the incarceration rate of U.S. women skyrockets, an important book shines new light on the struggles of women prisoners.

"When I was 15, my friends started going to jail," says Victoria Law, a native New Yorker.

"Chinatown's gangs were recruiting in the high schools in Queens and, faced with the choice of stultifying days learning nothing in overcrowded classrooms or easy money, many of my friends had dropped out to join a gang."

"One by one," Law recalls, "they landed in Rikers Island, an entire island in New York City devoted to pretrial detainment for those who can not afford bail."

Law shares this and other recollections in her new book, Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women (PM Press). At 16, she herself decided to join a gang, but was arrested for the armed robbery that she committed for her initiation into the gang. "Because it was my first arrest -- and probably because 16-year-old Chinese girls who get straight As in school did not seem particularly menacing -- I was eventually let off with probation," she writes.

Before her release from jail, Law was held in the "Tombs" awaiting arraignment. While the adult women she met there had all been arrested for prostitution, she also met three teenagers arrested for unarmed assault. "Two of the girls were black lesbian lovers. In a scenario that would be repeated 13 years later in the case of the New Jersey Four, they had been out with friends when they encountered a cab driver who had tried to grab one of them. Her friends intervened, the cab driver called the police and the girls were arrested for assault." Law notes that "both of my cellmates were subsequently sent to Rikers Island."

These early experiences, coupled with her later discovery of radical politics, pushed Law "to think about who goes to prison and why." She got involved in several projects to support prisoners, which included helping to start Books Through Bars in New York City, sending free books to prisoners. In college, she "began researching current prisoner organizing and resistance," and upon discovering almost zero documentation of resistance from women prisoners, she began her own documentation and directly contacted women prisoners who were resisting. A college paper became a widely distributed pamphlet, and at the request of several women prisoners she'd corresponded with, Law helped to publish their writings in a zine called Tenacious: Art and Writings from Women in Prison. Law writes that the zine and pamphlet "heightened awareness not only about incarcerated women's issues, but also women's actions to challenge and change the injustices they faced on a daily basis."

"This book is the result of seven and a half years of reading, writing, listening, and supporting women in prison," Law says about Resistance Behind Bars, noting that each chapter in her book "focuses on an issue that women themselves have identified as important." The chapters include topics as diverse as health care, the relationship between mothers and daughters, sexual abuse, education, and resistance among women in immigration detention. Resistance Behind Bars paints a picture of women prisoners resisting a deeply flawed prison system, which Law hopes will help to empower both the women held in cages and those on the outside working to support them.

Who Goes To Prison?

Since 1970, the U.S. prison population has skyrocketed, from 300,000 to over 2.3 million. According to the U.S. Justice Department, this staggering increase has not resulted from a rise in crime. In fact, since 1993, the prison population has increased by over one million, but during this same period, both property offenses and serious violent crime have been steadily declining. The New York Times recently cited a 2008 report by the International Center for Prison Studies at King's College London documenting that the U.S. has more prisoners than any other country. Furthermore, with 751 out of 100,000 people, and one out of every 100 adults in prison or jail, the U.S. also has the highest incarceration rate in the world. With only five percent of the world's population, the U.S. has almost a quarter of the world's prisoners.

While women comprise only nine percent of the U.S. prison population, their numbers have been increasing at a faster rate than men. As Law documents, "between 1990 and 2000, the number of women in prison rose 108 percent, from 44,065 to 93,234. (The male prison population grew 77 percent during that same time period.) By the end of 2006, 112,498 women were behind bars."

Like with male incarceration rates, women behind bars are disproportionately low-income and people of color. Law writes that "only 40 percent of all incarcerated women had been employed full-time before incarceration. Of those, most had held low-paying jobs: a study of women under supervision (prison, jail, parole or probation) found that two-thirds had never held a job that paid more than $6.50 per hour. Approximately 37 percent earned less than $600 per month."

A 2007 Bureau of Justice study documented that 358 of every 100,000 Black women, 152 of every 100,000 Latinas, and 94 of every 100,000 white women are incarcerated. Explaining this racial discrepancy, Law argues that inner-city Black and Latino neighborhoods are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement. She cites a 2005 U.S. Department of Justice study which concluded that Blacks and Latinos are "three times as likely as whites to be searched, arrested, threatened or subdued with force when stopped by the police."
The so-called "War on Drugs" has played a key role in the growth of the U.S. prison population.

Law writes about the impact of New York State's Rockefeller Drug Laws passed in 1973, "which required a sentence of 15 years to life for anyone convicted of selling two ounces or possessing four ounces of a narcotic, regardless of circumstances or prior history. That year, only 400 women were imprisoned in New York State. As of January 1, 2001, there were 3,133. Over 50 percent had been convicted of a drug offense and 20 percent were convicted solely of possession. Other states passed similar laws, causing the number of women imprisoned nationwide for drug offenses to rise 888 percent from 1986 to 1996."

Distinguishing women prisoners from their male counterparts, Law cites a Bureau of Justice study which "found that women were three times more likely than men to have been physically or sexually abused prior to incarceration."

Women Prisoners Don't Resist?

The central thesis of Resistance Behind Bars is truly profound. In clear, non-academic language, Law argues that recent scholarship documenting and radically criticizing the increased incarceration rates and mistreatment of women prisoners "largely ignores what the women themselves do to change or protest these circumstances, thus reinforcing the belief that incarcerated women do not organize." Alongside academia, Law also harshly criticizes radical prison activists, arguing that "just as the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s downplayed the role of women in favor of highlighting male spokesmen and leaders, the prisoners' rights movement has focused and continues to focus on men to speak for the masses."

Law gives honorable mention to two books that documented women's resistance at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in New York State: Juanita Diaz-Cotto's Gender, Ethnicity, and the State (1996) and the collectively written Breaking the Walls of Silence: AIDS and Women in a New York State Maximum Security Prison (1998). Since these two books "no other book-length work has focused on incarcerated women's activism and resistance," writes Law. As a result, Law argues that women prisoners "lack a commonly known history of resistance. While male prisoners can draw on the examples of George Jackson, the Attica uprising and other well-publicized cases of prisoner activism, incarcerated women remain unaware of precedents relevant to them."

Epitomizing the scholarship that Law criticizes, author Virginia High Brislin wrote that "women inmates themselves have called very little attention to their situations," and "are hardly ever involved in violent encounters with officials (i.e. riots), nor do they initiate litigation as often as do males in prison."

To challenge Brislin's assertion, Law gives numerous examples of women rioting and initiating litigation, including the "August Rebellion" in 1974 at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in New York State. On July 2, 1974, prisoner Carol Crooks won a lawsuit against prison authorities, with the court "issuing a preliminary injunction, prohibiting the prison from placing women in segregation without 24-hour notice and a hearing of these charges," writes Law. In response, "five male guards beat Crooks and placed her in segregation. Her fellow prisoners protested by holding seven staff members hostage for two and a half hours. However, 'the August Rebellion' is virtually unknown today despite that fact that male state troopers and (male) guards from men's prisons were called to suppress the uprising, resulting in 25 women being injured and 24 women being transferred to Matteawan Complex for the Criminally Insane without the required commitment hearings."

Law also criticizes author Karlene Faith, who acknowledges that women resist, but who wrote that in the 1970s, women prisoners "were not as politicized as the men [prisoners], and they did not engage in the kinds of protest actions that aroused media attention." To challenge Faith's argument, Law cites several rebellions that received significant media attention, including one that the New York Times wrote two stories about. As Law recounts, "in 1975, women at the North Carolina Correctional Center for Women held a sit-down demonstration to demand better medical care, improved counseling services, and the closing of the prison laundry. When prison guards attempted to end the protest by herding the women into the gymnasium and beating them, the women fought back, using volleyball net poles, chunks of concrete and hoe handles to drive the guards out of the prison. Over 100 guards from other prisons were summoned to quell the rebellion."

In light of the many such stories documented in Resistance Behind Bars, Law argues that "instead of claiming that women in prison did not engage in riots and protest actions that captured media attention, scholars and researchers should examine why these acts of organizing fail to attract the same critical and scholarly attention as that given to similar male actions."

Resisting With Media-Activism

In the chapter "Grievances, Lawsuits, and the Power of the Media," Law observes that "gaining media attention often gains quicker results than filing lawsuits." Among the many organizing victories that were significantly aided by media attention, in 1999, Nightline focused on conditions at California's Valley State Prison for Women. Law explains that "after prisoner after prisoner told Nightline anchor Ted Koppel about being given a pelvic exam as 'part of the treatment' for any ailment, including stomach problems or diabetes, Koppel asked the prison's chief medical officer Dr. Anthony DiDomenico, for an explanation."

DiDomenico was apparently so confident that he would not be held accountable for his misconduct, that he answered Koppel by saying "I've heard inmates tell me they would deliberately like to be examined. It's the only male contact they get." After this interview was aired, DiDomenico was reassigned to a desk job, and as of 2001 he had been criminally indicted, along with a second doctor.

Demonstrating the power of this media coverage, Law notes that the "prisoner advocacy organization Legal Services for Prisoners with Children had been reporting the prisoners' complaints about medical staff's sexual misconduct to the CDC for four years with no result."
Along with agitating for coverage in the mainstream media, women prisoners have also created their own media projects. The chapter titled "Breaking The Silence: Incarcerated Women's Media" documents many important projects. Law explains that these projects are necessary because women prisoners' "voices and stories still remain unheard by both mainstream and activist-oriented media. Articles about both prison conditions and prisoners often portray the male prisoner experience, ignoring the different issues facing women in prison." Therefore, "women's acts of writing -- and publishing -- often serve a dual purpose: they challenge existing stereotypes and distortions of prisoners and prison life, framing and correcting prevailing (mis) perceptions. They also boost women's sense of self-worth and agency in a system designed to not only isolate and alienate its prisoners but also erase all traces of individuality."

Some activist-oriented publications have been receptive and have published prisoners' writings.
From 1999 until its final issue in 2002, the radical feminist magazine Sojourner: A Women's Forum featured a section on women prisoner issues which included writings from the prisoners themselves. Law writes that this section, entitled "Inside/Outside" covered many topics, including "working conditions in women's facilities, the dehumanizing treatment of children visiting their mothers, and prisoner suicides.

Law spotlights many different projects. From 2002 to 2006, Perceptions was a monthly newspaper published by and for the women at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in New Jersey. Because of censorship from prison warden Charlotte Blackwell, Perceptions was forced to limit its criticism of the prison, but the women published what they could. For example, in one issue, women wrote about how they would run the prison differently if they were in charge. Law notes that "their fantasies revealed the absence of programming for older women and those in the maximum custody unit, emergency counseling and therapeutic interventions and opportunities for mother-child interactions. It also drew attention to the facility's overcrowding and increased potentials for violence and conflict among prisoners."

Tenacious, the zine published by Law, was initiated by women prisoners who sought the help of friends outside the prison to actually publish and distribute it. "Free from the need to seek administrative approval, incarcerated women wrote about the difficulties of parenting from prison, dangerously inadequate health care, sexual assault by prison staff and the scarcity of educational and vocational opportunities, especially in comparison to their male counterparts. Although circulation remained small, the women's stories provoked public response," writes Law.

"Prison officials do whatever they can to strip prisoners of their dignity and self-worth," stated Barrilee Bannister, one of the founders of Tenacious. "Writing is my way to escape the confines of prison and the debilitating ailments of prison life. It's me putting on boxing gloves and stepping into the rink of freedom of speech and opinion."

Arguing For Prison Abolition

When Victoria Law was first introduced to radical politics, shortly after her own stint behind bars, she "discovered groups and literature espousing prison abolition."

"These analyses -- coupled with what I had seen firsthand -- made sense, steering me to work towards the dismantling, rather than the reform, of the prison system." Law's subsequent research has only served to affirm her belief in the need for abolition. She states clearly that "this book should not be mistaken for a call for more humane or 'gender responsive' prisons."

Some readers may view Law's prison abolitionist politics as being abstract or overly theoretical.

However, to support her abolitionist viewpoint, she makes the practical argument that prisons simply don't work to reduce crime or increase public safety. She writes that "incarceration has not decreased crime; instead, 'tough on crime' policies have led to the criminalization … of more activities, leading to higher rates of arrest, prosecution and incarceration while shifting money and resources away from other public entities, such as education, housing, health care, drug treatment, and other societal supports. The growing popularity of abolitionist thought can be seen in the expansion of organizations such as Critical Resistance, an organization fighting to end the need for a prison-industrial complex, and the formation of groups working to address issues of crime and victimization without relying on the police or prisons."

Towards the end of Resistance Behind Bars, Law quotes Angela Y. Davis, who is a leading activist intellectual of the prison abolitionist movement. In her recent book Are Prisons Obsolete?, Davis writes that "a major challenge of this movement is to do the work that will create more human, habitable environments for people in prison without bolstering the permanence of the prison system. How, then, do we accomplish this balancing act of passionately attending to the needs of prisoners -- calling for less violent conditions, an end to sexual assault, improved physical and mental health care, greater access to drug programs, better educational work opportunities, unionization of prison labor, more connections with families and communities, shorter or alternative sentencing -- and at the same time call for alternatives to sentencing altogether, no more prison construction, and abolitionist strategies that question the place of the prison in our future?"

As if answering Davis' question, Law concludes that while striving for prison abolition "we need to also reach in, make contact with those who have been isolated by prison walls and societal indifference and listen to those who are speaking out, like many of the women who have shared their stories within this book. Because abolishing prisons will not happen tomorrow, next week or even next year, we need to break through these barriers, communicate, work with and support women who are in resistance today."

Youth to stand trial for murder of ADC employee


by Jackee Coe - Aug. 27, 2009 05:05 PM
The Arizona Republic
A Buckeye teen accused of killing a Department of Corrections officer last fall during a carjacking has been declared competent to stand trial, according to Maricopa County Superior Court documents.
Felix Vasquez, 17, was declared "criminally incompetent" Jan. 29 and ordered to complete an involuntary treatment program, court records show. The court found Vasquez competent at his hearing Monday.
Vasquez and Benjamin Cannon, 16, were indicted on first-degree murder, armed robbery, auto theft and arson on Oct. 30 in connection with the slaying of Bradley Gerrard, 28, documents state. Vasquez and Cannon pleaded not guilty at their arraignments on Nov. 18 and 19, respectively.
About 11:30 p.m. Oct. 18, Gerrard was on his way back to his Buckeye home in the Tartesso community after a late-night run to Walmart to pick up an air mattress for a visiting relative, records show. He stopped at Tartesso Boulevard and Bruner Road to offer help to one of the teens he saw lying in the road.
But as Gerrard approached, the other teen ran out of hiding and shot him in the chest with a shotgun, according to police. The youths then took the car keys, dumped a child's car seat and stroller, and drove to a party in Goodyear, police said.
Gerrard's body was discovered after midnight. A few hours later, police found the shotgun and car, burned and abandoned in the desert nearby.
Gerrard had been a DOC officer for four years and was assigned to the Arizona State Prison Complex-Lewis near Buckeye. He left behind a then 2-year-old son and pregnant wife.
Vasquez and Cannon, also Tartesso residents, were arrested Oct. 22 and admitted their involvement, records show. Both told the same story but implicated the other as the gunman.
Each is being held on a $2 million bond. Cannon's trial is set to begin Oct. 26.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Free the Sick and Dying.

Plan to free state prison inmates moves ahead
Friday, August 21, 2009
Sacramento - The state Senate on Thursday narrowly approved a prison bill brokered by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic lawmakers that would save the state $525 million this year by reducing the prison population by 27,000 inmates.


The legislation includes controversial plans such as allowing nonviolent elderly and sick inmates to finish their sentences outside prison walls in homes or community hospitals, where they would be monitored with GPS devices. The bill also includes the creation of a sentencing commission that would revamp the state's punishment and parole rules.


Republicans argued strongly against the bill.


"If this becomes law, the people of California will become less safe, pure and simple," said Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Thousand Oaks (Ventura County).


GOP lawmakers also warned that the sentencing commission, which would include a nonvoting former inmate, would weaken the state's tough-on-crime laws.


"You have the gall to put a felon on there?" Senate Republican leader Dennis Hollingsworth of Murrieta (Riverside County) asked Democrats during the spirited and contentious debate.

Close vote

After more than four hours, the Senate voted 21-19 to approve the bill, barely clearing the simple-majority hurdle.


The Assembly adjourned at midnight Thursday without debating the bill and will return Monday.


Speaker Karen Bass, D-Baldwin Vista (Los Angeles County), said the Assembly bill would differ from the version passed by the Senate. Those changes include eliminating so-called "wobbler" crimes that would reduce some felonies to misdemeanors and eliminating alternative sentencing, such as moving old and sick inmates out of prisons and into hospitals or nursing homes.


The changes would mean a loss of about $200 million in savings and Bass said she did not know how the Legislature would make that up.


There also would be changes to the sentencing commission, including eliminating a nonvoting seat for a former inmate. The changes would reduce the prison population by about 10,000 fewer inmates than the Senate plan would over two years.


Bass said she is concerned that waiting until Monday could be a political risk, but she said she thought it ultimately would not derail the plan.


"I just wasn't going to hold people here for three more hours ... and know there would still be members uncomfortable because their constituents hadn't had a chance to see it," Bass said.


Earlier, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said he agreed with Republicans that public safety should be the No. 1 concern, but argued that the bill would result in greater public safety because it would allow authorities to focus more of their resources on violent criminals.


For example, the Senate bill would lower the ratio between parole agents and parolees from the current 70 to 1 to 45 to 1.


"Does this plan do more to protect people from more violent predators?" he said. "I would argue ... that it does."


Sen. Roderick Wright, D-Inglewood (Los Angeles County), said it makes sense to move old and seriously ill inmates out of prison into home detention or community hospitals with GPS tracking devices because the state would save money without endangering citizens.


"We have guys sitting in the joint who've had strokes," he said. "If you're blind and have one leg ... I won't worry about you anyway."


The bill was part of a plan to cut prison spending by $1.2 billion this year to help reduce the state's $24 billion deficit.

Administrative cuts

Besides the $525 million in savings in the bill, another $665 million would be saved by Schwarzenegger's actions. For example, the governor plans to use his authority to commute the sentences of some nonviolent illegal immigrant inmates and hand them over to federal authorities for deportation.


The governor also plans to cut costs by eliminating vacant administrative positions at the corrections department's Sacramento headquarters and reduce funding for rehabilitation programs.


The provisions of the bill that the Senate approved are:


-- $42 million saved by allowing the early release of inmates who complete certain rehabilitation programs, such as by earning GEDs and taking vocational training classes.


-- $134 million saved by reducing the influx of new prisoners by changing some property crimes that now qualify as felonies to misdemeanors. Petty thefts, writing bad checks and receiving stolen property would no longer be charged as felonies. Stealing cars valued at $2,500 or less could be charged as misdemeanors instead of an automatic felony.


-- $120.5 million saved by allowing certain inmates to finish their sentences at homes or hospitals under GPS monitoring. Qualifying inmates would need to be at least 60 years old or severely ill and have less than one year to serve.


-- $30 million saved by allowing certain felons who violate probation to serve time in county jails instead of having them sent back to prisons.


-- $198.5 million saved by changing the state's parole system so that some low- and moderate-risk offenders would not be subject to parole revocation. Also, certain serious offenders would be eligible for early parole discharge if they successfully complete drug treatment.


http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/08/21/MNQS19BFR3.DTL

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Dear Attorney General Holder: We Want Justice.

I'm posting this on every website I have because it's the only thing that anyone killing time on my blogs needs to think about doing: writing letters to the DOJ, Congress, and the President about Leonard Peltier (see the Prison Abolitionist for the letter from the Friends of Leonard Peltier). Tell them to do something about all the political prisoners.


---------------------------------

July 22, 2009


Eric A. Holder, Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001


Dear Attorney General Holder;


Ever since you were appointed to office, I’ve wondered if you would be the man history remembers for confronting and correcting the constitutional violations and injustices perpetrated against our liberation movements by the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and overzealous cops and prosecutors across the nation. It wasn’t enough that Obama was elected and the chance of presidential pardons for political prisoners came back into view. We need an inquiry into the justness of their persecutions and prosecutions, as well as their sentences: everyone from Leonard Peltier to the people who have been disappeared under the PATRIOT Act, to the most recent targets in the Green Scare.


You know these people are no threat to our national security, and their rhetoric today would be considered no more inflammatory than Jon Stewart’s nightly news. They show no criminal propensities: they are either innocent of their crimes, or of the terrorist natures attributed to them. They were, by and large, impassioned, idealistic youth caught up in the very same fervor that consumed abolitionists in the decades leading up to the American Civil War. They grew up in a world where injustice was enshrined into law, where racism and hate governed state houses and law enforcement agencies, where non-violent resistors were assassinated by the state just as readily as armed revolutionaries, where police brutality and torture of witnesses and suspects were routine, where our government – in the People’s name – was committing unspeakable atrocities and human rights abuses undermining democracy in the furtherance of capitalism and the name of national security throughout the hemisphere; throughout the world. No one listened when they petititioned, or sat-in, or demonstrated, and some escalated.


I do not approve of all of their methods of protest. I have the impulse of a vandal, myself, and the politics of an anarchist, but I am at my core a pacifist and believe that the only revolution worth winning will be won through non-violence. It will be won not only by people like me, but also by people like you. I urge you, for the sake of justice, not to turn away from our country’s liberation movement leaders and radicals, but to use the momentum of Leonard Peltier’s campaign to open an investigation on every single political prisoner we hold.


The government likes to say we don’t have any political prisoners, but you know who they are. We’ve been fighting for their freedom for decades, in some cases. We have faded bumper stickers with their names and faces emblazoned on our cars. We have political prisoner support groups across the country, writing letters and passing the hat for commissary funds and legal expenses. They have begun to grow old and die. Most have been condemned to life in prison - death by incarceration. Some – like the young “eco-terrorists” – will simply turn gray there, as their parents and loved ones age and die. The irony is that had they committed their “crimes” for greed or power or some kind of cheap thrill, their sentences would have been nowhere near as hefty as they are because of “terrorism” enhancements and the like. We’re talking about setting mink free, and arson against SUV’s. We’re talking about kids who are trying to save the world, and who pose no real danger of destroying it.


Grave injustices have been done to some of these people, and you must know it from where you stand better than anyone. If you don’t have the courage to open civil rights investigations into the handling of every single case, then I don’t know who will. There’s a D.A. in Texas who’s been re-opening closed cases where there are claims of innocence; he’s freed a handful of people already. He’s going to keep on doing it till he gets voted out, too. That’s the kind of thing that inspires faith in our system. That it has been so corrupted by politics and racism and the fears of the privileged few makes it impossible for so many of us to believe that elements of the legal system have anything to do with “justice”. We need to know that claims of innocence will be heard fairly; that COINTELPRO and similar law enforcement activities - conducted with grave disregard for the U.S. Constitution and human life – will not be tolerated or given credibility; that sentences are imposed fairly, and not unduly harshly against people who acted out of conscience or were under seige.


You are the first Attorney General since Bobby Kennedy who may have the political will to pursue this. We know this is a tall order: terrorists and cop-killers aren’t the most popular defendants or prisoners. It isn’t for them that you need to investigate, however; it’s justice that you serve. It’s justice that we have always sought.


Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.


And thank you for your service to us all.


Sincerely,


Margaret J. Plews

Friday, August 21, 2009

Black August and the Struggle Inside



Prisoner activist George Jackson was assassinated at San Quentin on this day in 1971, giving birth to the modern prisoner rights movement. In time his death would lend itself to what became known as "Black August". I'm including this in APW's pages because it's central to the modern prisoner rights movement, and even today Black August events are held around the country to raise money for political prisoners.

Black August 2009: A story of African freedom fighters

by Kiilu Nyasha

SFBayView 08/03/2009


"Black August is a month of great significance for Africans throughout the Diaspora, but particularly here in the U.S. where it originated. “August,” as Mumia Abu-Jamal noted, “is a month of meaning, of repression and radical resistance, of injustice and divine justice; of repression and righteous rebellion; of individual and collective efforts to free the slaves and break the chains that bind us.”

On this 30th anniversary of Black August, first organized to honor our fallen freedom fighters, Jonathan and George Jackson, Khatari Gaulden, James McClain, William Christmas and the sole survivor of the Aug. 7, 1970, Courthouse Slave Rebellion, Ruchell Cinque Magee, it is still a time to embrace the principles of unity, self-sacrifice, political education, physical fitness and/or training in martial arts, resistance and spiritual renewal.

The concept, Black August, grew out of the need to expose to the light of day the glorious and heroic deeds of those Afrikan women and men who recognized and struggled against the injustices heaped upon people of color on a daily basis in America.

One cannot tell the story of Black August without first providing the reader with a brief glimpse of the “Black Movement” behind California prison walls in the ‘60s, led by George Jackson and W.L. Nolen, among others...." here is the rest of the article...

-----------------------------

Also worth checking out today, given its historical significance, is the radio show "The Struggle Inside", released by Freedom Archives. Exploring the birth of the modern prisoner rights movement with the emergence and assassination of prisoner activists like George Jackson, the documentary features many interviews with political prisoners and liberation movement activists. It about a 30-minute piece, I believe an excerpt from "Prisons on Fire".

It closes with Jonathan and George Jackson's mom recounting a conversation she had with a San Quentin guard soon after George was killed, and he observed that she didn't have any sons left because the state had killed them all.

Her response was "I have sons throughout the world, wherever people are fighting for freedom."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Little History on the Immigrant Dentention Center in Eloy...

Deaths Show Hurdles to Detention Reform

By NINA BERNSTEIN

New York Times

August 21, 2009


In the fall of 2006, a man’s death brought a team of government investigators to the large, privately run immigration jail in Eloy, Ariz., in the desert between Phoenix and Tucson. Medical care was so poor, the team later warned federal immigration officials, that “detainee welfare is in jeopardy.”


Another death there soon spurred another inquiry, and another scathing report was issued about the care provided by the private company, the Corrections Corporation of America.


But the government scrutiny did not add up to much for Felix Franklin Rodriguez-Torres, 36, an Ecuadorean construction worker who wound up in Eloy that fall as an unauthorized immigrant after being jailed for petty larceny in New York City. By mid-December, a fellow detainee told the man’s relatives, Mr. Rodriguez lay pleading for medical help on the floor of his cell, unable to move.


He died weeks later of testicular cancer, a typically fast-growing but treatable disease, which had gone undiagnosed and untreated during his two months at Eloy, which holds more than 1,500 detainees. And despite a high-level discussion of his case among federal immigration officials while he was dying — captured in e-mail messages between Washington and Arizona — his death on Jan. 18, 2007, was not listed on the roster of detention fatalities that the agency produced under pressure last year and updated in April.


His death, and the damning reports that preceded it, are coming to light now only through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. On Monday, after inquiries about Mr. Rodriguez’s death by The New York Times, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency added his name and nine others to the public roster — including another unrecorded detainee death at Eloy, in 2005.


The Rodriguez case echoes many others that have spurred demands for an overhaul of the troubled and expanding realm of immigration detention. But in its details, it underscores the daunting challenge facing the Obama administration as it tries to improve detention conditions, starting with greater oversight of places like Eloy.


“The rampant problems of medical and mental health care aren’t just going to go away if there’s more oversight,” said David Shapiro, a lawyer with the A.C.L.U.’s National Prison Project, which has called for legally binding rules on conditions in immigration detention. “There have to be consequences.”


The Corrections Corporation of America referred questions about Mr. Rodriguez’s case to the immigration enforcement agency, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security.


Matthew Chandler, a spokesman for the department, said the administration had taken its first steps “to improve medical care, custodial conditions, fiscal prudence and ICE’s critical oversight of the immigration detention system, and we will find out why this death wasn’t reported properly.”


The administration’s long-term goal, announced this month as a three-to-five-year plan, is a vastly different detention system, no smaller in size, but less penal in character than the current sprawling mix of jail and prison cells.


At the same time, however, Janet Napolitano, secretary of homeland security, is expanding immigration enforcement. And for now, officials said they would continue to rely on the same prison companies and county jails to house people facing possible deportation for immigration violations.


In some ways, Mr. Rodriguez’s case fits one of Ms. Napolitano’s priorities: detaining people accused of immigration violations who are already in jail for a crime.


Records show that Mr. Rodriguez, who had entered the United States on a visitor’s visa in 1998 to represent Ecuador in a karate tournament, was transferred to immigration authorities on Nov. 8, 2006, after serving five months at Rikers Island. He had been accused of joining several other men in robbing an acquaintance after a Saturday of soccer and beer in Corona, Queens.


Though he pleaded guilty to petty larceny, he maintained his innocence even on his deathbed, said his father, Felix Rodriguez, a legal resident who has been a deliveryman for a Manhattan jewelry company for 15 years.


“I understand a prisoner shouldn’t be on a golden bed, but a prisoner is a human being,” the father said in Spanish. “He at least deserves respect when he is so sick he can’t even eat.”


By the time the ailing detainee was taken to the emergency room at Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix, on Dec. 27, 2006, he had a mass in his neck that had “tripled in size” and obstructed his breathing, according to a government accounting form summarizing his care. Too far gone for chemotherapy, he was soon placed on life support, and he died when it was disconnected.


But even while he was dying, a draft synopsis of his case was already circulating in Washington among high-level officials at the immigration agency. It stated that the detainee had been seen by the Eloy medical staff “on numerous occasions,” and first complained of a sore neck on Dec. 25. In their exchanges about the case, officials did not question why the medical staff had failed to recognize symptoms of cancer.


Just weeks earlier, the agency’s own investigations had linked two Eloy deaths to inadequate medical staffing by the Corrections Corporation, which was then reaping record profits from stepped-up immigration enforcement.


“Medical care in this facility does not meet ICE standards,” the first investigating team wrote to John P. Torres, director of detention and removal operations, after looking into the suicide of a 32-year-old Guatemalan detainee there on Sept. 29, 2006. They noted that a sick call request from the Guatemalan, Jose Lopez-Gregario, had been ignored for a week, even though he was on suicide watch and known to be despondent.


The medical staff — “overwhelmed due to a sudden loss of veteran staff” — apparently assumed he had already been deported. Cut off from care in an isolation cell and racked with guilt that he had left his family without enough food, he hanged himself.


A second team assessed Eloy again after a 27-year-old Colombian was found unconscious in an isolation cell there on Dec. 6, 2006; an “unwitnessed seizure” left him brain-dead. The investigators not only found fault with the way his case had been handled, but also documented systemic problems with the administration of medical care — in contrast to routine audits, in which Eloy, like most detention centers, was typically rated “acceptable” on a checklist.


“The facility has failed on multiple levels to perform basic supervision and provide for the safety and welfare of ICE detainees,” the investigators wrote.


The Colombian, Mario Chavez-Torres, had shown symptoms of bleeding on the brain, and should have been sent for outside evaluation, the report said; a week after his written request for medical attention for “headaches, dizziness and vomiting,” he collapsed in the shower.


A call for medical help by a guard was answered an hour later by a vocational nurse who told the guard: “I’m not qualified. To be honest, I’m just a pill-pusher.” That lone nurse on the night shift was responsible for distributing medication to 300 chronically ill detainees in a population of 1,500, the report said.


The first report had warned that most of the seasoned medical staff left Eloy that fall, months before a planned takeover of its medical unit by ICE’s Division of Immigration Health in 2007. But immigration authorities had continued to send detainees to Eloy, and Mr. Rodriguez was among them.


To his sister Janneth Montesdeoca, who lives in Ozone Park, Queens, Mr. Rodriguez, an athlete, seemed healthy until just before his transfer to immigration authorities. On her last visit to Rikers, she noticed that his head seemed swollen.


Considering his dire condition two months later, the swelling was most likely a sign that cancer was blocking his lymph system, said physicians consulted for this article, adding that it should have been caught in a full medical exam. Both reports had noted that though all immigration detainees are supposed to get a medical exam within 14 days of admission, timely exams were not being performed at Eloy that fall.


Most testicular cancer is fast-growing, said Dr. David Weiner, a urologist at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in Manhattan, but even after spreading, “it’s a very treatable cancer in the vast majority of cases.”


In a phone call to his mother from Eloy on Dec. 18, 2006, Mr. Rodriguez said he had seen the doctor there many times, complaining of coughing and fever. He promised to telephone again at Christmas. When he did not, his worried family repeatedly contacted his deportation officer, who kept assuring them that Mr. Rodriguez was fine, said his brother-in-law, Leonardo Montesdeoca, a United States citizen who is a software supervisor for the Metropolitan Transit Authority.


As the family tells it, they learned the truth about a week after Mr. Rodriguez had been taken to the hospital, in a call from a fellow detainee.


“He said Franklin was very, very sick,” Mr. Montesdeoca said. “They would call the attention of the guards and they would just ignore, they would look the other way. He got to the point where he didn’t move anymore.”

Records show that on Jan. 12, 2007, the hospital told the detention company that he had as little as a week to live. But his sister says the deportation officer would not tell them where Mr. Rodriguez had been hospitalized.


Instead, relatives said, he offered to release the detainee to their care if they paid for a plane ticket to New York — a plan derailed, apparently, because the patient was too sick to travel.


It was a phone call from Mr. Rodriguez that brought the family to his deathbed. Against the rules, a nurse had lent him her cellphone.


“If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have known if my son was dead or alive,” said his mother, Maria Torres, who lives in Queens. “I give thanks to that nurse, even now.”


His face lit up when he saw his parents arrive the next day, Mr. Montesdeoca said. They were able to speak for a few hours before the two detention guards at his bedside cut off the visit. When the family returned the next morning, he was in a coma. A few days later, they agreed to discontinue life support.


E-mail messages about his impending death had already ricocheted between Washington and Arizona.

“Thanks for the advance notice,” one official wrote from a BlackBerry after receiving the draft synopsis on Jan. 17, and sending a copy on to John Torres, the director of detention and removal for the agency, and Gary E. Mead, the deputy.


Dr. Gene A. Migliaccio, director of the agency’s Immigration Health Services, was asked “to reach out to Phoenix” and “to ensure that proper protocols are followed.” One of his employees followed up by asking if anyone had the Eloy medical records: “When this detainee is taken off life support, may I get a copy for my death chart?”


But there is no evidence that the medical records were ever collected. The death was automatically referred to the immigration agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility in Washington, which simply sent it back to the Phoenix field office for an internal management review. In March 2007, the matter was closed after the local office filed its conclusions in three sentences: the detainee had died of aggressive cancer, the matter had been handled appropriately, and there was no evidence of negligence. The same month, a report by the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general on the death of the Colombian detainee found no evidence of foul play or inadequate response.


But at least two more detainees died at Eloy in 2008 — a 41-year-old Iraqi and a 52-year-old man from Ghana.

Mr. Rodriguez’s ashes were mailed to his mother, and when she visited relatives in Ecuador, she carried them there for burial.


“I never want another immigrant to feel this pain,” she said. “Not knowing what to do, his suffering and no way of getting him help.”


A. E. Velez contributed reporting August 21, 2009





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