Retiring Arizona Prison Watch...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

until all are free -

MARGARET J PLEWS (June 1, 2015)


ALONE: Teens in Solitary Confinement

AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Suicide/homicide rates skyrocket at AZ Department of Corrections

I obtained prisoner death records last week from the AZ Department of Corrections, and the stats on suicides and homicides since Brewer took office are mind-boggling: they're twice the rate as they were when Janet was governor; this fiscal year (beginning July 2010) the suicides are on track for being three times the annual rate.

In no instance of the recent suicides has there been documentation that ADC staff had any culpability - though I've had more than one family member tell me that their mentally ill loved one had been taken off of their psychiatric medications in prisons before their suicide or homicide.
That sounds to me like a pattern of institutional neglect.

Anthony Lester's death remains a mystery to me, by the way - the ADC record detailing his death lists his injuries as self-inflicted (his jugular, his right wrist, and his leg were all cut with a razor) , but a document compiling the deaths for the year calls it a homicide. Tony's family was told it was a suicide - a "highly preventable" one, which they tried to warn the ADC he was at risk for. They have other information suggesting that he believed he was in imminent danger from a gang, though. Until I get confirmation to the contrary, I'm leaving him in the suicide category.

Tony suffered from schizophrenia, and was sentenced to more than a decade in prison due to two women being slightly injured trying to prevent him from cutting his throat
(both required band-aids at the scene) during a psychotic episode. He had to be restored to sanity before he could go on trial, of course.

That's par for Maricopa County's treatment of people with mental illness who needed psychiatric hospitalization before or at the time of their "crime". If I could sick the DOJ on every responsible judge and prosecuting attorney, I would, because that's a violation of the Olmstead Decision, as far as I'm concerned.
The Olmstead Decision was a Supreme Court verdict that determined that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires states to deinstitutionalize and place people with disabilities in the least restrictive setting possible.

Arizona, after 20 years of Arnold v. Sarn litigation, is still underserving the seriously mentally ill in the community. Here they're just criminally prosecuted for the symptoms of their illness and thrown into the most restrictive setting possible - state prison (often maximum security) - largely because the state lacks adequate outpatient and inpatient alternatives for individuals at risk of harming themselves or others (we spend it all on corrections instead. If ADC Director Ryan had any courage, he'd call that what it is and tell the state where to put their money and the courts where to stuff their convictions).

Why else would a judge give a man with schizophrenia three years for climbing a utility tower in a thunderstorm to be closer to God? Why would he even be prosecuted for that in the first place? I think they actually believed they were protecting him from himself. Sadly, Shannon Palmer ended up being murdered by his cellmate two years in.

The deaths by "natural causes" are also extremely young - go to the ADC's website, under ADC in the News, for death notices. There's an archive on that page, too. I suspect that it's complications from the effects of the Hep C virus that's killing people so young inside. I'll be analyzing the documents I obtained further to confirm that, and post it when I compile it all.

Here are the links for the APW posts about the more recent suicides:

Special Management Unit: Prisoner suicide at ASPC Eyman (11/4) - James Galloway

Prison suicide and gangs at Florence Central (10/01) - Duron Cunningham, Rosario Rodriguez-Bojorquez

Additionally, I missed a couple of suicides in my compilation that I didn't have info on until now:

Douglas Nunn 33 (8/29/09) - ASPC-Florence/Central

Patricia Velez 25 (4/28/10) - ASPC-Perryville/Lumley

All 3 of the women who have killed themselves in the past year and a half hung themselves and were housed in Lumley, where the maximum security yard is. All three were in their 20s. I don't know if Patricia had a mental illness or not: a psychological report was sealed by the court when she was sentenced to 7.5 years for aggravated assault and fleeing a law enforcement vehicle. Geshell and Sasha, the other two women from Lumley who killed themselves, did have evidence of a serious mental illness when sentenced.

Two of the men who killed themselves recently were both from ASPC-Florence/Central. The largest number of male suicides in any one prison have occurred at ASPC-Eyman, however.

Sometime in the next couple of days I'll break down the suicides and homicides by race and age, and tell you how they compare to stats for the overall prison population, as well as to rates in the general population. It seems to me that if all the violence boiled down to a gang war, the Aryan Brotherhood is winning.

1 comment:

sales said...

Douglas Nunn 33 (8/29/09) - ASPC-Florence/Central

I'm his brother and I love him. Having said that... it wasn't a suicide. He was just not that bright.Someone threatened him and his family. He asked for help from the guards, his family and anyone else who would listen. They didn't, including me(although I don't know what I could have done). In order to get away from what he considered a real threat he took some pills, told the guards he took the pills and they ignored him for several hours until he started to convulse. He was one of those people who always had one more big scam in them. This was sadly his last. He thought he could trick someone into helping him. And I am sure the guards knew what kind of person he was and didn't believe he took the drugs until it was too late. Doesn't change the fact that even if there is a chance of something happening they should react. He was a good kid. Just scared, alone and.. well.. not that bright. In my opinion because of the meth. My 2 cents for what it's worth, it won't bring him back.