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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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Corizon's Cruel and Unusual Greed: follow the money with Prison Legal News.

 Excellent but troubling article below from Prison Legal News: print and send it to prisoners!  Prisoner subscriptions to Prison Legal News are only $30 a year for the print edition (for prisoners), and one of the best investments you can make.

P.O. Box 1151
Lake Worth, FL 33460

For those fighting Corizon over  a loved one's health care, 
check out  these posts 

Corizon and the AZ DOC: Prisoners & Families, Know Your Rights.

Corizon's deliberate indifference: fighting back.

and feel free to contact me if you think I can help:

----from PRISON LEGAL NEWS----

published in Prison Legal News March, 2014, page 1

Loaded on March 15, 2014

by Greg Dober

Corizon, the nation’s largest for-profit medical services provider for prisons, jails and other detention facilities, was formed in June 2011 through the merger of Prison Health Services (PHS) and Correctional Medical Services (CMS).

In April 2013, the debt-rating agency Moody’s downgraded Corizon’s nearly $360 million worth of debt to a rating of B2 – an indication the company’s debt is highly speculative and a high credit risk. According to Moody’s, the rating downgrade was due to an “expectation of earnings volatility following recent contract losses, margin declines from competitive pricing pressure on new and renewed contracts, and Moody’s belief that Valitás [Corizon’s parent corporation] will be unable to restore metrics to levels commensurate with the prior B1 rating over the near to intermediate term.”

Valitás Health Services is majority owned by Beecken Petty O’Keefe & Company, a Chicago-based private equity management firm. Beecken’s other holdings are primarily in the healthcare industry.

On September 23, 2013, Moody’s again downgraded Corizon’s debt rating and changed the company’s rating outlook from “stable” to “negative.” The following month Corizon announced that it had replaced CEO Rich Hallworth with Woodrow A. Myers, Jr., the former chief medical officer at WellPoint Health. Hallworth, who had been appointed Corizon’s CEO in 2011, previously served as the president and CEO of PHS. At the same time that Hallworth was replaced, Corizon president Stuart Campbell also stepped down.

Prison Medical Care for Profit

According to Corizon’s website, the company provides healthcare services at over 530 correctional facilities serving approximately 378,000 prisoners in 28 states. In addition, Corizon employs around 14,000 staff members and contractors. The company’s corporate headquarters is located in Brentwood, Tennessee and its operational headquarters is in St. Louis, Missouri.

The 2011 merger that created Corizon involved Valitás Health Services, the parent company of CMS, and America Service Group, the parent company of PHS. The Nashville Business Journal reported the deal was valued at $250 million.

“Corizon’s vision is firmly centered around service – to our clients, our patients and our employees,” Campbell said at the time. “To that we add the insight of unparalleled experience assisting our client partners, and caring professionals serving the unique healthcare needs of [incarcerated] patients.”

Corizon has around $1.5 billion in annual revenue and contracts to provide medical services for the prison systems in 13 states. The company also contracts with numerous cities and counties to provide healthcare to prisoners held in local jails; some of Corizon’s larger municipal clients include Atlanta, Philadelphia and New York City (including the Rikers Island jail). Additionally, the company has its own in-house pharmacy division, PharmaCorr, Inc.

The prison healthcare market has flourished as state Departments of Corrections and local governments seek ways to save money and reduce exposure to litigation. [See: PLN, May 2012, p.22]. Only a few major companies dominate the industry. Corizon’s competitors include Wexford Health Sources, Armor Correctional Health Services, NaphCare, Correct Care Solutions and Centurion Managed Care – the latter being a joint venture of MHM Services and Centene Corporation. Around 20 states outsource all or some of the medical services in their prison systems.

As Corizon is privately held, there is little transparency with respect to its internal operations and financial information, including costs of litigation when prisoners (or their surviving family members) sue the company, often alleging inadequate medical care.

For example, when Corizon was questioned by the news media in Florida during a contract renewal, the company initially tried to prevent the release of its litigation history, claiming it was a “trade secret.”

In 2012, Corizon agreed to settle a lawsuit filed against PHS – one of its predecessor companies – by Prison Legal News, seeking records related to the resolution of legal claims against the firm in Vermont. Based on the records produced pursuant to that settlement, PHS paid out almost $1.8 million in just six cases involving Vermont prisoners from 2007 to 2011. [See: PLN, Dec. 2012, p.16].

Companies like Corizon provide healthcare in prisons and jails under the HMO model, with an emphasis on cutting costs – except that prisoners have no other options to obtain medical treatment except through the contractor.

Arizona DOC

A former Corizon nurse had her license suspended and is currently under investigation by the Arizona State Board of Nursing for incompetence. In January 2014, nurse Patricia Talboy was accused of contaminating vials of insulin at three units at the ASPC-Lewis prison, potentially exposing two dozen prisoners to HIV or hepatitis.

Talboy reportedly used a needle to stick prisoners’ fingers to check their blood sugar levels. She then used the same needle to draw insulin from vials of the medication utilized for multiple prisoners, possibly contaminating the insulin in the vials. After placing the vials back into inventory, other staff members may have unknowingly used them to dispense insulin.

“Every indication is that the incident is the result of the failure by one individual nurse to follow specific, standard and well-established nursing protocols when dispensing injected insulin to 24 inmates,” Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) director Charles L. Ryan said in a January 9, 2014 statement.

Talboy’s failure to follow procedures was discovered after a prisoner told a different nurse about the issue. Corizon reportedly delayed three days before publicly reporting the incident; in a press release, the company admitted that one of its nurses had been involved in “improper procedures for injections.” Talboy received her nursing license in August 2012 and became an RN in June 2013; as a rookie nurse, Corizon likely paid her less than more experienced nurses.

Following the insulin-related incident, the company was ordered to develop a comprehensive plan that includes “supplemental training and competency testing procedures for blood glucose testing and administration of insulin,” as well as “nurse-peer reporting education to ensure professional accountability” and “patient awareness education on injection protocols.”

Granted, Corizon isn’t alone with respect to such incidents. In August 2012, a nurse employed by the ADC’s previous medical services contractor, Wexford Health Sources, contaminated the insulin supply at ASPC-Lewis through improper injection protocols, potentially exposing 112 prisoners to hepatitis C. [See: PLN, July 2013, p.1].

Corizon has a three-year, approximately $370 million contract to provide medical care in Arizona state prisons, which began in March 2013. The contract award generated controversy because former ADC director Terry Stewart was hired by Corizon as a consultant; current director Charles Ryan had previously worked under Stewart, raising a potential conflict of interest. Ryan denied any improprieties.

According to a report by the American Friends Service Committee released in October 2013, titled “Death Yards: Continuing Problems with Arizona’s Correctional Health Care,” medical services in Arizona prisons did not improve after Corizon replaced Wexford as the ADC’s healthcare contractor. “Correspondence from prisoners; analysis of medical records, autopsy reports, and investigations; and interviews with anonymous prison staff and outside experts indicate that, if anything, things have gotten worse,” the report stated.

Florida DOC

In 2013, the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) awarded Corizon a five-year, $1.2 billion contract to provide medical services to state prisoners in north and central Florida. Wexford Health Sources was contracted to provide similar services in the southern region of the state for $240 million. [See: PLN, June 2013, p.24]. The wholesale privatization of healthcare in Florida’s prison system followed a 2011 legislative decision to disband the state’s Correctional Medical Authority, which had oversight over prison medical care. [See: PLN, May 2012, p.30].

The contracts were part of the Republican administration’s initiative to expand privatization of government services, including prison management and healthcare, in spite of previous setbacks. In 2006, PHS withdrew two months into an almost $800 million contract to provide medical care to Florida prisoners; at that time, the company said the contract was not cost-effective and claimed it would lose money.

The 2013 contract awards to Corizon and Wexford followed a two-year legal fight. In 2011, AFSCME Florida and the Federation of Physicians and Dentists/Alliance of Healthcare and Professional Employees filed suit challenging the prison healthcare contracts, in an effort to protect the jobs of nearly 2,600 state workers.

On June 21, 2013 the First District Court of Appeals approved the privatization of medical care in FDOC facilities, overturning a ruling by the Leon County Circuit Court. The appellate court noted in its decision that “The LBC [Legislative Budget Committee] simply moved funds from different line items within the Department’s Health Services’ program, providing additional funds for contracts that the Department otherwise had the authority to enter.” See: Crews v. Florida Public Employers Council 79, 113 So.3d 1063 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1st Dist. 2013).

Under the terms of the FDOC’s contract with Corizon, the company must provide medical care to Florida state prisoners for 7% less than it cost the FDOC in 2010. When entering into the contract, state officials apparently had few concerns about the numerous lawsuits previously filed against Corizon, and no hard feelings toward the company’s predecessor, PHS, when it terminated its 2006 contract to provide medical services to Florida prisoners because it wasn’t profitable.

“Most people feel, as long as they achieve their 7 percent savings who cares how they treat inmates?” noted Michael Hallett, a professor of criminology at the University of North Florida.

Florida Counties

In a September 6, 2012 unpublished ruling, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a $1.2 million Florida jury verdict that found Corizon – when it was operating as PHS – had a policy or custom of refusing to send prisoners to hospitals. The Court of Appeals held it was reasonable for jurors to conclude that PHS had delayed medical treatment in order to save money. See: Fields v. Corizon Health, 490 Fed.Appx. 174 (11th Cir. 2012).

The jury verdict resulted from a suit filed against Corizon by former prisoner Brett A. Fields, Jr. In July 2007, Fields was being held in the Lee County, Florida jail on two misdemeanor convictions. After notifying PHS staff for several weeks that an infection was not improving, even with antibiotics that had been prescribed, Fields was diagnosed with MRSA. PHS did not send him to a hospital despite escalating symptoms, including uncontrolled twitching, partial paralysis and his intestines protruding from his rectum. A subsequent MRI scan revealed that Fields had a severe spinal compression; he was left partly paralyzed due to inadequate medical care.

The Eleventh Circuit wrote that PHS “enforced its restrictive policy against sending prisoners to the hospital,” and noted that a PHS nurse who treated Fields at the jail “testified that, at monthly nurses’ meetings, medical supervisors ‘yelled a lot about nurses sending inmates to hospitals.’” Further, PHS “instructed nurses to be sure that the inmate had an emergency because it cost money to send inmates to the hospital.”

At trial, the jury found that PHS had a custom or policy of deliberate indifference that violated Fields’ constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The jurors concluded that Fields had a serious medical need, PHS was deliberately indifferent to that serious medical need, and the company’s actions proximately caused Fields’ injuries. The jury awarded him $700,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages. [See: PLN, March 2013, p.54; Aug. 2011, p.24].

More recently, the estate of a 21-year-old prisoner who died at a jail in Manatee County, Florida filed a lawsuit in October 2013 against the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and Corizon, the jail’s healthcare provider. The complaint accuses the defendants of deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of Jovon Frazier and violating his rights under the Eighth Amendment.

In February 2009, Frazier was incarcerated at the Manatee County Jail; at the time of his medical intake screening, staff employed by Corizon, then operating as PHS, noted that his health was unremarkable. Frazier submitted a medical request form in July 2009, complaining of severe pain in his left shoulder and arm, and a PHS nurse gave him Tylenol.

Throughout August and September 2009, Frazier submitted five more medical requests seeking treatment for his arm and shoulder. “It really hurts! HELP!” he wrote in one of the requests. PHS employees saw him and recorded his vital signs. Despite the repeated complaints, Frazier was never referred to a doctor or physician assistant; on September 9, 2009 his treatment was documented as routine but he was placed on the “MD’s list.”

An X-ray was taken on September 17, 2009 to rule out a shoulder fracture. The X-ray was negative for a fracture, and Frazier was not referred to a doctor. He submitted two more medical requests that month and five requests in October 2009 seeking treatment for his increasingly painful condition. The complaint alleges that in total, Frazier submitted 13 medical request forms related to pain over a period of three months; he was seen by a nurse each time but not examined by a physician.

On October 29, 2009, Frazier received an X-ray to determine if he had a tendon injury. An MRI was recommended and he was transported to a hospital where an MRI scan revealed a large soft tissue mass on his shoulder. A doctor at the hospital, concerned that the mass was cancerous, recommended additional tests.

After being diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, Frazier was returned to the jail and subsequently treated at the Moffitt Cancer Center, where he received chemotherapy, medication and surgery. Despite this aggressive treatment the cancer progressed and Frazier’s left arm was amputated. The cancer continued to spread, however, and he was diagnosed with lung cancer in June 2011. He died within three months of that diagnosis, on September 18, 2011.

In a letter to the attorney representing Frazier’s estate, Florida oncologist Howard R. Abel wrote that the lack of treatment provided by Corizon at the Manatee County Jail constituted “gross negligence and a reckless disregard to Mr. Frazier’s right to timely and professionally appropriate medical care.”

The lawsuit filed by Frazier’s estate claims that Corizon was aware of his serious medical condition but failed to provide adequate treatment. In addition, the complaint contends the company has a widespread custom, policy and practice of discouraging medical staff from referring prisoners to outside medical practitioners and from providing expensive medical tests and procedures. Finally, the lawsuit states that “Corizon implemented these widespread customs, policies and practices for financial reasons and in deliberate indifference to [the] serious medical needs of Frazier and other inmates incarcerated at Manatee County Jail.”

On January 10, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge James Moody denied Corizon’s motion to dismiss the case. The company had argued that the allegations in the lawsuit failed to assert sufficient facts to establish deliberate indifference, amounted only to medical negligence and were insufficient to establish gross negligence, and failed “to adequately allege a policy or custom that violated Frazier’s rights.” Judge Moody disagreed, finding the claims set forth in the complaint were “sufficient to establish a constitutional violation.”

The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office had better luck with its motion to dismiss. The Sheriff argued the complaint did not establish facts indicating that the jail had a similar practice – like Corizon – of providing deliberately indifferent medical care to prisoners. The court agreed and dismissed the claims against the Sheriff’s Office; the claims against Corizon remain pending. See: Jenkins v. Manatee County Sheriff, U.S.D.C. (M.D. Fla.), Case No. 8:13-cv-02796-JSM-TGW.

Idaho DOC

In February 2013, the Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC) announced it had reached a one-year extended agreement with Corizon to provide medical care in the state’s prison system. However, the Idaho Business Review reported that the extension also resulted in a rate increase. Then-Corizon president Stuart Campbell informed the IDOC Board of Correction that the company wouldn’t sign an extension for less money, stating the current contract had become too costly. During the preceding three years of the contract the IDOC had incurred approximately 20% in cumulative rate increases.

Both sides agreed that the contract would run through December 2013 and the IDOC would pay an additional $250,000. It seems odd that Idaho was willing to continue contracting with the company, though, as the relationship between the IDOC and Corizon has been a rocky one.

The quality of medical care at the Idaho State Correctional Institution (ISCI) in Boise has been an ongoing issue for nearly three decades. The prison was the focus of a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of prisoners alleging a variety of problems, including inadequate healthcare. The lawsuit was known as the Balla litigation after plaintiff Walter Balla.

In July 2011, after new complaints were filed regarding medical care at ISCI, U.S District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill appointed a special master, Dr. Marc F. Stern, to assess the situation at the facility. The court wanted Stern to confirm whether ISCI was in compliance with the temporary agreements established in the Balla case, and to investigate and report on “the constitutionality of healthcare” at the facility.

Dr. Stern, a former health services director for the Washington Department of Corrections who also had previously worked for CMS, one of Corizon’s predecessor companies, issued a scathing report in February 2012. With the aid of psychiatrist Dr. Amanda Ruiz, Stern and his team reviewed ISCI over a six-day period and met with dozens of prisoners, administrators and Corizon employees.

Stern stated in the report’s executive summary: “I found serious problems with the delivery of medical and mental health care. Many of these problems have either resulted or risk resulting in serious harm to prisoners at ISCI. In multiple ways, these conditions violate the rights of prisoners at ISCI to be protected from cruel and unusual punishment. Since many of these problems are frequent, pervasive, long-standing, and authorities are or should have been aware of them, it is my opinion that authorities are deliberately indifferent to the serious health care needs of their charges.”

The report found that prisoners who were terminally ill or in long-term care were sometimes left in soiled linens, given inadequate pain medication and went for long periods without food or water. The findings regarding sick call noted instances in which prisoners’ requests either resulted in no care, delayed care or treatment that was deemed dangerous. Emergency care situations had insufficient oversight, delays or no response; inadequately trained medical staff operated independently during emergencies without oversight from an RN or physician. The report also found problems with the pharmacy and medication distribution at ISCI.

In one case, a prisoner with a “history of heart disease was inexplicably dropped from the rolls of the heart disease Chronic Care Clinic.” As a result, medical staff stopped conducting regular check-ups and assessments related to the prisoner’s heart condition. A few years later the prisoner went in for a routine visit, complaining of occasional chest pain. No evaluation or treatment was ordered and the prisoner died four days later due to a heart attack. In another case, Corizon staff failed to notify a prisoner for seven months that an X-ray indicated he might have cancer.

Dr. Stern’s report not only reviewed processes but also staff competency and adequacy. The report cited allegations that a dialysis nurse at ISCI overtly did not like prisoners, and routinely “failed to provide food and water to patients during dialysis, prematurely aborted dialysis sessions or simply did not provide them [dialysis] at all and failed to provide ordered medications resulting in patients becoming anemic.” Stern concluded that prison officials were aware of this issue and the danger it presented to prisoners, but “unduly delayed taking action.”

The mental health care provided by Corizon at ISCI was found to be deficient by Dr. Ruiz, who conducted the psychiatric portion of the court-ordered review. The report noted that the facility had 1) inadequate “screening of and evaluating prisoners to identify those in need of mental health care,” 2) “significant deficiencies in the treatment program at ISCI” which was “violative of patients’ constitutional right to health care,” 3) an “insufficient number of psychiatric practitioners at ISCI,” 4) incomplete or inaccurate treatment records, 5) problems with psychotropic medications, which were prescribed with no face-to-face visits or follow-up visits with prisoners and 6) inadequate suicide prevention training.

The report concluded: “The state of guiding documents, the inmate grievance system, death reviews and a mental health CQI [continuous quality improvement] system at ISCI is poor. While not in and of themselves unconstitutional, it is important for the court to be aware of this and its possible contribution to other unconstitutional events.”

In March 2012, shortly after Dr. Stern’s report was released over the objection of state officials, Corizon disagreed with its findings. The company retained the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) to review the report. Corizon described the review as an “independent assessment,” even though it was paying NCCHC accreditation fees.

The NCCHC review consisted of a three-person team assessing the facility over a two-day period in April 2012. Unlike Stern’s assessment of medical and mental health care, the NCCHC team did not interview prisoners or include a psychiatrist. Regardless, the agency concluded that “The basic structure of health services delivery at ISCI meets NCCHC’s standards.”

Corizon stated in a press release that Dr. Stern’s report was “incomplete, misleading and erroneous,” and then-CEO Rich Hallworth appeared in a video defending the company. The NCCHC had previously accredited Corizon’s healthcare services at ISCI, thus in essence the NCCHC’s review was self-validating the organization’s prior accreditation findings. Also, according to NCCHC’s website, two Corizon officials sit on the agency’s health professionals certification board of trustees.

Corizon’s criticism of Dr. Stern’s report is just one example where the company has objected to an independent, third-party assessment of its medical services. The Balla case settled in May 2012 after 30 years of litigation. [See: PLN, Feb. 2013, p.40].

Indiana DOC

Following a competitive bidding process, Corizon was selected to continue providing medical care to Indiana state prisoners under a three-year contract effective January 1, 2014. The contract has a cap of $293 million, based on a per diem fee of $9.41 per prisoner.

Three weeks later, a lawsuit filed in federal court named Corizon and the Indiana Department of Correction as defendants in connection with the wrongful death of prisoner Rachel Wood. Wood, 26, a first-time drug offender, died in April 2012; the suit, filed on behalf of her family, claims she was transferred from prison to prison and denied care for her serious medical conditions, which included lupus and a blood clotting disorder.

“Notwithstanding the duty of the prison medical staff to provide adequate medical care to Rachel and to treat her very serious life threatening conditions, prison medical staff willfully and callously disregarded her condition, and allowed Rachel to deteriorate and die,” the complaint stated.

“That is just the attitude of these guys, is saving money rather than providing health care,” said Michael K. Sutherlin, the attorney representing Wood’s family.

Prison officials reportedly moved Wood among several different prisons and hospitals, and at one point lost track of her and claimed she had escaped even though she was still incarcerated.

“She died a horrible death and she died alone,” stated her father, Claude Wood. The lawsuit remains pending. See: Williams v. Indiana DOC, Marion County Superior Court (IN), Case No. 49D05-1401-CT-001478.

Maine DOC

In an October 2013 Bangor Daily News article, Steve Lewicki, coordinator of the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition, discussed the state of healthcare in Maine’s prison system. “Complaints by prisoners are less,” he said, noting that while medical services provided to prisoners are better than in the past, there are still concerns. This relative improvement coincided with the end of the state’s contract with Corizon. The contract, valued at approximately $19.5 million, was awarded to another company in 2012.

A year earlier, the Maine legislature’s Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA) completed a review of medical services in state prisons. The agency contracted with an independent consultant, MGT of America, to conduct most of the fieldwork, and the review included services provided under Corizon’s predecessor company, CMS.

The OPEGA report, issued in November 2011, cited various deficiencies in medical care at Maine prisons – including medications not always being properly administered and recorded by CMS staff. Although the company was notified of the problem, no corrective action was taken. CMS employees did not follow policies related to medical intake and medical records; OPEGA reported that 38% of prisoners’ medical files had inadequate or inaccurate documentation regarding annual physical assessments, and that files were not complete or consistently maintained. The report found 11% of sick calls reviewed were either not resolved timely or had no documented resolution. OPEGA also criticized CMS for inadequate staff training.

At a January 2012 legislative committee hearing, state Senator Roger Katz asked Corizon regional vice president Larry Amberger, “My question to you is in light of this history, why should the state seriously be considering any proposal your company might make to get this contract back again?”

In response, Amberger criticized the methodology used by MGT during the assessment and said he believed Corizon provided quality medical care. Questioning and challenging the findings of an independent reviewer is the same tactic the company used in Idaho. Regardless, Corizon’s contract to provide medical care to Maine state prisoners is now a part of history.

Louisville, Kentucky

While some jurisdictions, like Maine, have chosen not to renew their contracts with Corizon due to performance-related problems, in 2013 the Metro Department of Corrections in Louisville, Kentucky (LMC) offered the company a chance to rebid for its $5.5 million contract to provide medical care at the LMC jail. This time, however, it was Corizon that said “no thanks.”

The rebid offer was made even though seven healthcare-related prisoner deaths occurred in a seven-month period in 2012 during Corizon’s prior contract, which expired in February 2013. Nevertheless, LMC and Corizon agreed to extend the contract through July 30, 2013 on a month-to-month basis pending a formal rebid.

After the expiration of the month-to-month contract extension, Corizon notified LMC that it was no longer interested in providing services to the corrections department and would not seek to rebid the contract. LMC director Mark Bolton told the Courier Journal he was “surprised” by the company’s decision. What seems more surprising is that LMC wanted to continue contracting with Corizon to provide medical services in spite of the number of prisoner deaths.

In April 2012, Savannah Sparks, 27, a heroin addict and mother of three, was arrested and held on shoplifting charges at the LMC jail. While withdrawing from heroin she vomited, sweat profusely, could not sit up, could not eat or drink, and defecated and urinated on herself. Six days later she was dead. According to the medical examiner, her death was due to “complications of chronic substance abuse with withdrawal.”

A subsequent wrongful death suit alleged that Corizon and LMC employees were negligent in failing to provide treatment for Sparks’ opiate addiction and withdrawal. Corizon settled the suit under confidential terms. See: May v. Corizon, Jefferson County Circuit Court (KY), Case No. 13-CI-001848.

Four months after Sparks’ death, on August 8, 2012, another LMC prisoner, Samantha George, died. A lawsuit filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court claimed that George was moved from the Bullitt County Jail to the LMC facility on a charge of buying a stolen computer. According to the complaint, she told a Corizon nurse that she was a severe diabetic, needed insulin, and was feverish and in pain from a MRSA infection.

The nurse notified an on-call Corizon physician, who was not located at the facility and thus could not examine George in person, to decide if she should be taken to an emergency room. The doctor recommended monitoring George and indicated he would see her the next day. George’s condition rapidly deteriorated while she was monitored by staff at the jail; she was found unresponsive a few hours after being admitted to the facility and pronounced dead a short time later.

An autopsy concluded that George died due to complications from a severe form of diabetes compounded by heart disease. According to the lawsuit, the Corizon doctor never saw George; among other defendants, the suit named Corizon and LMC director Mark Bolton as defendants. The case was removed to federal court, then remanded to the county circuit court in October 2013. See: George v. Corizon, U.S.D.C. (W.D. Ky.), Case No. 3:13-cv-00822-JHM-JDM.

A few weeks after George’s death, Kenneth Cross was booked into the LMC jail on a warrant for drug possession. According to a subsequent lawsuit, upon Cross’ arrival at the jail a nurse documented that he had slurred speech and fell asleep numerous times during the medical interview. Several hours later he was found unconscious, then died shortly thereafter due to a drug overdose. The lawsuit filed by Cross’ estate alleged that employees at the LMC jail were deficient in recognizing and treating prisoners’ substance abuse problems and that the facility was inadequately staffed for such medical care.

After the deaths of Sparks, George, Cross and four other prisoners in 2012, LMC director Bolton said he believed Corizon took too long to evaluate and treat prisoners at the jail. According to the Courier-Journal, Bolton sent an email to his staff in December 2012 regarding the prisoners’ deaths, stating, “Mistakes were made by Corizon personnel and their corporation has acknowledged such missteps.” He further indicated that Corizon employees – not LMC staff members – were responsible for the care of the prisoners who died. Six Corizon employees at the LMC jail resigned in December 2012 during an internal investigation; they were not identified.

Bolton’s criticism was too little, too late to prevent the deaths of the seven LMC prisoners, though the jail has since made improvements to its medical services, including a full-time detox nurse and new protocols for prisoners experiencing withdrawal. One could speculate that LMC’s critique of Corizon might be a litigation tactic, to deflect responsibility. The fact remains that seven deaths occurred under Corizon’s watch and, notwithstanding those deaths, LMC was willing to renew its contract with the company.

In January 2014, the Louisville Metro Police’s Public Integrity Unit concluded investigations into three of the deaths at the jail, and criticized both Corizon and LMC. The Commonwealth Attorney’s Office found that Sparks’ and George’s deaths were preventable; however, no criminal charges were filed. Dr. William Smock, a forensic examiner who served as a consultant during the investigations, stated with respect to George’s death: “There is compelling evidence of a significant deviation from the standard of care and medical negligence on the part of the medical providers.”

“I’m glad to see that the government’s investigation matches exactly what our investigation showed, which is that her death and others like hers is easily preventable,” said Chad McCoy, the attorney representing George’s estate.

Minnesota DOC

After providing medical care to Minnesota state prisoners for 15 years, Corizon was not selected when the contract was rebid in 2013 – despite having submitted the lowest bid. Instead, competitor Centurion Managed Care was to begin providing healthcare services in Minnesota’s prison system effective January 1, 2014 under a two-year, $67.5 million contract.

Corrections Commissioner Tom Roy said the contract with Centurion was expected to “deliver significant savings to taxpayers while improving the quality of care for offenders.”

According to the Star-Tribune, nine prisoners died and another 21 suffered serious or critical injuries in Minnesota correctional facilities due to delay or denial of medical care under the state’s previous contract, which had been held by Corizon or its predecessor, CMS, since 1998.

That contract was for a fixed annual flat fee of $28 million. A flat fee contract provides an incentive for the contractor to tightly control costs, as a reduction in expenses results in an increase in profit. The Star-Tribune found that many of the staffing arrangements negotiated in the contract played a role in the deaths and injuries. For example, the contract allowed Corizon physicians to leave at 4:00pm daily and did not require them to work weekends. During off-hours there was only one doctor on call to serve the state’s entire prison system, and many of the off-hour consultations were done telephonically without the benefit of the prisoner’s medical chart. Under the contract, Corizon was not required to staff most facilities overnight.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections was held liable for nearly $1.8 million in wrongful death and medical negligence cases during the period when the state contracted with Corizon or CMS.

In October 2012, a jury in Washington County awarded Minnesota prisoner Stanley Riley more than $1 million after finding a Corizon contract physician, Stephen J. Craane, was negligent in providing medical treatment. The Star-Tribune reported that Riley suffered from what turned out to be cancer and had written a series of pleading notes to prison officials. One read, “I assure you that I am not a malingerer. I only want to be healthy again.”

In May 2013, the state paid $400,000 to settle a lawsuit over the death of a 27-year-old prisoner at MCF-Rush City. Xavius Scullark-Johnson, a schizophrenic, suffered at least seven seizures in his cell on June 28, 2010. Nurses and guards didn’t provide him with medical care for nearly eight hours. According to documents obtained by the Star-Tribune, Scullark-Johnson was found “soaked in urine on the floor of his cell” and was “coiled in a fetal position and in an altered state of consciousness that suggested he had suffered a seizure.” An ambulance was called several hours later but a nurse at the prison turned it away, apparently due to protocols to cut costs. Corizon settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed sum in June 2013. See: Scullark v. Garin, U.S.D.C. (D. Minn.), Case No. 0:12-cv-01505-RHK-FLN.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

In Philadelphia, Mayor Michael A. Nutter has been accused of being too loyal to his campaign contributors, including Corizon. The company donated $1,000 to Nutter’s 2012 campaign committee several months before the city renewed Corizon’s contract to provide medical care to 9,000 prisoners in Philadelphia’s prison system. Further, PHS donated $5,000 to Nutter’s mayoral campaign in 2008.

The contract renewal would have been routine except for the fact that Corizon’s performance in Philadelphia has been far from stellar. In July 2012 the company agreed to pay the city $1.85 million following an investigation that found Corizon was using a minority-owned subcontractor that did no work, which was a sham to meet the city’s requirements for contracting with minority-owned businesses.

The renewed year-to-year Corizon contract, worth $42 million, began in March 2013. Nutter’s administration was accused of using the year-to-year arrangement to avoid having the contract scrutinized by the city council; the city’s Home Rule Charter requires all contracts of more than one year to be reviewed by the council. Further infuriating opponents of the contract, Corizon was not the lowest bidder. Correctional Medical Care (CMC), a competitor, submitted a bid that would have cost the city $3.5 million less per year than Corizon. Philadelphia Prison Commissioner Louis Giorla defended the city’s decision to award the contract to Corizon at a council hearing; however, he declined to answer questions as to why the administration considered Corizon’s level of care to be superior to that provided by CMC.

Three union contracts with Corizon covering 270 of the company’s workers in Philadelphia’s prison system expired on November 26, 2013. Corizon demanded benefit cuts, including changes in employee healthcare programs, to offset wage increases promised under the company’s contract with the city. A strike was averted in December 2013 when the mayor’s office intervened and both sides reached a settlement. The Philadelphia Daily News reported that the new union contracts provide wage increases but also include a less-generous health insurance plan for Corizon employees.

Since 1995, Corizon and its predecessor, PHS, have received $196 million in city contracts. The company’s contract was terminated for several months in 2002 as a result of complaints that a diabetic prisoner had died after failing to receive insulin. The city renewed the contract anyway, citing affordability and pledging increased oversight. The city’s law department estimates that Philadelphia has paid over $1 million to settle lawsuits involving claims of deficient prison healthcare; the largest settlement to date is $300,000, paid to a prisoner who did not receive eye surgery and is now partially blind.

Based upon the number of lawsuits filed against Corizon alleging inadequate medical care, its use of a sham subcontractor and the company’s treatment of its own employees, it appears that maintaining the status quo – not best practices – may be the controlling factor in Philadelphia’s continued relationship with Corizon.

Allegheny County, Pennsylvania

On September 30, 2013, a prisoner jumped from the top tier of a pod at the Allegheny County Jail. Following an investigation, authorities refused to make public their findings and declined to disclose the prisoner’s injuries, citing medical privacy laws. The prisoner, Milan Karan, 38, was not transported to the hospital until the following day.

A spokesperson for Corizon, which provides medical care at the 2,500-bed jail, defended the nearly 24-hour delay by noting the prisoner “was under observation” before being sent to a hospital.

In December 2013, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Corizon was having difficulty staffing the Allegheny County Jail. When the newspaper requested a comment from Corizon vice president Lee Harrington, Harrington claimed he had no knowledge of staffing problems – despite having previously received emails from the facility’s warden about that exact issue.

The staffing problems resulted in prisoners not receiving their medication in a timely manner. In emails obtained by the Post-Gazette, Warden Orlando Harper wrote to Harrington in October 2013, noting, “We are continuing to experience issues pertaining to the following: 1. Staffing, 2. Medication distribution.” Also, on November 17, 2013, Deputy Warden Monica Long sent an email to Corizon and jail staff. “I was just informed by the Captain on shift, the majority of the jail has not received medication AT ALL,” she stated, adding, “Staffing is at a crisis.”

That crisis had been ongoing since Corizon assumed the medical services contract at the facility on September 1, 2013. Before the $62.55 million, five-year contract was awarded, Corizon vice president Mary Silva wrote in an email that it was imperative the jail have “adequate staffing on ALL shifts.” That promise was made despite Corizon laying off many of the former employees of Allegheny Correctional Health Services, the jail’s previous healthcare provider.

Allegheny Correctional had provided four full-time and one part-time physician during its contract tenure. Corizon reduced the number of doctors to one full-time and one part-time physician. Allegheny Correctional also employed three psychiatrists and one psychologist. Corizon’s contract requires that it provide one full-time psychiatrist and a part-time psychologist.

In January 2014, the United Steelworkers union (USW) filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to unionize Corizon employees at the Allegheny County Jail, including nurse practitioners, RNs, physician assistants and psychiatric nurses. USW representative Randa Ruge indicated that the Corizon workers had approached the union for representation due to intolerable working conditions.

“Our folks [Corizon employees] are in danger of losing their licenses to practice by some of the things that the company has them doing,” she said. Ruge told the Post-Gazette that the jail had run out of insulin for more than a week and Corizon supervisors had “countermanded doctors’ orders.”

Several weeks after the USW filed the labor petition, a Catholic nun who worked as an RN at the jail was fired by Corizon, allegedly for union organizing activities. Sister Barbara Finch was dismissed after she openly expressed concerns about staffing, patient care and safety at the facility. The USW filed an unfair labor complaint against Corizon regarding Finch’s dismissal, claiming she was terminated in retaliation for her union activities.

“This is a clear case of intimidation and union-busting at its worst,” said USW President Leo W. Gerard. “Sister Barbara has been an outspoken advocate of change for these courageous workers and their patients, and this kind of illegal and unjust action, unfortunately, is par for the course with Corizon.”

On February 14, 2014, Corizon employees at the Allegheny County Jail voted overwhelmingly to unionize. “The next step is getting to the bargaining table and getting Corizon to bargain in good faith and get some changes made in the health system at the jail,” said Ruge.

The previous week, Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner stated she had “grave and serious concerns” about medical care at the facility, including issues related to staffing and treatment for prisoners with certain mental health conditions. “I regard the current situation as intolerable and outrageous, and I fully expect necessary changes to be urgently implemented,” she wrote in a letter to Corizon.

Polk County, Iowa

On August 29, 2013, Ieasha Lenise Meyers, incarcerated at the jail in Polk County, Iowa on a probation violation, gave birth on a mattress on the floor of her cell. Her cellmates assisted with the delivery. Earlier, when Meyers, 25, had complained of contractions, a Corizon nurse called an offsite medical supervisor and was told to monitor the contractions and check for water breaking.

Despite Meyers having been twice sent to a hospital earlier the same day, and pleading that she was about to give birth, the nurse did rounds in other parts of the jail. Guards reportedly did not check on Meyers as required, even though the birth could be seen on a nearby security monitor. Only after the baby was born was medical care provided. Sheriff Bill McCarthy defended the actions of jail staff.

Corizon Employee Misconduct

Like most private contractors that provide prison-related services, Corizon tends to cut costs in terms of staffing and operational expenses. As noted above, this includes paying lower wages, providing fewer or inferior benefits and hiring less qualified workers who can be paid less. Sometimes, however, these practices result in employees more like to engage in misconduct.

At the Pendleton Correctional Facility in Indiana, a Corizon nurse was arrested and charged with sexual misconduct, a Class C felony. The Herald Bulletin reported that in April 2013, when Colette Ficklin was working as a contract nurse for Corizon, she convinced a prisoner to fake chest pains so they could be alone in an exam room. A guard told internal affairs officers that she witnessed Ficklin and the prisoner engaging in sex acts in the prison’s infirmary. [See: PLN, Sept. 2013, p.17].

In March 2013 at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, a Corizon practical nurse was charged with drug trafficking and possession with intent to distribute. Phyllis Ungerank, 41, was arrested and booked into the LaPort County Jail after attempting to smuggle marijuana into the facility. [See: PLN, July 2012, p.50].

A Corizon nurse at the Volusia County Branch Jail in Daytona Beach, Florida was fired after officials learned she was having sex with and giving money to a prisoner. Valerie Konieczny was terminated on December 18, 2012 when the jail was contacted by the brother of prisoner Randy Joe Schimp, who had written in a letter that a nurse was having sex with him and depositing money into his jail account. Investigators determined that Konieczny was the nurse who had sex with Schimp at both the Volusia County facility and another branch jail in 2011.

In New Mexico, Corizon physician Mark Walden was accused of fondling prisoners’ genitals and performing prostrate exams that were “excessive and inappropriate in terms of length and method.” At times, Walden reportedly did not wear gloves during the prostate exams. He was accused of sexually abusing 25 or more male prisoners while employed as a doctor at two privately-operated facilities, the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa and Northeast New Mexico Detention Facility in Clayton.

Lawsuits were filed against Walden, Corizon and private prison operator GEO Group, and Walden’s medical license was suspended in December 2013. The suits claim that Corizon allowed Dr. Walden to work at the Clayton prison “despite knowing of the risk of sexual abuse and having the ability to know that [he] was repeatedly sexually abusing patients” at the Santa Rosa facility. [See: PLN, Sept. 2013, p.47].

The Privatization Model

Economics professors Kelly Bedard and H.E Frech III at the University of California at Santa Barbara examined the privatization of correctional medical services in their research study, “Prison Health Care: Is Contracting Out Healthy?,” published in Health Economics in November 2009.

They concluded: “We find no evidence to support the positive rhetoric regarding the impact of prison health care contracting out on inmate health, at least as measured by mortality. Our findings of higher inmate mortality rates under contracting out are more consistent with recent editorials raising concerns about this method of delivering health care to inmates.”

Today, five years after the Bedard-Frech report was published, it has the benefit of hindsight. Since the report was written, its findings and conclusions have been reaffirmed in prisons and jails across the nation that have contracted with private companies to provide medical care to prisoners. Cost reductions in the provision of correctional healthcare tend to result in greater inefficiencies that lead to poorer outcomes. Consequently, for-profit medical contractors may actually be increasing morbidity and mortality in prison and jail populations.

Many governmental entities are willing to outsource correctional healthcare to private companies; reasons for doing so include cutting costs, risk management and removing healthcare duties from corrections departments. If Corizon’s record with respect to providing medical care to prisoners seems dismal, the company can always defend its actions by stating it does what it has been hired to do: Cut costs for its customers. And those costs have been rising due to an increasingly aging, and thus medically-needy, prison population. [See: PLN, Nov. 2012, p.22; Dec. 2010, p.1].

With respect to risk management, litigation is not a compelling issue within the prison healthcare industry and Corizon views lawsuits as simply a cost of doing business. “We get sued a lot, but 95% or 97% of cases were self-represented cases,” ex-CEO Rich Hallworth was quoted in an August 2013 article. He added that most lawsuits settle for an average of less than $50. Of course it is difficult for prisoners to obtain representation to pursue litigation – unless it’s a wrongful death case, and then usually their family or estate is doing the suing.

Nor are the public agencies that contract with private medical providers greatly concerned about their litigation records. In fact, when Florida contracted with Corizon and Wexford Health Sources to provide medical care for the state’s entire prison system, the Florida Department of Corrections didn’t ask the companies about their litigation histories – such as lawsuits raising claims of deliberate indifference, negligence and medical malpractice.

“What really troubles me about this is the fact that the department didn’t ask these very basic, elemental questions any system would ask,” observed ACLU National Prison Project staff attorney Eric Balaban. “These two vendors were taking over Florida’s massive health care system and you’d think they would have asked hard questions to determine if these companies can provide these services within constitutional requirements.”

Even worse, the downgrading of Corizon’s debt rating by Moody’s in 2013 creates a potential problem for the company’s service delivery model. The majority of Corizon’s revenue is derived from contracts with state and local agencies that are trying to reduce their budgetary expenses. Given those fiscal pressures and competition from Wexford, Armor, Centurion and other prison healthcare companies, Corizon cannot easily increase its revenue through contractual price increases. But the company’s expenses are largely within its control.

Unfortunately for prisoners, in order to reduce costs Corizon will likely have to curtail the quality or quantity of healthcare services it provides. As noted above, this can be done by reducing employee wages or benefits; the company can also cut costs through understaffing and by limiting prescription medications or providing fewer referrals to hospitals and specialists. A growing trend is to use off-site medical staff who consult with prisoners through telemedicine. [See: PLN, Dec. 2013, p.34].

The correctional healthcare industry, comprised of only a few large companies, is highly competitive. When one company loses a contract, another is more than willing to step in and submit a bid. What really matters for most government agencies and policymakers is the bottom line cost.

According to Dr. Marc Stern, the court-appointed special master in Idaho, “whoever delivers prison healthcare is doing it on less than adequate funding because that’s how much municipalities, state legislatures and county commissions are allocating.” He noted that privatization can be good in some cases and bad in others, depending on the level of oversight by the contracting public agency.

When Corizon compromises medical care to save money, such as curtailing the use of ambulances for emergency transports, reducing the number of on-site doctors or sending fewer prisoners to outside hospitals for needed treatment, government officials typically fail to take corrective action and deny responsibility for the resultant deaths and injuries. Indeed, as with the Idaho Department of Corrections and LMC in Kentucky, they sometimes want to reward the company with renewed contracts.

Why? Because continuity maintains cost control, which is the driving force behind privatization of prison and jail medical services.


The intent of this article was to review Corizon’s performance and practices based on publicly-available information, including news reports and court records. Although the company was formed in June 2011, its two predecessor firms, PHS and CMS, littered the news and judicial dockets over the years with lawsuits and articles involving cases of inadequate healthcare. Thus, the sins of Corizon’s parents, CMS and PHS, are forever linked with the progeny of their merger.

Such past misdeeds could be explained away had Corizon adopted a new, post-merger culture that was removed from prior practices under PHS and CMS. However, many of Corizon’s mid-level and top executives – including ex-CEO Rich Hallworth, former president Stuart Campbell, chairman Richard H. Miles and a number of vice presidents – were previously executives with PHS or CMS. It was during their tenure at those companies that numerous cases involving deficient medical care occurred.

The corporate culture of Corizon, as well as its business model, appears to be largely the same as those of its predecessors. Therefore, the only thing that may have changed as a result of the merger that created Corizon is the company’s name.

Gregory Dober is a freelance writer in healthcare and ethics. He has been a contributing writer for PLN since 2007 and co-authored Against Their Will: The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in Cold War America, published by Palgrave in 2013. [See: PLN, Nov. 2013, p.36].

Sources: Bloomberg News, Forbes,, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, The American Independent, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, St. Louis Business Journal,, Miami Herald, WHAS-TV, The Tennessean, Courier-Journal, Idaho Business Review, Associated Press, The Arizona Republic, Maine Public Broadcasting Network, Bangor Daily News, WANE-TV, Raton Range, Des Moines Register, Star-Tribune, The Nation, The Florida Current,, KPHO-TV, WANE-TV, Tucson Citizen, WCAV-TV,,,,,,

ASPC-Eyman/Meadows: DOC minimizes stabbing, rape of teacher, and duty to protect staff.

What happened to this teacher at Eyman a few months back seems highly avoidable, but it was also quite predictable. In fact, I wonder why it didn't happen sooner. 

DOC staff and contract workers have been saying that they aren't getting what they need to do their jobs safely for a long time. Here's one officers' union's 2011 letter of no confidence in Charles Ryan's leadership...sadly, though, Jan still stands by her man. The folks at Judicial Watch are also investigating the high incidence of  staff assaults at the AZ DOC after receiving complaints from the unions about the failure of the DOC to curb the violence or improve basic security measures.  

Moreover, the AZ DOC isn't ever able to substantiate rape when it happens to prisoners, so they don't have a lot of good experience preventing rape or helping the victims of sexual assault.  In fact, they tend to blame them and do everything they can to punish and muzzle them if they try to hold administration responsible for their negligence. It's no wonder that they're trying to do that here, too.

The consequences of a politic which prioritizes the rights of corporations to profit over basic human rights end up being felt not only by prisoners, but by staff and community members as well, as this poor teacher found out. The misogyny and patriarchy pervasive throughout the department produced the typical administrative response to this woman's rape - which is to deny and dismiss any responsibility the AZ DOC had to keeping her safer than they did.

This all really makes you wonder where the 1 $billion AZ DOC budget is going to if these prisons are always short-staffed and prisoners are going hungry, never getting the medical care they need, being taken off their psychiatric meds and buried in isolation cells instead, living in condemned facilities, and not being provided with meaningful employment or rehabilitation opportunities - in fact, only 4% can access any kind of substance abuse treatment in the course of a year.

Despite claiming to have too few resources to invest in crime-reduction and prevention strategies that work, like addictions treatment often does,  the incarceration industry is  making a killing off charging the state a fortune for feeding prisoners things not meant for human consumption, denying critical health care to the seriously ill, under-staffing essential medical and security positions, obstructing efforts by prisoners to grieve or sue, and simply warehousing people in the least-constitutional settings and circumstances they can get away with...and the DOC enables it all...


Teacher left alone with sex offender at Arizona prison before she’s stabbed, raped: report 

New York Daily News 
Thursday, June 19, 2014, 7:47 AM


PHOENIX — A teacher at an Arizona prison was alone in a room full of sex offenders before being stabbed and sexually assaulted by a convicted rapist, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press about an attack that highlighted major security lapses at the facility.

The attack occurred Jan. 30 at the Eyman prison’s Meadows Unit, which houses about 1,300 rapists, child molesters and other sex offenders. The teacher was administering a high school equivalency test to about a half-dozen inmates in a classroom with no guard nearby and only a radio to summon help. The Department of Corrections issued only a bare-bones press release after the attack, but the AP pieced together what happened based on interviews and investigatory reports obtained under the Arizona Public Records Act.

After the last of the other inmates left, Jacob Harvey asked the teacher if she could open the bathroom and then attacked her, records show. Harvey is accused of stabbing her in the head with a pen, forcing her to the ground and raping her.

The teacher told investigators that she screamed for help, but none came. Afterward, Harvey tried to use her radio to call for help. It had apparently been changed to a channel the unit’s guards didn’t use, so Harvey let the woman use a phone, according to the reports.

Carl ToersBijns, a former deputy warden at the prison, said the assault highlights chronic understaffing and lax security policies that put staff members at risk.

“Here you’ve got a guy that commits a hell of a crime ... and he’s put into an environment that actually gives him an opportunity to do his criminality because of a lack of staffing,” said ToersBijns, who was deputy warden at the Eyman prison in Florence until retiring in 2010 and oversaw the Meadows Unit for 19 months.
State prison officials, however, dismiss the concerns. They say the assault at the prison about 60 miles southeast of Phoenix is a risk that comes with the job of overseeing violent prison inmates.

Harvey was in the first year of a 30-year sentence for raping a Glendale woman in November 2011. Just 17 at the time, he had knocked on the woman’s door in the middle of the day, asked for a drink of water, then forced his way inside, where he repeatedly raped and beat her while her 2-year-old child was in the apartment. He fled naked when the woman’s roommate arrived home.

He was arrested after DNA evidence connected him to the crime, and he pleaded guilty.

Harvey was initially classified as a “Class 4” security risk, one notch lower than the highest level. Six months later, despite violating prison rules at least once, he was reclassified at a lower level.

Department of Corrections spokesman Doug Nick said classrooms at prisons across the state are having cameras installed. But he said no administrative investigation was launched because there was no need, and no one was disciplined. He said all prisons are dangerous places and staff are trained accordingly.

“This is an assault that reflects the fact that inmates in our system often act out violently, and it is the inmate suspect who is responsible for this despicable act,” he said.

Nick also said that not having a guard in classrooms or nearby “follows accepted corrections practices nationwide.”

That’s not the case, said Carolyn Eggleston, a professor at California State University, San Bernardino, who started her career as a prison teacher in several states and now is director of the university’s Correctional and Alternative Education Program.

“I have to say, I don’t find that consistent with standards,” Eggleston said. “In a sex offender unit, especially, they should be counting the people leaving the classroom. They just should. And there should be somebody, not in the class ... but there should be somebody in proximity so they can help monitor that.”

The woman, who was not critically injured, has filed a worker’s compensation claim against the state and did not want to comment on case. The AP does not usually identify sexual assault victims.

Internal emails obtained by the AP show that prisons Director Charles Ryan ordered all non-corrections officer staff at prisons statewide to be issued pepper spray and trained in its use just days after the attack. And an internal memo sent the day after the assault ordered guards at a nearby prison to begin checking on civilian staff every hour.

Nick said the pepper-spray order was in the works before the assault. And he said that, despite the internal memo from a major that ordered hourly checks, the actual practice is unpredictable and more frequent, with staggered checks three times an hour.

ToersBijns, who is an advocate for prison safety and believes understaffing has put state prison staff at risk, said multiple errors likely led to the assault, including not having video cameras in the classroom, a lack of checks on civilian staff and use of an outdated classification system for inmates that led to a violent predator being misidentified as a relatively low-level threat.

After the attack, Harvey was calm when confronted in the classroom, refused to talk to investigators and asked for a lawyer. He was charged last month with sexual assault, kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon. A public defender was appointed, and he pleaded not guilty at his arraignment. The public defender assigned to his case, Paula Cook, declined to comment.

Harvey was convicted in a prison administrative hearing of sexually assaulting the staff member. Three weeks after the rape, he assaulted another prison employee, although records don’t show any details. His security classification was raised two levels, to the highest, nearly three months after the teacher was assaulted.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

ASPC-Eyman's TSU break bones, spew hate speech at Cook prisoners.

The excerpt from the email below comes from a family member of a prisoner at ASPC-Eyman/Cook Unit, which recently experienced an excessively violent shake-down by the troubled Tactical Support Unit (TSU).

  Apparently Eyman Warden Ron Credio and his brave and noble Tactical Support Unit didn't see my blog post about how disgraceful this kind of conduct is from last week. Or maybe they did, and that's what set them off on Cook. Or perhaps they're just jacked up on steroids or meth. In any case, they're still behaving like bullies and cowards, as evidenced by this most recent assault on prisoners - about 100 were hurt, according to this source.

This is so unacceptable - but clearly it's the way Ryan likes his prisons to be run. That, or the TSU at Eyman is just running amok - in which case, Credio has lost all control out there.
Eyman Warden Ron Credio
Really now -  how much courage and skill does it take to beat up a bunch of helpless prisoners (probably stripped to their boxer shorts) while you possess the sole authority to use violence, are decked out in body armor, and are wielding canisters of pepper spray? And who are all these criminals supposed to learn non-violent conflict resolution skills from when the officers act out like this all the time, anyway?  

"My (loved one) is on the Cook unit in  Florence's Eyman complex. Earlier this week--Tuesday, I think--about 10 TSU officers came onto the yard and terrorized the inmates, seemingly randomly. They broke one man's arm, smashed another's guy's face in, broke someone's finger, did violence on a guy with a prosthetic leg, etc. They slammed my loved one onto the concrete and gravel several times on his knees and hog-tied him and kept him  face down in the dirt like that for an hour. They called him faggot, and much worse. They randomly took people's property, too. For instance, they smashed around his TV, then took it, his calculator, and other items.

My loved one said family members have complained to the warden. I'd like to be connected to some of those folks so I could add my voice. Have you heard about what happened, or do you happen to know where online I find more info?"

If there are other families out there from Cook Unit, please contact me so I can put you all in touch with each other. I'd also appreciate as many accounts of this incident as possible so I can add it to my DOJ complaint about the incident on Meadows - especially in light of the hate speech used, yet again

Peggy Plews 
PO Box 20494 
PHX AZ 85036

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

AZ state prisoners and activists call for DOJ Investigation into rape and gang violence in AZ DOC.

chalk art by Margie Diddams
Photography by Margaret Jean Plews
Phoenix City Hall (02/26/2103)

(EDITED to remove sensitive information on June 26, 2014) 

NOTE: This is my response to reading  Jan Brewer's May 1, 2014 letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder about Arizona's decision to refuse to comply with the Prison Rape Elimination Act. I actually finished and sent this on June 9, also posting it to the Daily Kos

I encourage all prisoners, former prisoners, and families of those presently in the custody of the AZ Department of Corrections to contact Attorney General Holder, as well, with your personal stories related to your safety or that of a loved one  in prison. Now is the time to strike - the feds need to be dragged into this by more than just me. They need to hear all of you calling them out to take some responsibility for neglecting this mess. It's not like this is the first time they have heard from me, anyway...

Please send me a copy of what you write so I can post it here, too.


chalk art on sidewalk: margaret jean plews
photograph: PJ Starr (phoenix 2011)

FreeMarciaPowellchalk3small.jpgMargaret Jean Plews
PO Box 20494
Phoenix, AZ 85036

"Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness, and our ability to tell our own stories..."

- Arundhati Roy

June 7, 2014

The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General, US Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

Dear Attorney General Holder;

I am writing to provide a citizen’s rebuttal of Governor Jan Brewer’s statements of May 1, 2014 in her letter to you regarding the Prison Rape Elimination Act, which grossly misrepresented conditions in the state prison system during her reign. I am also intending this letter to serve as a formal request for a CRIPA Investigation into the pervasive patterns and practices at the Arizona Department of Corrections that place prisoners at exceptionally high risk for sexual victimization and complications from unresolved trauma, especially women, the mentally and otherwise-impaired, and LGBT prisoners.

I am emailing this letter with relevant links embedded, but will also be snail- mailing a copy to you with supporting documents (as well as some of my artwork, memorializing the ghosts of Jan Brewer and Chuck Ryan).

By way of introduction, I am the author/editor of the blog ARIZONAPRISONWATCH.ORG, which I began writing five years ago after the death of prisoner Marcia Powell revealed disturbing practices and attitudes at the Arizona Department of Corrections. My particular concern was the mentally ill women at ASPC-Perryville, at first. I recognized in Marcia’s life story the same elements of the numerous women I had come to know and love in my many years working with people who were trying to survive while homeless, addicted and severely mentally ill in Ann Arbor. I also identified with her - I myself am a recovering alcoholic and addict, and could have landed in prison under draconian drug war and repeat-offender sentencing  had I been caught at any number of things earlier in my life, especially if it was in Arizona (what but a “repeat offender” is an addict, anyway?). I also have bi-polar disorder and a bad attitude when it comes to authority, and could have easily been in Marcia’s cage that day myself.

If you are unfamiliar with the case, Marcia was doing 27 months for a $20 blow job she agreed to give an undercover Phoenix cop one fateful day, and died  in a cage in the Arizona sun in May of 2009, at ASPC-Perryville. That was after an extended “suicide watch” in the 107 degree heat, during which time a prisoner is supposed to be checked on every 10 minutes.  After ignoring Marcia’s pleas for relief for four hours (one guard walked away offering no aid knowing she had even defecated on herself) -  officers eventually noticed she had collapsed from the elements with second degree burns on her body and her organs failing; her core temperature at the hospital still exceeded the ability of thermometers to read it, which only went as high as 108 degrees. Not realizing she had a legal guardian and an adoptive mother, Ryan pulled the plug on her life support before the stroke of midnight - she died shortly thereafter.

 chalk art by margaret j plews                                          photo by PJ Starr

AZ DOC Central Office, Phoenix
(Thanksgiving 2011)

DOC officers never expected that Marcia Powell would die out there because they had just left another woman in that cage for 20 hours 3 days earlier, and she didn’t die. See, Marcia’s death was horrific, but it’s not really shocking that it happened - the only wonder was that the DOC got away with punishing prisoners in the heat that way for so long.

That was less than five months into Charles Ryan’s tenure as Interim Director at the Arizona Department of Corrections, but he had begun disassembling the more rehabilitative and empowering programs his predecessor had implemented and imposing new policies immediately upon taking office. A former DW of Ryan’s alleged to the AZ Attorney General that the change the new director made about how to house cellies resulted in at least two homicides within the first 18 months of his rise to power there.  But Ryan had moved up through the ranks under the more brutal directors whose bullying style of management he appears to have emulated, and thus played a large role for decades in cultivating the policies and ethos at the AZ DOC that are so deeply hostile towards prisoners who exercise their right to not be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. That tendency to resolve issues with violence or the threat of it trickles down from admin to officers to prisoner, and eventually ignites the flames that can bring a prison to its knees.

The good governor talked about Arizona’s “long traditions” of protecting citizens in custody - wow, is she out of touch. She hasn’t read Prof. Mona Lynch’s “SUNBELT JUSTICE” yet, about the trailblazing role the state has played in implementing draconian sentencing and correctional practices over the past 3 decades - the increase in criminalization for politics and profit that the rest of the country has seen the folly of and begun to abandon.

Its actually because of this state’s long tradition of depriving prisoners both of their rights as well as the most basic tools they need in order to fight for them that the AZ DOC is in such shameful condition now. Arizona’s 1990 constitutional amendment excluding prisoners from the definition of crime victim (and related rights and resources), the Lewis v Casey decision in 1996 eliminating the right of prisoners to access a law library among other things, and the Clinton-era Prison Litigation Reform Act (heavily lobbied for by then DOC Director Terry Stewart) were collectively devastating.

I have volumes of letters that will lead you to both victims and perpetrators of countless civil rights abuses precisely because the grievance procedure on most yards is a sham and the DOC obstructs efforts by prisoners to file suit by creating obstacles - especially for illiterate, Spanish-speaking, and mentally ill or developmentally disabled prisoners. In fact, the DOC has NO POLICIES translated into Spanish, despite nearly 20% of their population being foreign nationals, mostly from Spanish-speaking countries. I’ve been recruiting people to do the translations myself, as this is not a concern of the DOC’s so long as no Spanish-speaking prisoners grieve the lack of Spanish-language policies.

This means that Spanish-speaking prisoners (and other non-English-speakers) apparently need to rely on the skills of untrained staff and fellow prisoners who happen to speak some dialect of Spanish when they need to speak to medical, for example, or appeal a disciplinary action, or grieve their housing assignment. Most just suffer their time in silence.

If prisoners could fight abuse and neglect more effectively themselves, the DOJ and ACLU wouldn’t have to do it for them, and you know it as well as I do, Mr Holder. So does the AZ DOC - they put an extraordinary amount of energy into preventing prisoners from learning to articulate their grievances and use persuasion, negotiation and civil law to effectively change their world. There’s a prisoner petition, of sorts, going around that expresses well the barriers they encounter on their way to the courts while trying to exhaust administrative remedies, and offers some proposed solutions, as I recall. It is worth a look by your people.

As a result of a disempowered prisoner population (and, some argue, extremely weak correctional officers unions in AZ), the state prisons are fire traps, and prisoners often complain they are in decaying facilities with mold growing freely in corners, rats and roaches competing for space with the people, feces and blood smeared on the wall in suicide watch cells, inoperable hot water heaters in the winter and non-existent air conditioning in the summer, and scarcely enough food in the sack-lunch “sedentary diets” given to those in detention, administrative segregation and maximum security to keep them from starving to death. More prisoners are fleeing the violence on the yards than are being punished for perpetrating it.

AZ DOC’s medical and psychiatric care is not just deplorable in its negligence, it’s outright abusive, and the DOC has as much to do with that as any of the other parties involved: Parsons v Ryan was filed before the system was even privatized, after all. When I started blogging on the prisons the only thing one could find about AZ DOC on the internet was pretty much what the state wanted you to see. Now you can easily Google “arizona prison health care” to see how much things got worse when Wexford and Corizon came in to feed off of the sick and dying; Director Ryan has lost control over the department’s squeaky clean public image, among other things. His own well-funded propaganda machine is failing him, as are all levels of management and administration, apparently.

40-foot sidewalk mural memorializing the ghosts of jan brewer...

I met with director Ryan and his classification staff in December of 2013, along with Dianne Post from the NAACP here, the primary author of a lengthy letter to him about gay and trans prisoner safety based on my correspondents.  I don’t think he realized how much of what he and his people had to say was disturbing to the outside observer; some of the documents from that meeting - detailing how serious the need for safety is in the AZ DOC - are in the packet.

According to the DOC, 75% of detention cells are full of guys who are unacceptable to or just plain uncooperative with the racialized gangs running the yards - those are the prisoners I hear the most from. The guys pass my name and addy around the detention cells as they do the 805 dance from prison to prison, because I send them the info they need to fight the DOC - stuff like the Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook. It costs me a few hundred bucks a month in printing and postage to keep up with the need for assistance...but, some people spend their time and money on their gardens or pets or kids - I just happen to be a little eccentric about helping the underdog.  I think its a worthy investment, helping people help themselves.

Those prisoners filling the detention cells while fleeing the violence are either seeking Protective Custody (PC) or being punished for refusing their General Population (GP) housing assignments (with “refusal to house” tickets ) after being denied PC. The guys complaining about the assaults extortion and murders, in fact, are overwhelmingly being denied PC and maxed out (ie their good time and privileges are lost and their classification scores zoom up) on major disciplinary tickets for not doing anything to hurt anyone, while the ones behind the extortion, assaults and murders, drug trade and other evils are still free to dominate the prison yards and dictate the culture - often empowered by corrupt officers who want the gangs to help keep the grievances down on the yard, or to keep the assaults just between prisoners, or who just want to line their pockets to buy a new gun or truck.

I have read the Does v Stewart proposed settlement, by the way, and am well-familiarized with DOC policy - I can assure you that both the Does v Stewart agreement and the DO805 policy are routinely being blatantly violated by administrative staff at Central Office. I can say that with certainty after receiving hundreds of letters from prisoners and half as many more calls from family members over getting folks into safe housing since last winter. I have ample evidence the DOC is denying PC to almost ALL prisoners who seek it without the aid of an attorney or the very expensive assistance of Donna Hamm from Middle Ground Prison Reform.

(She’s done a lot of good work, don’t get me wrong - she just costs a pretty penny.)

Interestingly, Ms. Hamm, who charges a flat fee of $2500 to advocate for PC housing for a prisoner, claims a 85- 90% success rate for her clients, while about that same percentage of all PC requests each month are denied, according to the DOC, leaving hundreds of guys in detention each month awaiting the PC verdict. That alone should raise red flags that the DOC isn’t really using any real criteria when they decide who goes to PC and who goes back to the hole in the next GP yard to try again(or get killed), other than that prisoner’s or their family’s ability to litigate them.

And they don’t do the mental health checks they’re required to do on each guy who is turned down for PC to make sure he doesn’t kill himself out of terror. They can’t possibly meet that demand - Corizon isnt even meeting its minimum mental health care mandates.  Thus, I believe guys are still probably killing themselves in the wake of PC denials, like Rosario Rodriguez-Boroquez did in the fall of 2010. A rape victim in the hole on the same MAX unit in Florence followed in his footsteps a week later. That second prisoner might have been saved had the DOC debriefed affected prisoners, they way they do with staff after suicides, homicides and traumatic deaths of prisoners or staff; correctional “best practices” would suggest they should.

Over the course of the past 12 months I’ve corresponded with approximately 35 gay and transgender prisoners alone, some of whom the Navajo Nation’s Human Rights Commission and the NAACP of Maricopa County  have already contacted the DOJ about (and have heard nothing back). In the fall of 2013 a collective of concerned community members convened to study the data from my queer correspondents and draft a letter to Charles Ryan with concerns about the LGBT population being routinely denied PC by his staff when they seek it, even after reporting to the DOC that they had been sexually assaulted or exploited, extorted or beaten because of their sexual orientation or gender identity (the AZ DOC houses transgender women on GP yards in all-male prisons, FYI). In fact, right now there are several gay and transgender prisoners still in GP who have been trying to get into PC for up to and over a year now, unsuccessfully.

Most recently, one gay prisoner who I had intervened personally for to advocate that he receive PC was denied PC and subsequently raped by his cellie, only to be denied PC again and placed in another GP yard. He had initially sought PC because his crime was widely publicized and the media indicated that his male lover was an accomplice - he was  marked man on the yards, no matter what prison they put him in, and they knew it. That was not only deliberate indifference to his safety, I believe endangering that vulnerable prisoner -repeatedly -  was an act of malice and spite in retaliation for my criticisms of the DOC’s staff who make those decisions. And that, sir, is a federal crime, I believe, for a state agent to do. Mr Ryan cannot be trusted to hold those staff responsible for harming that victim, the only party to his rape - to my knowledge - who sits in a detention cell tonight. My correspondence with Director Ryan and his staff about that case is enclosed in the packet.

Even though the victim in the above case had to be taken to a hospital and rape kit was done, there’s no reason to think the perpetrator will actually be held responsible or that further rapes will be discouraged by how this one will be handled. According to the AZ DOC’s current PREA report as posted on their website, out of 54 alleged “inmate-on-inmate unwanted sexual acts” and 30 alleged “inmate-on-inmate abusive sexual contacts” (I think they mean RAPE!) reported to them in 2012, absolutely none could be substantiated by the DOC’s CIU. Either the entire DOC prisoner population lies about rape and it never really happens in our state, or the DOC has no sincere commitment to either preventing it or responding effectively to it when it occurs.

Why should anyone even report their sexual victimization to the DOC, I’m asked? They end up being labeled as a snitch and sitting in the hole for months on end seeking PC, while the perpetrator gets off scott free to rape again. It’s especially disturbing to prisoners when the perp is a gang leader or enforcer, too - which is too often the case, particularly in re: the exploitation and abuse of transgender prisoners. “PREA reporting” has become a sick joke at the AZ DOC - it only stigmatizes the victim, who too often gets no counseling, nor are they very often placed in protective custody or mental health programs beyond the term of the rape investigation, even though research shows that most prisoners are at exquisite risk for even further victimization and deterioration of their mental status once they are raped the first time.

In addition to the recent example of the prisoner who was deliberately placed at risk by DOC staff with a bone to pick with me, I know of one gay prisoner who was verbally abused expressly for being gay after he reported rape (along the lines of you deserved it you fucking fag), in an incident in which he ended up biting staff while being taken down when he refused to sit on the floor to take more of the abuse. The rape victim got an extra year and half added onto his sentence as a result, and had to beg his judge to tell the DOC to place him in PC before they finally relented and did so. I believe he was more traumatized and harmed (by way of being charged with assaulting the staff) by the DOC’s response to his rape report and request for PC than he was by the actual sexual assault on him in the first place.. He is more than willing to make a statement if you will interview him.

I’m also wondering if the DOC ever reported the suicide of Forrest Day as a potential PREA issue. She had reported to her sister before she died that she was being sexually pressured/propositioned by an officer which she found disturbing, but his identity wasn’t revealed to anyone before she was found hanging in her cell, so he couldn’t be investigated. It no doubt never would have been substantiated anyway - you know how it is, when it comes down to the word of a prisoner against a crooked cop: the bad guys in power always win. So, again, why bother reporting rape in Arizona’s DOC even if PREA was implemented, the prisoners want to know. What would be any different than it is now, in practice, even if the DOC did say they were on board with the feds? The culture is so misogynistic and transphobic that it will take not only re-training, but years of just cleaning house - all those good old boys of Chuck Ryan’s and Terry Stewart’s need to go in order to turn this Titanic around.

That isn’t about to happen if Jan Brewer  is left to her own devices here, though, because she has been unmoved by the needless tragic deaths, the abysmal medical care,  or the DOC’s brutal response to those trying to simply flee the violence - and its not like I haven’t been emailing her staff my blog posts all this time - they know, at least, even if she doesnt. No matter what new atrocity is perpetrated on prisoners at the AZ DOC, Jan stands by her man, and so is either completely fooled by him and sheltered from public opinion, or she is fully aware of all that I’ve told you about, and is flat out lying to you in that May letter. If that’s the case, I’d like to know why they’re so damned determined to keep the DOJ out of their prisons.

Either way, be it due to ignorance or complicity with evil, Jan Brewer has consistently failed to provide any leadership around protecting prisoners - not even the children. She says that Arizona is a “leader” in protecting our most vulnerable people, especially kids and the mentally ill. After all, everything she’s done to improve mental health care and child protection is going to be her legacy - which is truly sad, because she hasnt done much on those fronts short of the medicaid expansion, which was to save the hospitals from going under as much as it was for the good of the poor here.

I dont know if she recalls - or ever even knew - that the last kid to suicide at the Adobe Mountain Detention Center run by the AZ Department of Juvenile Corrections did so after some of the other kids relentlessly bullied him for being gay and mentally ill. It seems the staff didn’t know how to deal with either queer kids or serious mental illness. I hope they do now. Charles Flanagan who took over the AZDJC several years ago, has not invited nearly the scrutiny of his department by me that Ryan has, so he might be doing something right there - or at least not so horribly wrong as his former boss. I’ll be terribly disappointed if he advised the Governor not to comply with PREA as well, though.

What I’m saying here is that Jan Brewer is either deliberately whitewashing the prison picture here, or she just doesn’t know what she’s talking about when it comes to prison rape, plain and simple. I can verify myself that Chuck Ryan knows everything I’ve told you of and more because most of what was reported to me along those lines I passed on to him, personally. I have lots of emails documenting it all.

The problem is that Ryan doesn’t tell the truth about any of this, either - he even insists to the legislature that there’s NO SOLITARY CONFINEMENT practiced at the AZ DOC (that’s just semantics, but the legs accept his answer as evidence that the ACLU is hysterical and over-reacting) -  so you can’t count on him to give you an accurate assessment of whether or not the AZ DOC is doing its job when it comes to protecting prisoners from violence, exploitation,  and rape.

No, Mr. Holder, you really need to come talk to me and the families I work with- not just have the FBI spy on me and my buddies in black. Look at my files and analyze my data yourselves. Visit my correspondents. Chat with former employees like former Eyman DW Carl Toersbijns or former Perryville officer Gary Bullock, former ASPC-Lewis Lieutenant Chuck Bauer, former Corizon employee, Teresa Short, AZ State Representative Chad Campbell, who has called for Ryan’s resignation, or any number of other parties to this disaster who I could introduce you to so you can verify mine and the the prisoners’ accounts of prison conditions and the many assaults on their safety - including sexual assaults and exploitation -  in the AZ DOC.

While you’re at it, subpoena the records from the AZ Corrections and Peace Officers Association - they had thousands of DOC employees sign onto a letter of no confidence in Chuck Ryan to Jan Brewer not two years into his tenure. That letter alleged that, among other things:

“...There exists, within ADOC administration, a well-known pattern of obstructing the disclosure of hazards in time to prevent accidents, injury, illness, and deaths. Tragically, in these instances, danger is not "imminent" - it is past, and too late to respond. Employees are routinely ordered to falsify documents and when they proactively seek to report identified hazards, they face punishment and retaliation. Obtaining an accurate account of the range and extent of violations will be difficult from records alone. It is unlikely that ADOC will disclose information without well-planned intervention by authorities.”

These are strikingly similar to the allegations that prisoners make, which are often dismissed as  “unsubstantiated”. The Governor completely ignored the union’s letter, by the way, so its not the credibility of the source that's really the issue - it’s simply a critique she doesn’t want to hear.

In addition to the letters I get from current AZ DOC prisoners, I’ve reviewed hundreds of  death reports since the the start of the current administration. I call tell you that prisoners routinely die of both indifference and  outright abuse here, and Charles Ryan’s DOC sometimes uses their Criminal Investigations Unit to cover up homicides they didn’t feel like pursuing or listing for the feds as such.  Like PC and SP. The AZ DOC’s inspector general’s office didn’t even have the decency to tell PC's mother that his death was more likely than not a homicide, instead of a suicide. They just left her believing her child had taken his life. Fortunately, PC’s mom never bought it and had her own autopsy done - which revealed that there was plenty of evidence he was murdered the DOC never even bothered to look at...

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I dont know if the CIU is corrupt or just has an irresponsible ethos that has no regard for the survivors of victims of violence in their custody. Maybe they are all just lazy - though I suspect the Ryan administration calculated that they would be more liable to a mother whose child was murdered instead of one whose child committed suicide in custody, and decided that if she wasn’t going to sue over  a suicide, they better not tell her it was murder, or someone will start to dig...

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In any case, the DOC can’t be trusted to investigate themselves and be forthright with their discoveries, and the ACLU is already busy with the health care and psychiatric concerns, including the abuse of solitary confinement for mentally ill prisoners. That’s why we need the feds in on this matter of prisoner safety and prison rape now. Charles Ryan’s Criminal Investigations Unit has no credibility with the prisoners, the staff, or the advocates who know what’s going on in there. Nor do his media and legislative liaisons - they outright lie to the public and elected officials about the heinous behavior of their employees and the corporate jackals who feed off the imprisoned population. Just ask the journalists who have been covering the DOC under Ryan’s tenure - like KPNX’s Wendy Halloran, who won an Emmy for pursuing the truth about the suicide of Tony Lester, or the AZ Republic’s Bob Ortega, who did a fantastic series on “Arizona’s Other Death Row” - that is, the mainstream prison population, which he noticed was dying by suicide, drug overdose, and homicide at unusually high rates after Ryan had been in charge for awhile.

I once had a contact at the DOJ’s Special Litigation Section - Aaron Zisser. I even sent him all the death records my mother bought from the AZ DOC for me to analyze. But I think Special Litigation abandoned AZ awhile ago, perhaps thinking the ACLU et al have it covered. Not hardly.  And Ryan knows no one will hold him accountable for prison rape if the feds don’t - just look at his annual reports. For the past two years in the Five-Year Plans, Director Ryan has managed to invisibilize rape victims in his custody - its not even an institutional goal to reduce the incidence of sexual assaults in the prisons anymore, much less a priority.

Do you understand where I’m coming from here, Mr Holder?

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By the way, Arizona’s sole Protection & Advocacy authority, the AZ Center for Disability Law, won’t help or visit or investigate abuse reports from SMI prisoners under any circumstances. It appears that they only joined Parsons v Ryan in name because they were coerced into doing so. Now, they are the only ones in this state with the authority to get into those prisons on demand to see disabled individuals reporting abuse, and yet they adamantly refuse to exercise it. Is that legal, for a P&A agency to flat out discriminate against an entire population of disabled people solely because the institution housing and abusing them is a prison or jail, instead of a school or a nursing home? If they refuse to exercise that authority, another agency should be identified that will do so, and should be funded to do so. That’s got to be unconstitutional.

Along those lines, I want to quote from a letter I received from the women’s prison just yesterday - this is from (a prisoner) on Death Row, in a building where other maximum security prisoners - like the mentally ill - are held as well. She (wrote) despite risking retaliation from the state because she is so troubled by what she’s hearing and is afraid the women who cry and plead all day and night are too mentally impaired, traumatized, and intimidated to know how to get help themselves via the grievance process and courts…

“They have watch cells below us and I’m very concerned about our mentally ill being pepper-sprayed and drug around naked by male guards and videoed by male guards over the simplest issue. They yell at the mentally ill, scare them. then when they don’t comply (usually strip out) they spray them. They are forced to strip out 3-4 times a day with male guards walking all over. I hear some of them crying “I don’t want to get naked”. I understand security, but not these measures on the mentally ill…”

That sounds like a violation of the agreement the DOC made with the AZDOC some 15 or so years ago to keep a sexual harassment/abuse CRIPA complaint from proceeding to trial, is it not? Let me remind you that I myself have a major mood disorder and PTSD - is this the kind of treatment I can expect as an American citizen in our women’s prisons, should I ever find myself there?

(She) also reports the male officers don’t announce themselves on Lumley. That comes as no surprise - as indicated by the good governor’s letter to you, the DOC doesn’t think it’s necessary for them to do so, even though they are citing women for sexual offenses if they accidentally expose themselves while changing, or toileting, or showering. You know as well as I that most women in prison - especially the severely mentally ill - are already traumatized. Best practices would not say that security demands the male guards come through without announcing themselves. Best practices in corrections now would look at trauma-informed care more closely than the security aspect of that  and say those women are being routinely retraumatized and violated by the AZ DOC’s policies and practices for no good penological reason. They are just not wanting to make sure female staff are available at all times for the women prisoners, though they are quite plentiful in the men’s prisons.

Well, I’ve covered a lot of ground, and there still so much more. I wish we could meet to discuss PREA and CRIPA matters further in person, but I know you have a lot on your hands already, so please have the appropriate staff contact me as soon as possible about this matter - I and the prisoners are requesting a DOJ CRIPA Investigation into these patterns and practices of violating prisoners civil rights, as well as the Governor’s decision to not bother with PREA mandates anymore. At the very least, you should call her out on that.

Thank you so much for reading this through, Mr Holder, if you’ve made it this far. I will be eagerly anticipating your reply. So will the prisoners and their loved ones.


Margaret Jean Plews