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, May 29, 2014

Federal precedent set: Jail mail "postcard-only" policies unconstitutional.

"Funk Sheriff Joe" Campaign
28th and Indian School, Phoenix, 2012

This goes out to prisoners of the Maricopa County Jails: 

The end of the postcard-only policy will come to this state only if you file grievances and appeal them all the way to the top, then file suit. Please do so if you plan to be there at least another 6 months.

Your grievances should specify that the policy is a violation of your first amendment rights. Note the reasons raised below that the court said such a policy is a constitutional violation in Oregon (article 2). Itemize the kinds of consequences that the policy has had to you, personally (ie: increased isolation, despair and loss of intimacy; loss of housing or defaulting on debts or missing critical information for being unable to attend to personal business; decreased likelihood of staying out of jail/prison if close relationships are disrupted; lack of information about current events may impede your ability to participate in your defense; and so on.) Tell them the remedy you desire is the end of the policy and the allowance of regular mail again.

In the meantime, you should check out the library at the jail for legal resources, and ask for a "Section 1983 Civil Suit filing packet". The most recent version should be May 2013. Get to know the library's resources, you'll need them. Be good to your librarian, too - you need them a s well. Dont go around talking about suing, either - keep it on the down low or face harassment and retaliation by officers and administrators. But let other prisoners know what you are doing, in the hopes they will join in.

At the same time you try to get the info from the library, write to the US District Court and ask for a current "packet for prisoners needing to file pro se" (with no attorney). They will send you the forms and instructions, including for how to file if you have no money to put down up front for the filing fee ($400) - that should not stop you. See who comes through with the right documents for you the fastest. Always trust the courts before you trust the jail's instructions and paperwork, though. Here's the addy:

US District Court: Arizona  / Sandra Day O'Connor Courthouse
410 W. Washington Street Suite 130  / Phoenix, AZ 85003                 

 If the jail staff are intimidating you or impeding your ability to file a lawsuit in any way, send what evidence you have of their conduct to the ACLU, below. If at all possible, though, you need to have a loved one run a shadow file for you of all your important documents from this point forward. Once they realize what we're doing, the jail will tear up your houses and try to destroy any evidence you have that could be used against them, so mail all your docs out somewhere safe and retrievable ASAP.

You cannot file a lawsuit or a complaint with the ACLU until you have completed the jail's grievance process, appealing every denial. Get a copy of the policy and follow it to the letter. Send copies of your completed, denied grievances, with the enclosed complaint form (or a letter) to:ACLU of Arizona  / P.O. Box 17148 / Phoenix, AZ 85011
Tell the ACLU you want to file a Section 1983 federal civil rights suit to seek an injunction to end the postcard-only policy of Sheriff Joe's. It's being thrown out by the federal courts all across the country. Ask them to help you and other prisoners fight it. The more who write to them, having completed the grievance process, the more likely they will be to deal with it. They aren't inviting you to do this, by the way - I'm suggesting it as our strategy to elicit their help. No guarantee that they will have the capacity to, though, even if they desire to.

Families of MCSO prisoners: you also have standing to sue, if this policy is infringing on your first amendment rights, too. Talk to the ACLU-AZ about what you might be able to do, too.

I write the blog Arizona Prison Watch, by the way, from my home, and I'm no attorney, just a well-intended anarchist; this is how I fight the state. My address is PO Box 20494 / Phoenix, AZ 85036 - phone is 480-580-6807. email is I'd love it if you'd all keep me in the loop too - I can run a shadow file for prisoners if you are willing to commit to this effort and send me your documentation.

Finally, if you're going to be doing all this because you expect to be stuck in jail for awhile,  subscribe to Prison Legal News, PO Box 1151, Lake Worth, FL 33460. Its only $30 a year for prisoners, and well worth it.

Good luck, and blessings. May we all someday live free.

Peggy Plews

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

ACLU-MO Challenges Jail’s Postcard-Only Policy in Federal Court

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

CORIZON at ASPC-Perryville: Deliberate indiference to our elders.

I received the following letter from a woman at ASPC-Perryville who is deeply concerned for a friend’s welfare, and hopes that publishing her story will help improve the quality of care she gets from Corizon staff and the AZ DOC. She’s one of few women I’m in touch with who really knows how to fight back through the grievance process and civil rights suits. Thank you, Laura Medley. You rock!

 prisoner Dominique Keys

“In 2006, Dominique Keys developed osteomyleitis. This is an infection of bone marrow and/or bone structures usually caused by a bacteria. For months she had a fever up to 104 degrees, and AZ Department of Corrections (DOC) medical told her nothing was wrong with her.

Without her knowledge, this infection ate through the spinal vertebrae causing two cervical fractures. For months medical left Dominique in her cell partially paralyzed in her own urine and feces telling staff that there was nothing wrong with her.

By January 2007, (medical) sent Dominique to the hospital where the fractures were discovered. After which Dr. Naftaly Attias performed a corpeltomy fusion at C 5-6, C4-7 with a steel cage. The doctor did not bother to tell Dominique that he had accidentally drilled a hole through her spinal cord. In fact, she didn’t find this out until 2012.

By 2013, after Corizon assumed the control I wrote a letter to Corizon’s legal department. Dominique was examined by a physician at St. Luke’s Hospital who stated that the damage to her cervical spine was irrepairable and re-affirmed that she still required a second surgery(A spinal rod). The surgical consult was approved in December 2013, however, nothing has been done.

I filed a medical malpractice case against Dr. Attias in Maricopa County Superior Court (CV 2012-017403) I waived all of the motions and oral arguments for Dominique. Even with a court order, it has taken months just to get a copy of her medical records. Just short of a contempt ruling.

ADOC did not want the release of these medical records not only because of the spinal issues, but because of several issues. In 2011, Dominique fell transferring from the toilet to her wheelchair. You could clearly see a dislocation of her left shoulder and medical refused to address the issue.

So, once again I wrote a letter to Corizon’s legal department. Last November, St. Luke’s hospital performed an MRI. All of the muscles tore, arthritis, and healed improperly, rotator cuff blown out and she requires complete joint replacement. Even with surgery, Dominique will never have full use of her left arm and shoulder. 3 months later, medical claims that they’re trying to find a doctor to perform the procedure.

Dominique had cardiac issues. Specifically aneurysm on the carotid artery with high blood pressure and several blocked arteries. After DOC was notified that Dominique required cardiac surgery, it’s been several YEARS since she has been seen by a cardiologist.

Dominique is a 70-year old woman. With respect to her spine, intermittent paralysis and extreme pain. These assholes wouldn’t even approve her with a wheelchair. Her daughter bought her a wheelchair. She’s in agony with her shoulder. With the cardiac, the pain has her blood pressure at stroke levels.

Nothing is being done and essentially ADOC wants her to remain in a cell, shut up and die! At this point, in considering adding Arizona as a party to the Attias lawsuit just to obtain orders for medical treatments…”

Dominique apparently just returned to Perryville from the hospital on 5/11/14 - I dont know what procedure she may have had there, but expect to hear back from her friend soon.

Please, readers, contact Governor Brewer’s office and urge her to appoint an executive team to investigate the privatization of the DOC’s health services - the performance of these private companies has been criminal, for which they are making a profit off of the tax dollars stolen from our schools to care for prisoners - in fact, Corizon is being paid over $300,000 a day to deny prisoners the essential care they need.

Governor's Office
Executive Tower
1700 West Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85007

(602) 542-4331


 You can also complain directly to Corizon about Dominique’s care at 1-855-276-5416
 or by E-MAIL: 

For those of you who are also fighting for a loved one’s medical care at the AZ DOC, please refer to these posts below, and call or email me if you need help. Your loved ones MUST be filing grievances, not just more HNRs, if they aren’t getting the care they need. Reach me, Peggy Plews at 480-580-6807 or

photo by PJ Starr / Chalk art by Margaret J Plews
Phoenix, AZ (Thanksgiving 2011)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

AZ PRISON ALERT! Tell Brewer to order DOC to prevent prison rape/implement PREA!

UPDATE: JUNE 13, 2014




 "Justice for Victims of Prison Violence"
Crime Victims' Rights Week (APRIL 2013) 

Governor Brewer has apparently informed the federal government that Arizona has no intentions of protecting its prisoners from rape by abiding by the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), which is now supposed to be going into effect across the country. Given the current conditions in Arizona's state prisons, this should be no surprise. This is just one more piece of evidence that AZ Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan has no regard whatsoever for the health, safety, or welfare of his prisoners: his actions consistently speaks louder than his words. And we can't let it go this way without a fight. The Department of Corrections (DOC) sucks up over 10% of the state budget, but NO ONE wants to hold them accountable for how that money is being spent, for some reason.

Rejecting the PREA standards means the state actually loses federal funding for the prison system, so there must be some serious problems preventing the DOC from thinking they could comply. As folks may recall, the NAACP sent the AZ DOC Director, Charles Ryan, a letter last fall expressing concern for the safety of gay and transgender prisoners in his custody, as we had received numerous complaints that they were being targeted with violence and the DOC was routinely, repeatedly, refusing to place those who needed it into protective custody (PC), leaving them to be brutalized in general population (GP) or giving them disciplinary tickets and punishment for refusing to house in GP. Ryan responded with his assurances that he cares about each and every one of his prisoners, of course, and wouldn't dream of letting them get hurt, if he can help it.

I've also received reports of DOC staff responding to rape victims with abusive language, harsh housing assignments, loss of privileges, accusations of lying, and hate speech and violence in response to a gay prisoner who was raped. Most often the victim is put in the hole during a brief "investigation" ("Hey, did you rape Joe? He says you did. NO? Oh, sorry to bother you then...."). Once the DOC investigates and fails to substantiate anything, the victim is then moved to another GP yard to be further traumatized and violated, while the accused (often a prisoner in a position of power on the yards) is left in place to brutalize others - this teaches rape victims at the AZ DOC not to speak up at all, which means there are likely far more prison rapes in our state than are reported. 

The AZ DOC is so incapable of adequately investigating rapes that occur in their facilities, in fact, that in 2013, out of more than 80 allegations of inmate-on-inmate "non-consensual sexual acts" (they wont even call it rape) or "abusive sexual contact" they weren't able to substantiate a single one - not a single rapist in their custody was found to have done a thing as of the time their 2013 PREA report was due. I find that astonishing - I'd fire the whole DOC Criminal Investigations Unit over that. Maybe that's why they don't want to comply with federal standards protecting prisoners from rape - Director Ryan clearly must not think there really is such a thing as rape in his prisons.

I hope all you families out there bombard the Governor's office this week with complaints about her decision to allow the DOC to refuse to comply with PREA guidelines, and demand that she take responsibility for investigating the escalating violence against gay and trans prisoners, the brown on black race war, the flourishing heroin trade, the control of most general population yards by gangs, and the horrendous disaster that the privatization of health care at the DOC has been. Please cc your correspondence to the Governor's office to the local media, too. Contact info is below.

One thing which makes it easier for Arizona to get away with rejecting PREA standards, I'm sure, is the fact that the state's "Victims Bill of Rights", as enshrined in the AZ Constitution, deprives one class of people of the same rights everyone else in this state gets when they become crime victims: individuals "in custody for an offense". Even Walmart has more legal standing in court as a crime victim than actual human beings in state custody have. That means that if your child is murdered in custody - even by agents of the state - you also have no "victims rights" guaranteed to you as a survivor (no wonder the DOC leaves so many homicides unsolved...).

The Victims' Bill of Rights for the AZ Constitution was engineered by the state' prosecutors who campaigned hard with crime victims groups to have voters approve the constitutional amendment in 1990. The primary author of the bill, ASU law professor Steve Twist, also thinks everything is fine in the most poorly run state prison system in the country, and clearly has no compassion for crime victims in custody - not even those prisoners still considered innocent until proven guilty. 

Thanks to a big push among legislators from Bill Montgomery, Steve Twist's non-profit organization serving crime victims will get a huge boost in funding in coming years. I just don't know how an organization which self-identifies as the "ARIZONA VOICE FOR CRIME VICTIMS" can refuse to acknowledge as a crime victim a woman whose life was destroyed when her son was murdered in prison, or a mentally impaired juvenile in detention being sexually abused by an adult predator in uniform. 

It seems to me that if he really cared about ending the violence and evil humans perpetrate on eachother in this world, Steve Twist would be urging Governor Brewer to reconsider her position on prison rape and implementing the PREA standards across the AZ DOC. The failure to implement PREA standards will place kids in the juvenile and adult criminal justice system at greater risk of sexual abuse, too - and Steve Twist is on Brewer's Children's Protective Services Task force, so it's not like he wouldn't have her ear on this issue. Please especially write to him if you are a survivor of prison violence. He needs to hear from you, now, not me.

P.O. Box 12722
Scottsdale, Arizona 85267
(480) 600-2661

If you folks who care about prisoners don't contact the Governor and media on this, your loved ones will be at even greater risk in custody in this state than they are already, so please, everyone, call or write both the Governor and Gannett News and protest her decisoon on PREA.

Here is the contact info you need:

The Honorable Janice K. Brewer
Arizona Governor
Executive Tower
1700 West Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85007
(602) 542-4331

Producers and Editors
AZ Republic/ KPNX CH 12 News
200 E. Van Buren
Phoenix, AZ 850o4
(602) 444-8000


Some States Opting out of Federal Prison Rape Law

May 24, 2014 (AP)
By REBECCA BOONE Associated Press

Several states are refusing to comply with a federal law designed to reduce sexual assaults in prison, with governors criticizing the decade-old law as counterproductive and too expensive to implement.

The governors of Idaho, Texas, Indiana, Utah and Arizona have informed U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that they won't try to meet the standards required under the Prison Rape Elimination Act. Governors were required to certify by May 15 that their states either met the standards designed to curb widespread sexual abuse behind bars, or to promise that they were actively working toward that goal.

"Idaho supports the spirit and intention of PREA and the National PREA Standards, but a law with good intent has evolved into a law with too much red tape," Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter wrote in a letter to Holder sent five days after the deadline. It would cost the state millions of dollars to meet some of the standards, Otter said, and he believed the cost would have little ultimate benefit. Besides, the governor said, the state has taken substantial steps to reduce sexual victimization in correctional facilities.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry told Holder in April that his state wouldn't comply because the rules were too costly and violated states' rights. Perry's letter also encouraged other states to reject the federal law, and said that instead, his state would continue the programs it already has to reduce prison rapes. Perry's spokesman Rich Parsons said Friday that Perry sent a subsequent letter last week to Holder, contending that some PREA standards are in conflict with Texas state laws.

Brenda Smith, a former commissioner on the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission which helped create the PREA standards, said the decision by some states to opt out is shameful.

"These are not some high falutin', unreachable standards. These are things that are constitutional, based on best practices that have been determined in the field and in the courts," Smith said. "As a state you can move over to the sidelines, but people in custody don't get to move over to the sidelines. Providing them safety from sexual abuse is the minimum we can do."

At least 10 more states — Alaska, New York, Ohio, California, Washington, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Colorado, Mississippi and Illinois — have said that they can't meet all the requirements yet, but are actively working toward that goal. New Mexico says it's fully compliant with the law.

Leaders of Just Detention International, an organization that works to end sexual abuse in detention facilities, said they were encouraged that most states are working toward PREA compliance.

"We want actual certifications to be meaningful, so states should certify only when they know that they are in full compliance," said the organization's executive director Lovisa Stannow in a prepared statement. "Until then, the Department of Justice must strictly monitor states to ensure that they are using their federal funds appropriately. No state should be meeting its five percent financial commitment by diverting funds away from essential inmate services like rape crisis counseling - doing so would run counter to the intent of PREA."

The Prison Rape Elimination Act was passed unanimously by Congress in 2003. The next several years were spent developing PREA standards, and in 2012 those rules went into effect. The Department of Justice is expected to publish a list of PREA-compliant states by September.

The major provisions of PREA are designed to change the culture of prisons to one that has zero tolerance for sexual victimization; to change prison facilities so that there are fewer opportunities for rape to occur; and to change reporting policies so that inmates have a safe way to report a crime and a safe place to go if they are sexually victimized.

The law's only enforcement mechanism is a partial loss of grant funding. States that don't comply with PREA can lose up to 5 percent of the federal grant money they receive for corrections. States can keep the money if they promise to use it to come into compliance with the law.

The potential human impact is huge: The Department of Justice says that at least 216,000 of U.S. prisoners were raped or sexually abused behind bars in 2011, and cautions that the number is likely low, because prison rapes are seldom reported. The ACLU estimates that about 2 million people have been raped or sexually abused behind bars since PREA was enacted by Congress.

Friday, May 23, 2014

End the solitary confinement of transgender youth, Jane Doe.

REMINDER: There is a Mothers Against Solitary Confinement Rally today at the AZ Capitol (1700 W. Washington St, PHX) at 5pm - please come early if you can but come late if you have to - just come so you can organize with other family members affected by the prison industrial complex.


 From Jane Doe to Connecticut Governor Malloy  (May 08, 2014)
(who announced the following day that Jane will be moved to a more appropriate setting ASAP.)

Dear Governor Malloy, I am writing you to let you know that today is my anniversary. I have been sitting in this prison for a month now and there is no plan to get me out. I am suffering in here. I’m having trouble sleeping and I’m not eating much. I cry in bed every night.

I can’t be myself in this place.

I feel forgotten and thrown away. As you probably know, these feeling are not new for me. This is the way my life has been going since I was a little kid. My lawyer says that Commissioner Katz is the only one who can fix this but when I wrote her a letter it didn’t help. She has given up on me. If you’re her boss you can do something, right? Everyone says I need to be somewhere where I can get help and Katz keeps telling everyone that she is working to get me out of here but I don’t believe her. I think this is just another one of her stories that isn’t true. I want to call her a liar but people tell me that I shouldn’t say that about someone important like her. All I know is that she has said a lot of things about me that aren’t true. She was on TV telling people I blinded someone and broke their jaw. That was a lie. She said that she never asked that I go to Manson. That was a lie. She told everyone that I should be going to that new girls program at Riverview. That was a lie. Now she is telling people she is trying to get me out of here but nothing is happening. I hear people talking and they are saying that I am going to be here till I’m 18. I am done with DCF. They just want to make up stuff about me so that everyone thinks I am some kind of wild animal. Is it Ok for them to do this? To just lie about me and throw me in prison and forget about me?

If I was in charge I wouldn’t let this happen. If you’re the Governor then you are in charge of everyone who works for the state. DCF is supposed to be helping me, right? If this is helping me then I’m all set with being helped. I would be a lot better off being on my own. It seems like you’re my last chance to get out of here. 

Don’t forget about me. I can’t take another month of this.

Jane Doe

-----from Mother Jones Magazine-----

"I can't take another month of this."

Mother Jones Magazine

| Fri May 23, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

There is a 16-year-old transgender girl in an adult prison in Connecticut right now. She isn't there to serve a sentence. There are no charges against her. Still, she has been there for more than six weeks, with no indication of when she might be released.

Until last week, the girl, whom I'll call Jane Doe because she is a juvenile, was in solitary confinement in the mental health unit where, according to a letter she wrote, she cried in bed every night. She heard adult inmates crying, screaming, and banging on the walls. A guard observed her day and night, even when she showered or used the toilet. When other inmates caught sight of her, they yelled and made fun of her.

"I feel forgotten and thrown away," she wrote to the governor of Connecticut from her solitary cell. "As you probably know, these feeling are not new for me. This is the way my life has been going since I was a little kid."

The state became involved in Jane Doe's life when she was five, according to her affidavit, because her father was incarcerated and her mom was using crack and heroin. She was born a boy; after she was placed in the care of her extended family, she said, one relative caught her playing with dolls and bashed her head into the wall. She said another relative raped her at age eight, as did others as she grew older. Doe would only allow herself to look like a girl in secret. Around age 11, a relative caught her in the bathroom wearing her dress and lipstick and slapped her, shouting, "You are a boy! What the fuck is wrong with you?"

"I feel forgotten and thrown away. As you probably know, these feelings are not new for me. This is the way my life has been going since I was a little kid."

At 12, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) became her legal guardian. While in group homes, she says she was sexually assaulted by staffers, and at 15, she became a sex worker and was once locked up for weeks and forced to have sex with "customers" until she escaped. "I wanted to be a little kid again in my mother's arms and all I wanted was someone to tell me they loved me, that everything would be alright, and that I will never have to live the way I was again."

Here is how Jane Doe ended up in prison. On January 28, while living at a juvenile facility in Massachusetts—where she was serving a sentence for assault—she allegedly attacked a staff member, biting her, pulling her hair and kicking her in the head. This kind of behavior wasn't new for Doe. The director of the Connecticut Juvenile Training School, a correctional facility for boys, later testified in court that, since Doe was nine, police have been called 11 times while she was in state facilities. He said she sometimes smeared feces on herself. Another supervisor claimed Doe regularly "exhibited assaultive behaviors," targeting female staff and other juveniles.

According to Jane Doe's lawyer, Aaron Romano, the most recent incident was sparked when a male staffer at the Massachusetts facility put Doe in a bear hug restraint from behind. "This is a girl who has been sexually abused," Romano says. "She is inclined to interpret actions with that view." DCF declined to comment on the incident, but the female staff member Doe allegedly attacked did not press charges. The male staffer has since been dismissed.

In order to move Doe to an adult prison, DCF cited an obscure statute that allows doing so when it is in the "best interest" of the child. Initially, the state sought to place Doe in a men's prison, but her lawyers objected and she was sent to a women's facility. There, she was placed in solitary confinement because under federal law, juveniles cannot be detained "in any institution in which they have contact with adult inmates."

State officials have been well aware of Doe's situation: In February, DCF commissioner Joette Katz cited her case—incorrectly claiming that she had broken a staff member's jaw—when she asked the Connecticut legislature for funds to open a new girls' prison. She said it showed why high-security facility for juveniles was needed. The legislature appropriated $2.6 million, and the facility has since been opened. But Doe, officials say, is too dangerous to be placed in that facility.

Abby Anderson, executive director of the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance, says Doe's incarceration is the result of a broken system of juvenile care. "We don't have a good sense of where our system has its strengths and weaknesses," she says. One problem, she says, is a lack of adequate mental health care: Government data shows that 52 percent of girls in DCF custody or on parole have trauma disorders, and 89 percent had more than one diagnosed psychological disorder. Anderson says the state also doesn't have enough mechanisms for detecting and preventing sexual abuse. "We need to make sure this system is shored up so this never happens again…If you have a 16 year old, you need to make her feel safe and put her in a place where she can trust people."

DCF declined to comment on the record about the case, but in a press release, the agency said, "There is no identified foster home that can reasonably be expected to safely care for this youth." Romano says people licensed to take foster children in Connecticut and elsewhere have contacted him, offering to take Doe in. He says he passed the information on to DCF, but they have refused the offers.

One month into her confinement, Doe wrote a letter to governor Dannel Malloy. "Is it Ok for them to do this?" she wrote. "If I was in charge I wouldn't let this happen.  If you're the Governor then you are in charge of everyone who works for the state…Don’t forget about me. I can’t take another month of this."

Days after writing the letter, she was transferred out of the prison's mental health unit to another building on prison grounds with access to private recreational space and educational services. But she is still on her own, with no contact with other inmates, and there is still no date for her release.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

"DEATH SENTENCE": KPNX's Halloran and whistleblower expose depth of negligence at Corizon/AZ DOC.

What follows is an interview with a Corizon whistleblower/former employee, Teresa Short, and the results of extensive research by KPNX investigative journalist, Wendy Halloran. Wendy has even posted critical evidence for us from her research below. Teresa worked in the infirmary at ASPC-Tucson/Rincon, and was deeply troubled by much of what she saw while there. If you or a loved one of yours has been mistreated at ASPC-Tucson/Rincon in the past year, please get in touch with me. And to anyone out there who is or will be litigating Corizon: you need to send this article to your attorney.

AZ DOC prisoners and their families owe both Teresa and Wendy a debt of gratitude for their willingness to risk retaliation by the powerful to bring the truth to light. Even our state's legislators are afraid to call DOC and Corizon out for what they've been up to.  This experiment has not only been a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars that could be used to prevent crime and incarceration, but will be sucking resources out of the state budget long after Corizon has run away with its profits. At great cost to Arizonans - with the blessing of our Republican legislature and governor - Wexford and Corizon have perpetrated additional harm on the very people the DOC is supposed to be "rehabilitating", costing the lives and livelihoods of far too many individuals who do not deserve to be thrown away. 

Rather than whitewashing things like this poor man bleeding out due to negligent care, DOC Director Ryan should be pounding down the Governor's door saying "THIS ISN'T WORKING!!!!", and begging the legislature to reverse their order to privatize state correctional health care. He owes them the truth - he owes that to all of us. 

To all the rest of you at the DOC and Corizon who are trying to do the right thing by the patients you serve: thank you for all your acts of kindness and professionalism, but your silence still makes you complicit with the real bad guys. Please talk to SOMEONE about what you have seen and been ordered to do as well, if it goes against yours or your profession's ethics. Otherwise, they will most surely get away with this fraud, waste and abuse. You might want to start with contacting Wendy Halloran at KPNX. If anyone can put the info you may have to good use, it's her.

Wendy Halloran, KPNX/12News
200 East Van Buren
Phoenix, AZ 85004


Or drop me a line: Peggy Plews 480-580-6807

--------------from AZCENTRAL.COM / KPNX News12----------

Arizona taxpayers are footing a $10.2 million per month bill for healthcare a 12 News investigation has found leaves some patients untreated.


Arizona taxpayers pay $125 million a year to Corizon, a company contracted to provide healthcare to Arizona's inmate population. A 12 News investigation revealed there are questions about whether the company is driving up its profits at the expense of taxpayers.

What's more, billing records show the Department of Corrections is spending millions more to defend itself from a 2012 class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and the Prison Law Office out of Berkeley, Calif.

That filing accuses the department of not providing adequate medical care, mental health care and dental care to prisoners.

The state hired Struck, Wieneke & Love PLC, a private law firm in Chandler, to handle its defense. Legal billing records show taxpayers have already paid the firm $2,988,910.68 as of April, 2014.

In an interview, Dan Pochoda, the legal director for the ACLU of Arizona, says the defense of the lawsuit was given to a private firm too quickly. He questions why the Attorney General's Office is not defending the case.

"The Attorney General's Office, they have a section that does the defense for this specific agency, in this case the prison systems, as they do for other agencies and presumptively it should start off obviously with the AG," he said. "You know it's going to be a significant expense once we go outside. These are profit-making firms just like the health-care provider is a profit-making provider. Their bottom line is making more money."

That's nearly $3 million in public money to a private firm defending the Department of Corrections against allegations its private healthcare provider is doing an inadequate job.

Related documents
Struck Wieneke %26 Love, PLC invoice - March 2014. (PDF, 266 KB)
Struck Wieneke %26 Love, PLC invoices - May 2012 to March 2014. (Zip, 1.16 MB)
Corizon invoices - March through October, 2013. (PDF, 493 KB)
Questions about inmate care
We reviewed records from March through October 2013 and found at least 16,000 medical delays, ranging from not treating an HIV-positive prisoner to inmates not getting antipsychotic medication.

Why should taxpayers care? Every day Corizon is on the job, we pay on average $339,000, whether it does its job or not.
Teresa Short worked as a patient care technician for Corizon at the state prison in Tucson. She resigned in March and has since had trouble dealing with the death of an inmate she cared for.

That inmate was James Copeland. Copeland was serving time for failing to register as a sex offender.
Copeland was diagnosed with dementia and kidney disease. He was a dialysis patient housed in the medical unit where Short worked at the prison. Copeland had a vascular catheter inserted in his chest, which is a port for dialysis.

That device prompted Short to warn her colleagues on several occasions after she caught Copeland disturbing its cap. Short was nervous and believed due to his dementia he needed constant supervision or he might compromise the catheter. She was very skeptical about Corizon's decision to house Copeland there rather than in a hospital.

A Corizon nurse's progress notes on Copeland on November 19, 2013 reveal signs of dementia. The nurse wrote that Copeland became agitated and stated "he wants to go that way, pointing to the other end of the unit," and pulling on the lines attached to medical equipment such as his vascular catheter and blood-pressure monitor.

On November 23, the nurse writes of Copeland's state, "confused and needs frequent directions and orientation."

Related document
Nurses' notes on James Copeland - November, 2013. (PDF, 744 KB)
Red flags ignored

Short says Copeland would pull on oxygen lines during dialysis treatment, would pull on his vascular catheter lines and would stand up all the time when he was supposed to be sitting down receiving treatment.

Reports show Short checked on Copeland at 4 a.m. on November 28, 2013. That was Thanksgiving Day. He was hungry and asked for food.

The security check log shows a corrections officer accounted for all inmates being alive and well in that wing of the prison at 4:46 a.m.. Copeland displayed no unusual behavior.

At 5:25 a.m., Short went to Copeland's cell to give him some food and discovered him lying on his bed in a pool of blood.

"When I walked into the room, I was stepping on blood clots that were the size of livers, I mean they were huge," said Short.

Copeland had done what Short predicted, ripping off the cap which covers the catheter opening.
Short says she could see blood on the walls and even Copeland's shoe print in blood near the door.
"I felt like I failed him," she said.

The Department of Corrections Inmate Death Notification says medical responders performed life-saving techniques on Copeland. Pictures taken by DOC's investigation team show patches from a heart defibrillator on the inmate's chest.

The report shows an AED (automated external defibrillator) was utilized, but did not recommend shock. Medical staff determined not to perform CPR due to the fact that Copeland had bled out and there was not a sufficient amount of blood left to try to resuscitate.

Short says all of his options were gone.

Related documents
Criminal investigative report (PDF, 712 KB)
Administrative investigation report (PDF, 4.23 MB)
Delays after death

According to the DOC's criminal investigative report, Nurse Brenda Hinton and Nurse Robin Sheppard pronounced Copeland deceased at 5:45 a.m. Nurse Hinton was directed by the on-call doctor, a Dr. Barciaga, to call 911.

The report states there was a disagreement among Hinton, Sheppard, and Barciaga. The Tucson Fire Department, which has a station across the highway from the prison, did not arrive on scene until 6:58 a.m. and pronounced Copeland deceased.

The report does not detail what the disagreement was about, but makes it sound like the two nurses were arguing about whether to call 911 or disobey the instructions of the on-call doctor.

On December 30, 2013 the Pima County medical examiner listed the cause of death as exsanguination - fatal blood loss - due to an uncapped vascular dialysis catheter. The manner of death was ruled accidental.

In a statement to 12 News, DOC Director Charles Ryan says, "All inmate deaths are investigated criminally and administratively. This process involves a review conducted by Corizon, a review by ADC, as well as an independent report by the county medical examiner. This investigative process determined conclusively that the death of inmate Copeland was accidental; a fact independently corroborated by the Pima County medical examiner.

"At the time of the incident, the unit was appropriately staffed and inmate Copeland's welfare was documented on a regular basis. He was discovered unresponsive by a certified medical technician who immediately alerted an ADC correctional officer and the on-duty RN and LPN. Each of these investigations determined that the death of inmate Copeland was accidental and none raised any concerns about the medical protocols for inmate Copeland either prior to or following his death."

According to DOC monitor reports, prepared monthly by staff in the Department of Corrections' Department Health Services Contract Monitoring Bureau, a problem with infirmary staffing was identified on October 30. Just weeks later, Copeland died at a time when staffing levels at the infirmary were still inadequate, according to Short.

Related documents
DOC monitor report - Tucson, see page 71 for staffing comments (PDF, 9.91 MB)
DOC monitor reports - All prisons, April-October, 2013 (Zip, 319 MB)
"We're the ones who have to carry the burden when something is preventable and we cannot prevent it because we don't have enough people to supervise the ones that need supervision the most," she said.

Teresa Short says she was compelled to blow the whistle. If not for Copeland, for the people footing the bill.

"The taxpayers need to really see what's happening to people," she said. "I think most people would be disgusted. They care about the bottom line, they care about the dollar."

Copeland's death just the tip of the iceberg 

According to the Department of Correction's own monitors, Corizon failed to deliver timely medical care at least 16,000 times during an eight-month period in 2013.

In fact, some of the documentation shows the provider was not providing any healthcare. These cases include:
  • At the prison in Tucson, an HIV-positive inmate received no treatment.
  • Chemotherapy for two other inmates was delayed.
  • An inmate had to have a craniotomy after falling 33 times because he wasn't supervised in the infirmary.
  • At the Eyman facility, Corizon failed to reorder chronic-care medication for dozens of prisoners.
  • No timely treatment for an inmate with prostate cancer.
  • In Yuma, mentally ill prisoners had not been seen by doctors since December, 2012.
  • Psychotropic medications were not renewed.
  • At Perryville, the women's prison, long delays to see the doctor once prisoners were referred by nurses.
"They're examples of what you see month after month after month," said Corene Kendrick, an attorney for the Prison Law Office in Berkeley, Calif.

"If I were a taxpayer, someone who feels very tough on crime, I would be outraged by this because it's taxpayer money that's going into the pockets of a corporation," she said.

Kendrick is one of the attorneys behind the class-action lawsuit filed by the ACLU and the Prison Law Office against the Arizona Department of Corrections. The suit alleges inadequate medical, mental health, and dental care.

Kendrick contends no effort is being made by the Arizona Department of Corrections to hold Corizon accountable for the violations when the evidence, she says, is overwhelming in the reports being made by DOC's own monitors.

Which brings us to four inmates who've been granted medical parole in the last six months by the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency.

NameMedical parole date
Dean Vocke10/31/13
Glen Huggins12/11/13
Nishma Kanabar 2/28/14
Margaret Van Wormer4/18/14

Huggins and Kanabar have already died.

Dean Vocke was given six months to a year to live. Before he was medically paroled, Vocke had ten months left on his sentence for vehicle theft when he complained about back pain in October, 2012.

Vocke gave 12 News permission to review his medical records for our reporting; we are not publishing them due to the amount of personally identifying information they contain.

His first appointment was cancelled because no provider was available. X-rays taken at the end of February showed bone abnormalities consistent with cancer. The nurse requested an MRI.

"They wouldn't do an MRI, they kept denying an MRI, denying an MRI," Vocke said. "They didn't want to spend the money."

At the end of May, 2013, medical staff ordered CT scans, but Corizon denied it. Finally, at end of July, 2013 a CT scan was performed.

It confirmed Vocke had cancer which now had spread to his hips and his spine.

"And finally [the cancer] ate my pelvis and my hip away," said Vocke.

In September a second CT scan showed the cancer spread to his abdomen and one of his kidneys.

Medical records show there was an eight-month delay in treating Vocke, because of Corizon's actions.

"It was kidney cancer that could have been 95 percent survivable and now they're saying I can't survive it whatsoever," Vocke told us.

Vocke's physician sent a request to the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency for early release due to imminent death.

From that request, the clinical summary and prognosis read:

"Inmate Vocke has been diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma with metastasis to the bone. He underwent a right nephrectomy and will start chemotherapy in a few weeks. This is a very aggressive form of cancer and his oncologist and onsite Medical Director for ASPC-Tucson have both recommended clemency. Since inmate Vocke is wheelchair bound and in the advanced stage of the disease, he is not considered a threat to society.

"Because of the aggressive and advanced nature of his cancer, he is not expected to survive this illness. The oncologist has indicated that for this type of cancer, about 50% of patients may survive up to six (6) months while about 35% may live up to one year."

The physician indicated Vocke has a life expectancy of six months or less.

On October 31, 2013 the Board of Executive Clemency commuted Vocke's sentence. He was granted medical parole, so he can die surrounded by family. His wife Laurie says it's torn them apart.

We tried to seek comment from Corizon on the many issues outlined in our reporting.

Susan Morgenstern, a spokeswoman for Corizon asked us to supply her with the documentation we obtained under Arizona's Public Records Law. We requested the quarterly and monthly monitoring memos and reports referred to above, known as MGAR (short for Monitoring-Green-Amber-Red) reports.

In response to our questions, Corizon provided these answers via email:
  • Mr. Copeland. You asked about the investigation into the tragic death of Mr. Copeland. As I believe you know, it has been investigated and officially determined to be an accident. It's been thoroughly reviewed by several agencies; and the care provided and protocols followed were all appropriate.
  • As you know, HIPPA [sic] prevent health care providers such as Corizon from providing any medical details about specific individuals to you or anyone else. But I can assure you that we are always willing to review individual care plans to be sure appropriate care is provided.
  • As for your very general allegations, we would be happy to check into them and provide information if you could give us enough detail to do so. You referenced delays in care and prescriptions; can you give us the specific instances you are talking about (date/time/location/documentation)?
  • You've also talked about four unnamed inmates who were medically paroled and alleged they did not receive proper care. If you will give us the names of these individuals, we will review their medical records to ensure they received proper care.
  • Finally, you've alleged there are staffing shortages, but that is simply not accurate. When the transition to Corizon occurred in March 2013, we immediately assessed the staffing and began an aggressive recruiting and training program. Today all current staff levels exceed the contract requirements.
  • We believe that Corizon is providing quality care to the patients we treat every day, and we stand behind our medical professionals who work inside the correctional facilities.
Corizon responded with a second statement after we provided more specific information.

Teresa Short: A former Corizon employee alleges lack of care, staffing shortages, and that she was "set up to fail."

  • Corizon is first and foremost a health care provider, whose top priority is the health and safety of patients. To that end, we practice evidence-based medicine as prescribed by licensed medical professionals and focus on providing quality health care.
  • The vast majority of our current staff levels exceed the contract requirements. For example, since the time of the MGARs provided you, the staffing for mental health care at the Yuma facility has increased substantially.
  • We not only empower our employees to succeed in fulfilling our mission, we also require them to meet the highest standards of conduct and professionalism.
MGAR Reports: Various allegations
  • As you know, MGAR reports are monitoring tools meant to raise issues that are then addressed and resolved. By design, they capture issues requiring attention at a specific moment in time, some of which are immediately resolved. The MGARs provided you are now 8-9 months old.
  • In addition, Corizon is prohibited by HIPAA from discussing individual patient cases, just as any other health care provider or hospital is restricted.
  • But it's important to note that Corizon care follows the guidelines of the NCCHC and the ACA, which are the correctional industry standard.
Complaints from patients who were medically paroled
  • Again, HIPAA prevents Corizon from discussing details of individual patient care.
  • As a health care provider focused on quality, we stand behind our dedicated medical professionals and the treatment plans they provide to patients.
  • The process for inmate compassionate discharge is initiated by the inmate or the family and is considered by the Board of Executive Clemency, not Corizon nor the ADC.
Expired Licenses
  • Our staff has all necessary and appropriate licenses, so this allegation is simply not true.
Susan Morgenstern
senior vice president