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 in Arpaio's jail, Jessie B.

I'm deeply grateful to the prisoners who educated, confided in, and encouraged me throughout the years I did this work. My life has been made all the more rich and meaningful by their engagement.

I've 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)


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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Wrongful Deaths in Custody: Susan Lopez (ADC)

(UPDATED from March 29, 2011 post.)

As noted in the last post, a prisoner at ASPC-Perryville killed herself last week. Below is the notice of
35 year-old Susan Lopez' death from the AZ Department of Corrections. What follows is what some of the other prisoners had to say about her suicide. If you are a loved one of Susan's, please brace yourself. I'm sorry if this post is painful, but the public needs to know what's happening behind bars in this state, or more vulnerable people will die needlessly.

Susan was a mother of four children,
and was apparently a Certified Nurses' Aide. By the number of people landing on my site Googling her this week, I'd say she was probably well-loved by people in her community, even though she was ignored by her caretakers in prison, where she was sent for non-violent crimes. Her history suggests that her criminal activity may have been related to the disease of addiction. Most addicts in America never acquire a record for it; many get medical treatment for their illness or join a 12-step program and give a tremendous amount back to their communities. The ones who get criminalized before they get well are less fortunate, not less worthy of recovery, and their lives are often shredded by the excess branding, shaming, exiling, and impoverishment that results from initiating criminal prosecution. It can be completely devastating.

A few extraordinary souls pick themselves up after prison and make good anyway - we like to use them as proof that incarceration itself can "help" people get back on their feet. They are the exception to the rule, however, and it's what they already have within them - not some magic instilled by going to prison itself - that gets them through hell and back in one piece, if they make it. Once caught up in the machinery of "justice", though, too many just never break free. The criminal justice system is designed to extort us and exploit our troubles, not assist us, if we're in the shoes of the accused - guilty or not. Once law enforcement is on the scene we have no control over how it plays out from there; cops have been known to kill people who are suicidal, and courts here routinely hold mentally incompetent defendants criminally culpable for the symptoms of their mental illness.

There are no easy answers for addiction, of course; the ones out there are really as diverse as the population of addicts. I've seen courts be far too quick to take a one-size-fits-all approach and send people off to prison because AA didn't fit them and they screwed up their probation or couldn't pay off their restitution in time. A lot of folks think that the state is actually benevolent and calling the police on a loved one who's addicted might help speed along their recovery process by raising the bottom they have to hit before committing themselves to breaking the cycle, but that's especially misguided because of what I just described. I would only resort to such drastic action today if it was the only way to protect someone's life or limb in a crisis.

Most addicts who land in prison are admittedly there for crimes supporting their habits, too, like theft or fraud. That doesn't make them dangerous, though, or justify the violence of imposing imprisonment on them at outrageous public expense - especially while simultaneously refusing to cover treatment services for them to get well. Once you're a criminal, however, every relapse - which is "part of recovery" for the rest of us - is a potential parole violation or a new charge as a "repeat offender", and as your record gets longer judges get less sympathetic...

All of which appears to have happened to Susan.

Susan's guilty plea is on the internet; the sentencing minutes should be updated and posted soon. Her Graham County sentence is what's in question; that's the one that hasn't been posted as of yet. You can check current court records by searching her name with her month and year of birth (June 1975). She had a whole lot of petty stuff pile up on her in several different counties at once - apparently accumulating over several years then catching up to her once she was in custody.

I think if all her charges were in one county, she would have had more dismissed in a plea agreement; the poor woman was just pounded by court appearances this winter. By the looks of it, the respective county attorneys filed every single charge they possibly could to intimidate her into the deals she entered: she could have been facing the rest of her life in prison for forgery-related crimes if she lost at trial. They really do hurt people who resist them: I know one fellow doing 52 years for fraudulent schemes (largely because he accused the prosecution and judiciary of racism then lost in court).

I find it astounding that the judges who sent this mother off to prison were prepared to expend anywhere from $60,000 to over $120,000 in public funds just to punish her - that's what really seems criminal. Our legislature is equally as complicit. It's unbelievable that given such an investment no one could even bother to sit down to help Susan figure out how long she would be locked up and away from her family. There are sources of possible confusion evident in Susan's posted ADC records - her death notice lists her as being 40 though she was born in 1975, and her obituary indicates a different middle name than her court and ADC records. All the court documents indicate it's the same Susan, though. How hard could it have been to help her sort this out and cope with it? A little bit of attention could have saved her life.

Unfortunately, the nightmare that unfolded for Susan immediately prior to her suicide seems to be the standard MO at the Arizona Department of Corrections, though I've had some good experiences with at least one CO at ASPC-Tucson, and I know there are other exceptions - like former ASPC-Eyman DW Carl Toersbijns. It's not the individual CO's so much anyway - it's the staffing schedules, inadequate training, and an abusive institutional culture that results in deaths like Marcia Powell's, Brenda Todd's, and Susan's. There isn't the expectation that officers respond with compassion to prisoners, of course - they're all just criminals trying to manipulate them because that's what they do best.

If ADC policies and culture reflected a fundamental value for human rights, there would be less abusive and negligent conduct by employees. The leadership makes their disdain for their prisoners clear to all, however, and throws criminals on the legislature's alter for live sacrifices to offer their constituents without thought for the consequences of new fees and restrictions for prisoners and their families - who are also taxpaying constituents, I might add. The description of the main officer who ignored Susan's pleas for help is consistent with what I would expect from the current ADC, sadly.

At most the officer(s) involved might get written up - unless this becomes a politically charged case, and the ADC decides to sacrifice the officer to minimize the appearance of institutional negligence, as was alleged by CO's over the death of Marcia Powell. The pattern and practice of ignoring women begging for help in AZ state prisons is unlikely to change any time soon, then - not without serious litigation, anyway. The state is far more concerned with avoiding liability than it is with taking responsibility, despite the moralistic garbage it shoves down prisoners' throats about why they must be brutalized the rest of their lives for the smallest of crimes.

To Susan's family, on that note: take your time grieving, but file a notice of claim against the state within six months for each survivor, or you'll be precluded from suing in state court in the future. The ADC needs to be held responsible for their neglect; so many women out there are still suffering, and have no other hope for relief. I'll do what I can to put survivors in touch with attorneys who can help file claims for wrongful deaths - there are far too many happening like this. I'll also do what I can to help you compile evidence; that's what I've been doing in these blogs for nearly two years now.

My number is 480-580-6807; my email is; my name is Peggy. My office is at 1009 N. 1st St. #8, Phoenix, next to the Firehouse Gallery. Contact me anytime.

Anyone can contact the US Department of Justice to complain about all the prison suicides under Brewer, by the way. Ask for a CRIPA Investigation into the AZ Department of Corrections.

The address is:

Jonathan Smith, Chief

US DOJ Civil Rights Division,
Special Litigation Section

950 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, PHB

Washington, DC 20530


Dodge Theater, Phoenix, AZ.

Halloween Night, 2010.

-------from the AZ Department of Corrections' website (posted 3/30/2011)-----

(602) 542-3133


For Immediate Release

For more information contact:
Barrett Marson
Bill Lamoreaux

March 28, 2011 Inmate Death Notification

Phoenix, Az. – Inmate Susan Lopez, 40, ADC #184221, died Friday night from an apparent suicide.

Lopez, sentenced out of Cochise and Graham County, was serving 6 years for forgery. She came to ADC Dec. 2, 2010 and was held at the Santa Cruz Unit, ASPC-Perryville.

The death is under investigation by the department.

-----via personal email, March 26, 2011 re: suicide on Santa Cruz-----

"Perryville - 16 yard: Inmate 184221 LOPEZ Susan died last night by hanging. Was told she was a low risk inmate who was put in 16 yard after returning from going to court.

She had just been brought back to from court where she was sentenced to 3 years concurrent on a charge but the counselor told her the computer said she got 6 years-consecutive. She begged for help and was ignored. Her counselor did nothing to try to get that corrected and would not allow her to talk to anyone about it.

She had been seeking help for several days and begged for help. The counselor did nothing. She asked for help from other officers.

Her husband called to say their daughter was having surgery in the hospital - a family emergency. She tried to get the counselor to let her call home on this emergency. He would not help her."

----received from ASPC-Perryville/Santa Cruz via US Mail on March 30, 2011 (dated 3/28/2011)-----

We must do everything we can to keep this from happening again.

Carlos LaMadrid: another child murdered by US Border Patrol agent for throwing stones.

This sad story keeps repeating itself. Our heavily-militarized US Border Patrol is still gunning down children throwing rocks (though we are told the real threat are the drug cartels), while Joe Arpaio is gearing up his amateur posse pilots to identify "illegal activity" from the sky so the Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies can pick off fleeing "suspects" with automatic weapons.

The AZ governor, meanwhile, wants her own private army to call up for whatever she "considers to be necessary" - which I suspect would be used to put down domestic disturbances as the masses slip deeper into debt and poverty, not to protect us from the alien invasion, as she would have the people believe.

Americans are really a sorry bunch of people. We're the ones perpetrating the most border state violence, hands down. Neither Brewer nor Arpaio have suggested using any of those precious resources to rescue desert crossers with, of course - a record number of whom died in 2010, despite the drop in migration...

And so, here we are again. Last night was the first I heard of this youth. If a Border Patrol officer is murdered, it's the crime of the century. Governor Brewer exploits it as a chance to amp up the war on all brown people passing through the state - redirecting hundreds of millions of health care dollars towards criminalizing and incarcerating more immigrants - while Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano personally declares the guy a hero and swears she will stop at nothing to solve the crime. If a latino child is murdered by an officer, though, his family and community are met with either these lame justifications from the feds for why the agent felt threatened, and stone cold silence from everyone else.

------------------From Border Action Network--------------

*Pulsa aqui para leer este artículo en Español*

Carlos La Madrid was known as the teenager who always smiled, who loved to play soccer, guitar and was learning to work with solar energy. This week however, his family has been mourning his death. On March 21st, Carlos La Madrid was shot and killed by Border Patrol agents near the border wall separating Douglas, Arizona from Agua Prieta, Sonora. He was 19 years old.

This is the second incident to shock the Arizona border region so far this year in which teenagers have been shot and killed by border guards in alleged rock-versus-bullets incidents. In January, 17-year-old Ramses Barrón Torres was shot and killed in Douglas, Arizona. That case is still under investigation.

Family and friends of Carlos La Madrid gathered near the site of the shooting to demand justice as they hung two banners on the border wall, one depicting a smiling Carlos playing the accordion, the second commissioned by Carlos’ soccer team that read “You will always be in our team and in our hearts.”

Holding back tears outside the family home, Marta, Carlos’ younger sister, remembered her slain sibling: “He was a great brother, he was always smiling and loved to play soccer,” she told organizers with Border Action Network, a human rights organization in Arizona.

Although federal authorities have not released any information on the incident, Border Patrol claims its agents were confronted by rocks throwers who were standing on the Mexican side.

“Rock throwing is often the pretext to justify shooting and killing migrants crossing the US-Mexico border. In this case, Carlos was a 19-year- old U.S. citizen and hometown boy of Douglas, Arizona,” explained Jennifer Allen, Executive Director of Border Action Network and co-chair of the Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC), a recently-formed border-wide coalition of over 60 entities. Allen continued, “The Border Patrol agents took the law into their own hands, and acted as judge, jury and executioner and shot a teenager.”

This incident has also had a chilling effect on communities along the international divide with Mexico.

“Border communities from San Diego to Brownsville are saying enough is enough,” explains Christian Ramirez, a San Diego-based National Coordinator with the American Friends Service Committee and SBCC co-chair. “The growing pattern of agents shooting first and asking questions later is a border-wide epidemic that is rapidly diminishing the quality of life of border communities and trampling on the dignity of the millions of people who call the US-Mexico border home.”

The SBCC and its Arizona members expect:

1. For the FBI and the Cochise County Attorney’s office to conduct thorough and swift investigations that include investigating civil rights violations;

2. For Customs and Border Protection to institute new training for agents to better assess levels of threat and determine appropriate non-lethal responses; and

3. For all agencies involved to provide copies of incident reports to the family, including one that explains the delayed paramedics’ transport to the local hospital.

To see more photos and videos of Carlos and his family, click here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

AZ executes mentally disabled man: Why haven't we evolved yet?

Thanks to "Anchor Baby" Jorge Mendez, Carlos Galindo, and the whole "thuggish mob" occupying the Capitol for coming to my rescue when the cops questioned me about chalking the Senate sidewalk last night.

AZ State Senate:
Vigil against the death penalty.
Phoenix: March 28, 2011.

"Clerical error" my ass, Horne. Of course they requested the drug for use on an "animal" - they don't care if it's defective. They would have executed him for the first crime if they could have - that was pretty horrific: we could line up thousands of guys if we did that, though, for money that could be used saving lives instead. Besides,
the AZ Department of Corrections does a better job assuring that their dogs don't suffer the discomfort of summer than they do preventing wretched deaths from befalling the people in their custody - including the ones not sentenced to be executed.

I bet the director of the ADC has a good sleep tonight, defending the public by assuring this man's death. The Arizona Justice Project didn't pick up Eric King's case for some reason, but not necessarily because he isn't innocent - they go with what they think they can win, and can't afford to pin their name on someone who hasn't been cleared. I wonder if it ever bothers Chuck Ryan that so many people have been exonerated. How utterly unnecessary - and unjust, considering how casual this state is about neglect and abuse befalling the people in its custody.

Our condolences to King's kid. I don't think he was asking too much.

This page has links to death penalty resources.


Arizona executes Eric John King Tuesday, March 29, 2011 Associated Press

FLORENCE, Ariz. — A man convicted of killing two people in a 1989 Phoenix convenience store robbery was executed Tuesday despite last-minute arguments by his attorneys who raised questions over one of the lethal injection drugs and said they had raised “substantial doubt” about his guilt.

Eric John King’s death at the state prison in Florence was the first execution in the state since October and one of the last expected to use a three-drug lethal injection cocktail.

The 47-year-old had maintained his innocence since his arrest and his lawyers fought until the last minute to get his sentence reversed or delayed.

Defense attorney Mike Burke said before the execution that he visited with King on Tuesday morning.

“Although he’s very calm, he continues to maintain his innocence,” Burke told The Associated Press. “He’s done what he can do. All he has left to do is maintain his dignity.”

The Arizona Supreme Court declined to stay King’s execution Monday after Burke argued that the state should wait until it enacts its new lethal injection protocol. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene.

Corrections Director Charles Ryan announced Friday that Arizona will switch to using just one drug in an effort to allay any “perceived concerns” that sodium thiopental is ineffective, but only after the scheduled executions of King and Daniel Wayne Cook on April 5.

Defense attorney Michael Burke had argued that the Department of Corrections may have engaged in fraud when it imported the sedative from Great Britain by listing it on forms as being for “animals (food processing),” not humans.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said the mislabeling resulted from a clerical error.

Arizona obtained the drug legally, and that’s why it has been able to avoid problems other states have had, Assistant Attorney General Kent Cattani has said. Georgia’s supply of sodium thiopental was seized by federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents on March 15 over questions about how it was obtained.

The drug is part of the three-drug lethal injection cocktail used by nearly all 34 death penalty states, but it became scarce last year after the sole U.S. manufacturer stopped making it.

Some states started obtaining sodium thiopental overseas, and lawyers have argued that potentially adulterated, counterfeit or ineffective doses could subject prisoners to extreme pain.

Texas and Oklahoma recently announced they are switching from sodium thiopental to pentobarbital in their three-drug protocol. Ohio has switched to using only pentobarbital for its executions, and Ryan said that’s the drug Arizona might start using.

Burke also was unable to successfully argue that King be granted clemency at a hearing Thursday. Burke had argued that the two key witnesses who testified against King at his trial have changed their stories, that no physical evidence exists and surveillance video used at trial was of extremely poor quality.

Vince Imbordino, a prosecutor with the Maricopa County attorney’s office, argued that the photographic evidence was clear and that if jurors didn’t believe King was guilty, they wouldn’t have convicted him.

King was convicted of fatally shooting security guard Richard Butts and clerk Ron Barman at a Phoenix convenience store two days after Christmas in 1989. Butts and Barman both were married fathers whose families have testified that their deaths in a robbery that netted $72 devastated them.

Shortly before the killings, King had been released from a seven-year prison term on kidnapping and sexual assault charges. Police say King, who was 18 at the time, and another man kidnapped a woman and took her to an abandoned house, where both repeatedly and brutally sexually assaulted her over six hours.

Before he was sentenced in that crime, deputy adult probation officer Lee Brinkmoeller wrote that King had plans to reform himself.

“The defendant’s plans for the future are to become a machinist and to have his own car, house, family, and start being able to do things for his mother for all the things she has done for him,” Brinkmoeller wrote. “He states that he wants to have his mother be proud of him before she dies and he wants to be somebody.”

Court documents show King had a troubled childhood. Born in a taxi on the way to the hospital in Phoenix, King was one of 12 siblings whose alcoholic, abusive and mentally disturbed father died of a heart attack when King was 11, according to court records.

Records also say King’s mother struggled to provide for the children, who were so hungry at times that they tried to catch crawdads in irrigation canals and frequently were without electricity.

King reported to a prison psychiatrist that he had heard voices on and off his entire life, and suffered from anxiety and insomnia.

His son, 20-year-old Eric Harrison, saw King for the first time Thursday at the clemency hearing and asked the board to spare his father.

“This is the first time I’ve ever seen my dad, ever in life, and I know I love him,” Harrison said. “That’s my dad. He gave me life. Just don’t take him.”

King is the 23rd death row inmates Arizona has executed with the three-drug method since it began using lethal injection in 1993.

The state had previously executed 38 inmates with lethal gas since it started using that method in 1934. Another 28 inmates were executed by hanging between 1910 and 1931.

Source: AP, March 29, 2011


AZ State Senate Lawn:
Vigil against the death penalty March 28, 2011.

Perryville prisoner suicide: March 2011.

Sandra Day O'Connor Federal Court House.
November 14, 2010.

***UPDATED MARCH, 2011 at:

Another prisoner hung herself out at Perryville last Friday. The department has yet to put up the notice that she even died, for some reason, so I'll wait for them to release her name. I'm guessing they're either still notifying next-of-kin or trying to do some kind of damage control. A lot of people have been Googling her name and poking around my site for news of her, though, so I hope the state puts out the information soon. Once they do, I'll post the notice and fill in the blanks with what little I've been told; it was another case of people just not listening to the distress of prisoners.

I hope the ADC has learned that they need to do critical incident debriefing with affected prisoners or there'll be another suicide out there within a short time; their policies just suggest that they offer counseling to prisoners who ask for it; staff get the debriefing. There have been at least two suicides in the past seven months that were precipitated by another prisoner killing themselves on the same yard: Lasasha Cherry was preceded by Geshell Fernandez at Perryville/Lumley, and Duron Cunningham killed himself at Florence/Central just a week after Rosario Rodriguez-Bojorquez. Both might have been prevented by an intervention after the first suicide.

Just so folks know, if you have a loved one who has killed themselves or been murdered in Arizona's prisons, the best thing you can do to reduce the risk of it happening to the next person's loved one is to hold the state responsible in civil court. Sue them. Survivors must file a notice of claim within six months to take action in state court; don't wait until the last minute.

Contact me at 480-580-6807 if you need help finding an attorney.

Monday, March 28, 2011

What Is GEO Group?

by Aarti Shahani

National Public Radio

March 25, 2011

Within the $3 billion private prison industry, GEO Group is the nation's second largest for-profit prison operator. One of its prisons, which is the subject of an NPR News investigation, is now being investigated by the Department of Justice, and a civil rights lawsuit alleges that juvenile inmates are being held in "barbaric and unconstitutional conditions."

A Corporate Corrections Giant

On any given day, there are 1.6 million people serving sentences in state and federal prisons. Eight percent of them are in facilities operated by private companies. In the federal detention system, more than 16 percent of detainees are held in private lockups.

This proportion is projected to grow. According to industry leader Corrections Corporation of America, no state has allocated money to build new state-run prisons in the last year because of budget crises. So some state governments are turning to the private sector to house their prisoners. The private corrections industry maintains that it can build and start up prisons faster, and incarcerate inmates more cheaply than state-run facilities.

Based in Boca Raton, Fla., GEO — formerly Wackenhut Corrections -— is competing with CCA for new contracts. Since 2009, GEO has acquired 7,600 new prison beds, a growth of 10 percent, according to a GEO annual report.

Expansion By Diversification

GEO — which is traded on the New York Stock Exchange — is diversifying more than its competitors, seeking international contracts for prisons in Australia, South Africa and the United Kingdom. At home, it's also following the money into new lines of the corrections business.

The current trend in American criminal justice is to move away from incarceration toward cheaper alternatives like supervised release and treatment. So GEO is buying smaller companies with contracts in psychiatric care, civil immigration detention and electronic ankle monitoring for low-level offenders.

After borrowing cash for each new purchase, GEO's debt grew to $1.5 billion by January, and its credit rating was downgraded to B+.

NPR requested an interview with GEO to discuss its performance, but Pablo Paez, vice president of corporate relations, said in an email that the company declined to comment.

Assessing Its Acquisitions

In August, GEO bought Cornell Companies, America's third largest private prison operation. The acquisition included the troubled Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Mississippi, which is the focus of the NPR report.

GEO has had a rocky reputation in the youth prison business. In 2007, the Texas Youth Commission canceled a contract with GEO to manage the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center after auditors conducted an unannounced visit and found rampant mismanagement.

Barclays Capital, an investment firm that tracks the private prison industry, advised GEO on the Cornell purchase. Manav Patnaik, an analyst at Barclays, says GEO did not necessarily want the Mississippi youth facility. "If they could acquire Cornell without it, they would have. They got it because it was a package deal," he says.

But Patnaik also calls the purchase a "no-brainer" because it included existing revenue streams.

Lawsuits and Justice Department investigations, such as those focused on Walnut Grove, aren't more than a "headline risk," he says. At worst stocks dip on the day of bad press, just to float up again.

Private Prison Promises Leave Texas Towns In Trouble

National Public Radio

March 25, 2011

Second in a two-part series on private prisons

The country with the highest incarceration rate in the world — the United States — is supporting a $3 billion private prison industry. In Texas, where free enterprise meets law and order, there are more for-profit prisons than any other state. But because of a growing inmate shortage, some private jails cannot fill empty cells, leaving some towns wishing they'd never gotten in the prison business.

It seemed like a good idea at the time when the west Texas farming town of Littlefield borrowed $10 million and built the Bill Clayton Detention Center in a cotton field south of town in 2000. The charmless steel-and-cement-block buildings ringed with razor wire would provide jobs to keep young people from moving to Lubbock or Dallas.

For eight years, the prison was a good employer. Idaho and Wyoming paid for prisoners to serve time there. But two years ago, Idaho pulled out all of its contract inmates because of a budget crunch at home. There was also a scandal surrounding the suicide of an inmate.

Shortly afterward, the for-profit operator, GEO Group, gave notice that it was leaving, too. One hundred prison jobs disappeared. The facility has been empty ever since.

A Hard Sell

"Maybe ... he'll help us to find somebody," says Littlefield City Manager Danny Davis good-n aturedly when a reporter shows up for a tour.

The 372-bed Bill Clayton Detention Center is a medium-security prison that is currently sitting empty in Littlefield, Texas.
John Burnett/NPR

The 372-bed Bill Clayton Detention Center is a medium-security prison that is currently sitting empty in Littlefield, Texas.

For sale or contract: a 372-bed, medium-security prison with double security fences, state-of-the-art control room, gymnasium, law library, classrooms and five living pods.

Davis opens the gray steel door to a barren cell with bunk beds and stainless-steel furniture.

"You can see the facility here. [It's] pretty austere, but from what I understand from a prison standpoint, it's better than most," he says, still trying to close the sale.

For the past two years, Littlefield has had to come up with $65,000 a month to pay the note on the prison. That's $10 per resident of this little city.

A Resident Burden

Is the empty prison a big white elephant for the city of Littlefield?

"Is it something we have that we'd rather not have? Well, today that would probably be the case," Davis says.

To avoid defaulting on the loan, Littlefield has raised property taxes, increased water and sewer fees, laid off city employees and held off buying a new police car. Still, the city's bond rating has tanked.

The village elders drinking coffee at the White Kitchen cafe are not happy about the way things have turned out.

"It was never voted on by the citizens of Littlefield; [it] is stuck in their craw," says Carl Enloe, retired from Atmos Energy. "They have to pay for it. And the people who's got it going are all up and gone and they left us... "

"...Holdin' the bag!" says Tommy Kelton, another Atmos retiree, completing the sentence.

The Declining Prison Population

The same thing has happened to communities across Texas. Once upon a time, it seems every small town wanted to be a prison town. But the 20-year private prison building boom is over.

Some prisons are struggling outside Texas, too.

Hardin, Mont., defaulted on its bond payments after trying, so far unsuccessfully, to fill its 464-bed minimum security prison. And a prison in Huerfano County, Colo., closed after Arizona pulled out its 700 inmates.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the total correctional population in the United States is declining for the first time in three decades. Among the reasons: The crime rate is falling, sentencing alternatives mean fewer felons doing hard time and states everywhere are slashing budgets.

The Texas legislature, looking for budget cuts, is contemplating shedding 2,000 contract prison beds. Statewide, more than half of all privately operated county jail beds are empty, according to figures from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.

"Too many times we've seen jails that have got into it and tried to make it a profitable business to make money off of it and they end up fallin' on their face," says Shannon Herklotz, assistant director of the commission.

The packages look sweet. A town gets a new detention center without costing the taxpayers anything. The private operator finances, constructs and operates an oversized facility. The contract inmates pay off the debt and generate extra revenue.

The economic model works fine until they can't find inmates.

In Waco, McLennan County borrowed $49 million to build an 816-bed jail and charge day rates for bunk space. But today because of the convict shortage, the fortress east of town remains more than half empty. The sheriff and county judge, once champions of the new jail, now decline to comment on it.

Former McLennan County Deputy Rick White, who opposed the jail, had this to say about the prison developers who put the deal together: "They get the corporations formed, they get the bonds sold, they get the facility built, their money is front-loaded, they take their money out. And then there's no reason for them to support the success of the facility."

Two of Texas' busiest private prison consultants — James Parkay and Herb Bristow — declined repeated requests for interviews.

The Inmate Market

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the total correctional population in the United States is declining for the first time in three decades. Among the reasons: The crime rate is falling, sentencing alternatives mean fewer felons doing hard time and states everywhere are slashing budgets.

Private prison companies insist their future is sunny.

A spokesman for the GEO Group declined to speak about the Littlefield prison, but he sent along a slew of press releases highlighting the company's new inmate contracts and prison expansions across the country.

Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest private prison operator, says the demand for its facilities remains strong, particularly for federal immigration detainees.

New Jersey-based Community Education Centers, which has been pulling out of unprofitable jails across Texas, issued a statement that "the current (jail) population fluctuation" is cyclical.

One of the places where CEC is cancelling its contract is Falls County, in central Texas, where a for-profit jail addition is losing money. Now it's up to Falls County Judge Steve Sharp to hustle up jailbirds: "If somebody is out there charging $30 a day for an inmate, we need to charge $28. We really don't have a choice of not filling those beds," he said.

Another place where they're desperate for inmates is Anson, the little town north of Abilene, Texas, once famous for its no-dancing law. Today, Jones County owns a brand-new $34 million prison and an $8 million county jail, both of which sit empty. The prison developers made their money and left. Then the Texas Department of Criminal Justice reneged on a contract to fill the new prison with parole violators. The county's Public Facility Corporation that borrowed the money to build the lockups owes $314,000 a month — with no paying inmates. They've got a year's worth of bond service payments set aside before county officials start to sweat.

"The market has changed nationwide in the last 18 months or two years. It's certainly a different picture than when we started this project. And so we're continuing to work the problem," Jones County Judge Dale Spurgin says.

Grayson County, north of Dallas, said no to privatizing its jail. Two years ago, the county was all set to build a $30 million, 750-bed behemoth twice as big as was needed. But the public got queasy and county officials ultimately scuttled the deal.

"When you put the profit motive into a private jail, by design, in order to increase your dollars, your revenues, your profits, you need more folks in there and they need to stay longer," says Bill Magers, mayor of the county seat of Sherman, a leading opponent.

When the supply of prison beds exceeds the demand for prison beds, there are beneficiaries.

The overcrowded Harris County Jail in Houston, the nation's third largest, farms out about 1,000 prisoners to private jails. Littlefield and most other under-occupied facilities in Texas have all been in touch with Houston.

"It really is a buyer's market right now, especially a county our size," says Capt. Robin Kinetsky, who is in charge of inmate processing for the Harris County Sheriffs Department. "They're really wanting to get our business. So, we're getting good deals."

Nearby, disheveled and unsmiling men are brought from a holding cell to stand before a booking officer for their intake interviews. The detainees are wholly unaware that they may soon become the newest commodities of the volatile inmate market.

Aarti Shahani contributed to this NPR News investigation and report.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

AZ Victims of State Crimes: Constitutionally Denied Justice.

"Defend Human Rights"
Phoenix Committee of Homeless Campers.
Artwalk (March 4, 2011).

The international community recognized the need to protect victims of state violence a long time ago. Why does the Arizona Constitution exclude us when we're assaulted or killed in custody - it doesn't even protect the state from liability? It just means that the victims of police brutality have no rights in criminal court. As citizens who have been abused by the state, we aren't invited to comment on plea deals or the sentencing of our perpetrators, guaranteed services from the multitude of Victims' Rights agencies, appointed a victim/witness advocate, or assured that a restitution agreement will cover our medical expenses.

Excluding victims who "are in custody for an offense"
from constitutional protections not only relegates prisoners to sub-human status in the hands of the state, it does the same to the family members who survive the violence or gross indifference to human life that takes their loved ones. The prisoners who get most abused are very often the ones who are least able to defend themselves or seek redress afterwards: the seriously mentally ill who shouldn't even be in the criminal justice system to begin with.

The legislature is empowered to extend victims rights to everyone - it doesn't have to go to referendum. Tell your legislator that victims of state crimes matter, too. He or she can be reached at:

Arizona State Legislature
1700 W. Washington St.
Phoenix, AZ 85007

cc your letter to the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ron Gould, and someone there who might really care: Mesa Representative and Chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee, Cecil Ash.

-------------From the Arizona State Constitution, Article 2--------

2.1. Victims' bill of rights

Section 2.1. (A) To preserve and protect victims' rights to justice and due process, a victim of crime has a right:
1. To be treated with fairness, respect, and dignity, and to be free from intimidation, harassment, or abuse, throughout the criminal justice process.
2. To be informed, upon request, when the accused or convicted person is released from custody or has escaped.
3. To be present at and, upon request, to be informed of all criminal proceedings where the defendant has the right to be present.
4. To be heard at any proceeding involving a post-arrest release decision, a negotiated plea, and sentencing.
5. To refuse an interview, deposition, or other discovery request by the defendant, the defendant's attorney, or other person acting on behalf of the defendant.
6. To confer with the prosecution, after the crime against the victim has been charged, before trial or before any disposition of the case and to be informed of the disposition.
7. To read pre-sentence reports relating to the crime against the victim when they are available to the defendant.
8. To receive prompt restitution from the person or persons convicted of the criminal conduct that caused the victim's loss or injury.
9. To be heard at any proceeding when any post-conviction release from confinement is being considered.
10. To a speedy trial or disposition and prompt and final conclusion of the case after the conviction and sentence.
11. To have all rules governing criminal procedure and the admissibility of evidence in all criminal proceedings protect victims' rights and to have these rules be subject to amendment or repeal by the legislature to ensure the protection of these rights.
12. To be informed of victims' constitutional rights.
(B) A victim's exercise of any right granted by this section shall not be grounds for dismissing any criminal proceeding or setting aside any conviction or sentence.
(C) "Victim" means a person against whom the criminal offense has been committed or, if the person is killed or incapacitated, the person's spouse, parent, child or other lawful representative, except if the person is in custody for an offense or is the accused.
(D) The legislature, or the people by initiative or referendum, have the authority to enact substantive and procedural laws to define, implement, preserve and protect the rights guaranteed to victims by this section, including the authority to extend any of these rights to juvenile proceedings.
(E) The enumeration in the constitution of certain rights for victims shall not be construed to deny or disparage others granted by the legislature or retained by victims.


from the
Office of the United Nations
High Commissioner for Human Rights

Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power
Adopted by General Assembly resolution 40/34 of 29 November 1985

A. Victims of crime

1. "Victims" means persons who, individually or collectively, have suffered harm, including physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights, through acts or omissions that are in violation of criminal laws operative within Member States, including those laws proscribing criminal abuse of power.

2. A person may be considered a victim, under this Declaration, regardless of whether the perpetrator is identified, apprehended, prosecuted or convicted and regardless of the familial relationship between the perpetrator and the victim. The term "victim" also includes, where appropriate, the immediate family or dependants of the direct victim and persons who have suffered harm in intervening to assist victims in distress or to prevent victimization.

3. The provisions contained herein shall be applicable to all, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, age, language, religion, nationality, political or other opinion, cultural beliefs or practices, property, birth or family status, ethnic or social origin, and disability.

Access to justice and fair treatment
4. Victims should be treated with compassion and respect for their dignity. They are entitled to access to the mechanisms of justice and to prompt redress, as provided for by national legislation, for the harm that they have suffered.

5. Judicial and administrative mechanisms should be established and strengthened where necessary to enable victims to obtain redress through formal or informal procedures that are expeditious, fair, inexpensive and accessible. Victims should be informed of their rights in seeking redress through such mechanisms.

6. The responsiveness of judicial and administrative processes to the needs of victims should be facilitated by:

( a ) Informing victims of their role and the scope, timing and progress of the proceedings and of the disposition of their cases, especially where serious crimes are involved and where they have requested such information;

( b ) Allowing the views and concerns of victims to be presented and considered at appropriate stages of the proceedings where their personal interests are affected, without prejudice to the accused and consistent with the relevant national criminal justice system;

( c ) Providing proper assistance to victims throughout the legal process;

( d ) Taking measures to minimize inconvenience to victims, protect their privacy, when necessary, and ensure their safety, as well as that of their families and witnesses on their behalf, from intimidation and retaliation;

( e ) Avoiding unnecessary delay in the disposition of cases and the execution of orders or decrees granting awards to victims.

7. Informal mechanisms for the resolution of disputes, including mediation, arbitration and customary justice or indigenous practices, should be utilized where appropriate to facilitate conciliation and redress for victims.


8. Offenders or third parties responsible for their behaviour should, where appropriate, make fair restitution to victims, their families or dependants. Such restitution should include the return of property or payment for the harm or loss suffered, reimbursement of expenses incurred as a result of the victimization, the provision of services and the restoration of rights.

9. Governments should review their practices, regulations and laws to consider restitution as an available sentencing option in criminal cases, in addition to other criminal sanctions.

10. In cases of substantial harm to the environment, restitution, if ordered, should include, as far as possible, restoration of the environment, reconstruction of the infrastructure, replacement of community facilities and reimbursement of the expenses of relocation, whenever such harm results in the dislocation of a community.

11. Where public officials or other agents acting in an official or quasi-official capacity have violated national criminal laws, the victims should receive restitution from the State whose officials or agents were responsible for the harm inflicted. In cases where the Government under whose authority the victimizing act or omission occurred is no longer in existence, the State or Government successor in title should provide restitution to the victims.


12. When compensation is not fully available from the offender or other sources, States should endeavour to provide financial compensation to:

( a ) Victims who have sustained significant bodily injury or impairment of physical or mental health as a result of serious crimes;

( b ) The family, in particular dependants of persons who have died or become physically or mentally incapacitated as a result of such victimization.

13. The establishment, strengthening and expansion of national funds for compensation to victims should be encouraged. Where appropriate, other funds may also be established for this purpose, including in those cases where the State of which the victim is a national is not in a position to compensate the victim for the harm.


14. Victims should receive the necessary material, medical, psychological and social assistance through governmental, voluntary, community-based and indigenous means.

15. Victims should be informed of the availability of health and social services and other relevant assistance and be readily afforded access to them.

16. Police, justice, health, social service and other personnel concerned should receive training to sensitize them to the needs of victims, and guidelines to ensure proper and prompt aid.

17. In providing services and assistance to victims, attention should be given to those who have special needs because of the nature of the harm inflicted or because of factors such as those mentioned in paragraph 3 above.

B. Victims of abuse of power

18. "Victims" means persons who, individually or collectively, have suffered harm, including physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights, through acts or omissions that do not yet constitute violations of national criminal laws but of internationally recognized norms relating to human rights.

19. States should consider incorporating into the national law norms proscribing abuses of power and providing remedies to victims of such abuses. In particular, such remedies should include restitution and/or compensation, and necessary material, medical, psychological and social assistance and support.

20. States should consider negotiating multilateral international treaties relating to victims, as defined in paragraph 18.

21. States should periodically review existing legislation and practices to ensure their responsiveness to changing circumstances, should enact and enforce, if necessary, legislation proscribing acts that constitute serious abuses of political or economic power, as well as promoting policies and mechanisms for the prevention of such acts, and should develop and make readily available appropriate rights and remedies for victims of such acts.

More prisoners bound for Kingman; no legislative oversight in place.

I hope the ADC does a better job of monitoring their contract than they have been - people seem to forget that this place fell apart after nearly two years of business-as-usual under Ryan before those escapes. I think Central Office fell down on the job as much as the people of Kingman running that place did. The legislature didn't have the courage to put better oversight mechanisms in place, either, despite the escape.

WHAT is wrong with those people, anyway?

The next family who sues the state after the Haas' are done with us will have a whole body of people to blame, now, who were willfully indifferent to the safety of both the surrounding community and the staff and prisoners inside these places. Looking at how the rest of Arizona's private prisons are running, the next suit will probably be the survivor of a prisoner who gets murdered by another prisoner, or raped and beaten by guards, like what's been happening in CCA's Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy.

Of course, they aren't doing that much better in the state prisons, either. They need some serious legislative oversight, folks.

Chuck Ryan's tone in this press release is a little self-righteous: the ADC just had their own escape attempt at ASPC-Tucson on Christmas Day that no one likes to talk about. One guy was on the roof and the other was cutting through a fence when they got caught. We didn't see a big public investigation of their security protocol there.

It doesn't bode well that the only people we can really market to private prisons anymore are non-violent offenders and immigrants. That means CCA, GEO et al - as well as all these private prison towns that will need a constant supply of warm bodies to fill their cells -- will be lobbying for more punitive sentencing laws for drug, property and immigration offenses, so we can fill all the new beds we're giving the industry. Doesn't it alarm folks that no one has any incentive to actually bring down crime rates in this state?

Our government is getter bigger and badder in all the wrong places. At $20,000 a prisoner, those 5,000 new beds are going to cost us another $100,000,000 per year, increasing the corrections' base budget by at least 10%. That's staggering. We'll need more police and prosecutors, too. The profit-motive embedded in the punishment end of our criminal justice system supports continued victimization and progressive criminalization, and these prisons are sucking precious resources from areas where crime could actually be prevented. The public's interests are not being well-represented in this legislature.

Needless to say, a whole lot of people would be working more productively in our communities if their health and mental health needs were taken care of on the front end, and a good many lives could be salvaged if our corrections' funds went into rehabilitation and treatment. Sadly, Arizona's priorities are inverted. For the sake of boosting a few rural economies with prison jobs - and padding their legislative districts with non-voting bodies - we're about to lock up a whole bunch more people like Shannon Palmer and Marcia Powell - as well as Good Samaritans - as dangerous criminals and throw away the key.


(602) 542-3133


NEWS RELEASE For Immediate Release

For more information contact:

Barrett Marson

Bill Lamoreaux

March 24, 2011

ADC to restart loading Kingman prison

Phoenix, AZ. - Following an extensive security review, the Arizona Department of Corrections next week will resume sending prisoners to a privately-operated facility in Kingman.

ADC ordered significant security and operational improvements after a July 30, 2010, escape of three inmates from the 3,400-bed facility. ADC conducted several security inspections of the Management and Training Corp.-operated prison and has determined the company is prepared to securely house inmates in accordance with ADC policies.

“The prison is now adhering to ADC security policies and is ready to house more inmates,” ADC Director Charles L. Ryan said.

Ryan said he will keep in place restrictions that prevent the Kingman prison from receiving inmates convicted of murder or attempted murder, or those who have a history of escape attempts. Additionally, a seasoned ADC deputy warden has been assigned to oversee daily operations at the MTC facility.

“The security failures that led to the escape cannot be allowed to occur again,” Ryan said. “The state will insist that MTC continue following ADC policies.”

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Toersbijns: Criticisms of Mental Health Treatment of Inmates at the ADC.

SOS DOJ: CRIPA AZ State Prisons
(Dodge Theater, Phoenix. Halloween, 2010.)

As some of you may have noticed, I've had a number of posts lately by former Arizona Department of Corrections' Deputy Warden Carl Toersbijns (ASPC-Eyman), most of which are pointedly critical of the ADC's high suicide rate under Director Chuck Ryan and its mental health programs, or lack thereof. Follow the link below and you can view and download the department's official response to Carl's advocacy (sorry, it took me awhile to figure out how best to get people access to a PDF from here, which is the only form I have this in).

I've also embedded a link to the document in the side column.

"Response to Criticisms of Mental Health Treatment
of inmates in the ADC."
(March 18, 2011)

Carl's response is as follows.
I'll let both his and the preceding documents speak for themselves, for now.


Open Letter to the Arizona SMI Commission – Arizona Prisons

Carl Toersbijns

Response to document written by Deputy Director Charles Flanagan and Dr. Ben Shaw on March 18, 2011, related to maximum custody inmates and their mental health treatment needs. The following is submitted for your own information so you can be informed of the rationale behind the position paper written to enhance mental health treatment in the ADOC. It appears my criticism has created a need to defend current practices when in fact, my criticism was merely a vocalization of matters observed and experienced inside the Arizona prison system from 2005 through 2010.


It is logical to agree that “there is overwhelming research” in the “scientific literature that mentally ill persons are no more likely to be violent or to commit crimes than are non-mentally ill persons.

Response -


Violent offenders

Non-Violent Offenders

February 2011




Per cent of population

GAC 1/2011

68 %

32 %

Persons in Maximum Custody

Count sheet 2/2011






The rationale used to illustrate the violent properties within such a prison setting is based on the fact that in the Arizona Department of Corrections reports and statistics they report in their February 2011 Glance at Corrections report the system housed 27,950 violent offenders compared to 12,980 non-violent offenders. This relates to the prison population being 68 % violent and 32 % non-violent. This can best be compared to 7 out of 10 inmates in Arizona prisons are violent offenders regardless whether they are mentally ill or not. This is a fundamental dynamic in Arizona prisons.

Under the present conditions inside prisons, it has been documented that almost 7 out of 10 are already violent and with the influx of many more such individuals coming in with a ratio of 9.3 to 1 person that is housed inside a state hospital for treatment. It is highly likely that some level of mental illness is associated with the individual in question as they arrive into the system. Therefore, this is not just a perception but facts supported by the agency’s own statistics of violent and non-violent offenders housed in their prison system. This was established by the Treatment Advocacy Center report March 2010. [1]

However, as a new commit the stress levels to cope and function within such a predatory world is extreme and pushes many to high levels of anxiety creating a coping problem for many. 99 % new commitments and many of the repeat offenders are required to show their paperwork to live on a general population yard whether sex offender or not, this practice is established by those who have a gang mentality and operate their own race’s desired placement practice not addressed by the administration.

This may result in a 70 % chance of this inmate to receive a ticket for misconduct or other “manipulated efforts” to be removed from the general population and temporarily placed in detention where they must heighten their coping skills as they are mixed with many behavioral inmates awaiting disciplinary sanctions or a transfer to a higher custody. One must be aware that as the custody level rises, so does the propensity for violence for the individuals housed there. This is a fundamental dynamic of prison. Whether the threat is perceived to be real or not, these inmates are scared and want to leave the yards thus they refuse to house. This results in a disciplinary action [in fact repeated misconduct] and ordered to house every other day to go onto the yard making them subject to further disciplinary action elevating their classification scores once minor tickets are elevated to a major ticket due to repetitions of infractions.

This has resulted in three things.

1. Staff assaults,

2. Inmate on inmate assaults

3. Requests for protective segregation.

So you see by using these “manipulation tools” mentally ill inmates as well as non-mentally ill inmates created a route that may take them to maximum custody. Herein are two problems the administration is not able to cope with effectively.

* The first stigma is a refuse to house inmate or RTH is considered to be manipulative by all staff including treatment staff. These groups of inmates are stereotyped into one group to show their reluctance to house on a particular yard and asking for a transfer. These inmates are subject to harsh treatment by the deputy warden of the unit who has been instructed to get these RTH numbers reduced and find a way to house them regardless of what the reasons are other than DO 805 issues that require immediate segregation into a detention unit pending the process. This is a fundamental dynamic in prison.

* The second stigma is the fact that mental health providers feed into this “manipulation” scheme by security and administration thus fail to follow up specific individual needs that may impact their personal safety and why they took the course to manipulate this removal off the yards writing it off as a manipulated effort to move.

The comment that “mentally illness can be present in individuals who exhibit criminal behavior – as diabetes or hypertension can – but generally unrelated to the motivations for this behavior. One must qualify that statement with the ambience this research was conducted as inside a prison such as the ADOC, it has already been established statistically, the nature of the correctional setting is both violent as well as associated predatory behaviors not likely to be found in such great numbers out on the street or community. It is reasonable this predatory environment requires a discriminating level of awareness to remain safe among those who are not mentally ill. This is a fundamental in prison.

Therefore, although I may agree that mentally ill persons are not particularly violent or antisocial when placed or housed within an uncontrolled environment that presents perils and dangers of personal harm and extortion, the mere fact that the majority of persons locked up with these mentally ill inmates are violent creates a domination factor that can’t be ignored.


“Recent writings and presentations have suggested that inmates who are mentally ill are likely to be placed in maximum custody because they are ill and exhibiting symptoms of a psychotic disorder” is misleading or misinterpreted by the reader of the position paper. One must realize the history behind the recent high influx [beginning in October 2009] of maximum custody inmates who were formerly held at complex detention units based on bed space available at the SMU’s and Florence. Although the number of inmates has been reduced significantly by the current administration, the movement is still high and with it results the placement of mentally ill inmates inside maximum custody units needing treatment and alternatives to program under the ADA act.

Maximum custody population October – 2009 – 4,091 inmates in Level V and detention

Maximum custody population January - 2010 – 4,052 inmates in Level V and detention

Maximum custody population January - 2011– 3,744 inmates in Level V and detention


Inmates receiving Mental Health Treatment

Seriously Mentally Ill

Arizona Dept. of Corrections





(3.4 %)

Inmates in Max Custody[2] (including detention and Intake)

3744 (10.52%)





Maximum Custody totals for SMU I and Browning






Number of inmates in Max Custody not receiving the status of being SMI


(23.7 %)

The impression behind this conclusion was the various chasms or gaps that exist throughout the agency that demonstrates staff are ill prepared to handle or manage the mentally ill or others with learning disorders. The message in training of line staff to understand a mentally ill inmate and not misinterpret his or her actions as a disciplinary matter has not yet been endorsed by a culture that “treats every inmate the same” regardless of their status especially inside a detention unit or maximum custody facility. Records will reveal that inmates who are mentally ill are often written up for misconduct related to destruction of property or even to the extent of harming themselves without understanding the recourse available and due process unless offered an advocate of liaison that can mediate the actions observed and resolve it in a most therapeutic manner. This is a fundamental dynamic.

This mechanism of not treating the mentally ill with deliberate indifference does not yet exist universally within the agency and must be created to reduce the number of inmates housed in more restrictive housing because of repetitive misconduct that was misunderstood or “manipulated” to create an action that would keep an inmate safe. Wherever mental health is involved in such treatment of disciplinary cases, the inmate is cleared of misconduct that could result in a higher classification based on institutional disciplinary history and recommendations for supervisory changes. Therefore, mental health providers must explore this avenue of “manipulation” to find the truth and exact reason for the inmate’s refusal to cooperate that often results in three dynamics that are common. Suicide threats associated with the discontinuance of their prescribed medication and grievances that will not be finalized before they are either moved to an alternative housing e.g. detention or another yard. This is a fundamental dynamic in prison.

My position paper on mental health issues is based on inmates placed in maximum custody that includes detention units at all units statewide. One can calculate the number of beds used for such interim level V placement as many fall under four categories. They are:

1. Disciplinary – assaultive behaviors, theft, RTH, etc
2. Protective Segregation – nature of crime, witness, debriefing STG etc.
3. Pending criminal investigation – various criminal charges
4. Transient waiting for a bed or movement out of the unit (detention units are used for this purpose and at times, there are up to three inmates inside a cell designed for two creating an even more stressful living environment while waiting for adjudication of the report, movement to an alternative housing or awaiting a criminal procedure.)

One must include these beds when you configure the number of inmates in maximum custody as well as the maximum custodies in Florence Central unit and the female maximum units. Secondary, a number of suicides have occurred within these detention units and to not include them will alter the perception that maximum custody is not used as an alternative housing for those reasons mentioned above. Otherwise the total numbers of inmates housed in maximum custody are not accurate and only reflect the partial housing of maximum inmates at two locations when in fact maximum custody exists at almost all statewide units through the mere existence of detention units holding inmates for the various reasons already outlined. This creates a tremendous burden on mental health staff assigned to the smaller or more remote units as they are ill prepared to deal with such offenders at such high numbers and deal with general population inmates. This is a fundamental dynamic in prison.

Thus when the agency re-configures their total number of inmates held in maximum custody [including detention where there are high risks for suicides], these figures will reflect a higher percentage of inmates who are receiving mental health treatment inside these level V units versus those required ongoing treatment while incarcerated that is approximately 9,862 inmates during the month of February 2011.


One’s inference that “inmates placed in maximum custody may decide to show improved rule compliance and generally improved behavior in order to be moved to lower custody settings and avoid returning to maximum custody” is false and flawed by both perception and reality.

Response –

It would be reasonable to conclude that would be the rationale for any inmate in maximum custody, however, classification dynamics govern custody settings and the override tool used for mental health and behavioral misconduct is used to keep them at a higher level. Second, unless the dynamics that caused them to go to maximum custody changed, they will “manipulate” a way to stay in maximum custody and be released from a level V unit. Some inmates just refuse to house in dormitory or double bunk settings thus prefer the single cell at maximum custody levels. Detention units are the exception as they are double bunked and triple bunked most of the time pre-April 2010. One should check the actual risk assessment scores to reveal this practice of overriding inmates regardless whether mental health or behavioral. Normally, these inmates’ score lower than actual placement. Thus that logic will not work at maximum custody for the large part as the administration deems what inmate goes down on a custody level based on their own risk assessments rather than the evidence based management tool provided by the agency and make a decision based on “knowing the inmate.”

An inmate, regardless whether he or she is mentally ill or behavioral, will not be allowed to be reduced in custody levels as long as they have severe disciplinary records that shows they are poor risks regardless how long ago such an event might have occurred. This is a fundamental dynamic in prison.

As for the comments related to doing better or worse within a program setting or therapeutic environment, it is beyond my qualifications to comment on clinical matters but rather, my approach has always been from the operational aspect of inmate treatment, supervision, classification and behavioral control. This position paper was written from this same position as voicing my concerns for these operational and environmental impacts on security and safety of all.

Issue –

The denial of recreation and showers, basic living conditions important to the inmates is based on two things daily. The first element of a regular day in maximum custody is the occurrence of an Incident Command System (ICS) event that will draw first responders from the entire unit. This interrupts or completely halts these basic services as staffs are unable to conduct their normal duties as they are handling an emergency. Second, these ICS events are frequent enough to interrupt at a minimum two of the five days of the week creating “make up” showers and rec during the weekends. This is a viable option if staff is available and no further ICS event occurs. A contributory fact is since the double bunking at Browning and SMU I, the lack of physical space to follow the required schedule on time thus staff encourages Inmates to “skip” their showers every now and then to get the majority showered. Mathematically, one can’t meet the mandate to shower and rec each inmate per policy and unless there are cancellations, some go without either. I have documentation to show such a shortcoming and welcome the findings submitted to the warden at the time of the study. I also have documentation showing how the unit deputy warden proposes to provide showers and recreation with certain staffing levels that are staged into different levels. This is a fundamental prison dynamic. In a perfect world, this would not be an issue.


“Mr. ToersBijns’ writing reflects a misunderstanding of the process used for the few cases in which involuntary medication is being considered. The mental health staff who are involved in the ongoing treatment of such inmates have tried all of the reasonable alternatives before the PMRB is asked to consider involuntary medication.”

Response –

One can pretend that “chemical restraints” are not used. Technically and fortunately, the procedure is very rare and required the approval of a psychiatrist via a telephone call or presence once the inmate has been cleared by the PMRB committee to be sedated or medicated. There have been occasions where an inmate refused to participate with the committee and the majority present, seeing the inmate is no longer able to make good decisions concerning his own health, agrees to medicate and this has resulted in the inmate being strapped onto a gurney and taken to medical to get his prescribed medication or shot. Never qualified to determine such medical condition or psychiatric decision, we followed protocol established and cooperated with mental health and medical staff. It is the question of “tried all of the reasonable alternatives before the PMRB” action is taken since I have observed behaviors by mental health providers that appeared to be futile in efforts and reluctance to deal with. This is fortunately also rare but has occurred thus a reality it exists.


“In his most recent writings, Mr. ToersBijns posts two new concerns; increased suicides and increased homicides, as well as the repeated and unsupported allegation that administrative disciplinary charges lead to higher custody levels for inmates with mental health issues already addressed above. These writings attempt to fit some pieces of factual data into what seems to be opinion –based thinking, which draws conclusions to suit a particular position.”

Response –

One needs to glean the individual inmate disciplinary files to show how his conduct, although related to mental health fitness has created a long string of disciplinary actions that do two things; elevate his or her custody levels and takes away time credits resulting in longer serving of the sentences. The commission can go to the website and identify the inmate’s needs at inmate database, pick out a mentally ill inmate and glean their history of disciplinary, classification actions and time taken to confirm this opinion.


“Director Ryan increased the number of security staff in key inmate contact and supervision areas by restoring posts and positions. The data seems to indicate that these initial steps are resulting in positive outcomes.”

The key words are “increased the number of security staff in key inmate contact and supervision area by restoring posts and positions. The data seems to indicate that these initial steps are resulting in positive outcomes.” As you can see by the memorandums attached, there is no “increase of the number of staff but rather, a reallocation of resources to handle one area of the prison and neglecting another area of the prison. This rob Peter to pay Paul is a common strategy to “increase” staffing as well as cross leveling staff whenever they are short on shift creating deep cuts in the shifts of units having to “share” their staff with other units.

Prior staffing practices –


TO: DW C. Lang, ASPC-Tucson, xxxxxxxxxxxx

FROM: xxxxxxxxxxxx ASPC-Tucson,

SUBJECT: Replacement of Zone/Rover Posts at xxxxxxxxxxxx

DATE: 02/01/11

Approximately six months ago, before all the new changes to Winchester Unit, we had 2 yard officers, 4 zone/rover posts and control room officers conducted their own health and welfare security checks.

Now the control room officers can not leave the control rooms and the 4 zone/rover posts have been replaced by floor officer posts that can not be pulled for any reason except for an ICS response. At the same time the yard responsibilities have not changed.

That leaves the 2 yard officers trying to conduct the work of six officers with the assistance of the supervisor(s). Where at times there is only one supervisor on site to run shift which does not allow us to post ourselves without leaving the shift without a supervisor.

The yard officer responsibilities include:

3 exterior perimeters - takes approximately 15 minutes each

3 interior perimeters - takes approximately 30 minutes each

2 interior lock/fence checks - takes approximately 15 minutes each

Hot dinner - takes approximately 2.5 hours

Conducting evening chow (a hot dinner):

There are 4 officers required to conduct chow -

One at the scanner

One at the ticket register

One at the serving window

One conducting random pat searches

Run Sally port gate -

For inmates returning from dialyses 3 times per week that normally come back to the yard during chow, Canteen, and Complex moves etc.

Coordinate all movements on the yard

Conduct security checks of Programs

Cover Medical after hours and from 1500 to 1700 on Mondays

Make up bedding packs for new arrivals

Supply security for the commissary

Conduct Ice call, trash run and Uranalysis

Watch the recreation shack

Transports to West Medical, UPH, and other Units

Pick up and drop off paperwork etc. to the buildings

Observations, Suicide, 805, and Disciplinary cases must be watched continually or temporarily until able to be transported

Strip searching all the kitchen workers prior to them going back to their living area, that requires 2 officers per policy

Per. Department Order 708, Searches:

All inmates entering the programs building are to pat searched

All inmates turning out to or exiting from the recreation field need to be randomly pat searched

All inmates exiting the chow hall need to be randomly pat searched

Per. Policy/Post Orders:

There are to be a minimum of 2 staff monitoring the Recreation field at all times

as well as security checks are to be conducted on the Recreation field.

In comparison, Manzanita Unit has 3 yard officers and their yard is physically half the size ofxxxxxxxxxxx. xxxxxxxxxxx also holds 376 more inmates and feeds a hot dinner where Manzanita feeds sacks for dinner.

Due to the overwhelming amount of stress of trying to get everything done with limited resources, staff moral on all shifts is going down and may have a direct effect on the yard and inmate population.


For the security and safety of xxxxxxxxxxxx we need to replace the 4 zone/rover posts that we lost.

Looking at the statistics for 2009 there were an average of 29 staff assaults per month and 52 inmates on inmate assaults reported. Gleaning the same statistics for 2010 the data reveals there the average of 28.5 staff assaults per month and 62 inmates on inmate assaults reported. There is no significant drop in suicides or assaults. However, time will tell if 2011 is a better year as it will be monitored for progress.

Per ADOC statistics this averages:

2009 – High = 74 inmate on inmate assaults

- High = 45 inmate on staff assaults

2010 - High = 88 inmate on inmate assaults

High = 35 inmate on staff assaults

ADC ratio of assaults on inmate to inmate = 17.36 Projected for FY 11 – 17.44

ADC ratio of assaults on staff by inmate = 8.83 Projected for FY 11 – 9.50


“Picture of maximum custody housing which is quiet disturbing”

Response –

Regarding my “picture of maximum custody housing which is quiet disturbing”, I can only refer to first hand experience inside the special management units that have revealed numerous incidents detailed within this document. As the deputy warden of SMU II aka Browning, I could in fact, go back to my records and request affidavits from both staff and inmates on specific incidents that may have been concluded as abuse if the informal actions taken had not been effective to avoid a repeat incident. One should glean the misconduct tickets written and the number of grievances written to determine if there are incidents such as these actually occurred and do this under oath could reveal more severe abuse such as hazing, water torture, sleep deprivation, deliberate use of chemical agents that are dispersed as staff walk passed the cells, and many other forms of corporal punishment that were corrected but not ignored.

A public records review will glean such behaviors and documented results. One must remember that these actions are of a few and not the majority but if you take the time to look at the disciplinary issued to staff for excessive use of force, unlawful discharge of chemical agents etc you will find a pattern that will support my statement that this does occur as detailed although shocking and disturbing to many. The others, because of a flawed culture turn a blind eye to these occurrences. One must work the place to realize what staff do and don’t do in order to remain safe and in control. You must be there on every shift and every day of the week and weekends to be able to glean such poor correctional practices but as mentioned several times before, a review of all inmate grievances related to their treatment and living conditions can be gleaned from their inmate grievances related for the time period of June 2007 until April 2010.

[1] www.treatmentadvocacycenter. org

[2] One must consider that no matter where the inmate is housed in a maximum custody unit, if they require mental health treatment and observation, they must be given access to these services per ADA.