If ADC Director Ryan was the one who said that the report on Marcia Powell's death is just the "tip of the iceberg", then maybe I'd think he was being honest with us. But the editors of the Arizona Republic don't have a clue what they're speaking of here, even if they read that report themselves. Either that, or they're complicit.
It's just as impossible for the rest of us to see through ADC smokescreens now as it was four months ago. Ryan hasn't aired clean laundry in public, much less the dirty stuff. All that "candor" and "grit" is a bluff to make you think he's fully-disclosing; all the while he's deflecting attention away from the more entrenched problems in the AZ Department of Corrections ( which it is not clear was explored in this investigation despite the number of employees involved so casually in outright neglect and abuse).
A pat on the back and a "carry on" is the last thing I'd be giving him now. They have a twisted institutional culture. Tell me that's inherent in running prisons, and I'll just use it to support my case for abolition. The whole system is evil. Incarceration in and of itself is violence.
Anyway, I'm with Stephen Lemons. I think Ryan should shine some real light on the place and come totally clean, or step down.
Ironic that Ryan just received a hefty sum of money to beef up staff and salaries for the "brave and committed officers of the ADC". Nothing was said by either him or Governor Brewer when she authorized it about spending a dime of that money on alleviating the brutalization, medical neglect, or substandard conditions of prisoners sleeping in "boats" on the floor in over-crowded, understaffed, poorly-maintained facilities.
Before we go around congratulating him for hanging a few bad apples out to dry (while the rest of the orchard continues to rot), I think we should be asking why this came as such a shock to him in the first place. Listening to former guards, ex-prisoners, and family members of women currently in Perryville, I can say this report probably incites universal outrage, but hardly surprise - except at what we haven't heard it reference yet.
If Ryan's door were a bit more open and he really wanted to know if his employees were indifferent or sadistic towards their prisoners, he would know. Every one else knows what's going on in there, and while many people are afraid to speak of it, his ignorance is actually a little hard to buy. The scope of this corruption - the systematic dehumanization that resulted in Marcia's death - suggests that this is not just a "case" of abuse or a "series of miscommunications", but rather evidence of how the system typically works, not how it is broken.
All those guards weren't just having a bad day - they treat folks like that all the time, and the rest are complicit whenever they are silent about the cruelty they see - which is far too often. Granted, this was Janet's and Schriro's mess left for Ryan to clean up in short order, but he's been a part of that institution long enough in influential enough positions to have played a role in cultivating the current culture there.
So, that's my intro to the Arizona Republic's attempt today to sweep this whole affair under the carpet and make Director Ryan out to be considerably more noble than he is. Clearly they won't be doing any serious investigations into the state prisons. That means it's up to the rest of us.
Corrections boss' candor laudableCorrections officers at Arizona's prisons are entrusted with gritty, difficult, dangerous and largely thankless duties.
For that, they deserve our thanks.
But, like any of us, they are expected to abide by certain standards of behavior. As state employees, they have a public trust and explicit policies to guide them. As human beings, they must answer to their conscience.
A report last week on the death of a mentally ill inmate at the Perryville women's prison in Goodyear tells us 16 state Department of Corrections employees failed to meet many of those standards, including the ones regarding human decency.
The department's 3,000-page report tells us - often in surprisingly unvarnished terms - the depth of the abuse of Marcia Powell, 48, who died after standing, unprotected, in a holding pen in the searing heat for four hours on May 19.
There are details still not released. Because the 16 disciplined employees may appeal the report's conclusions, their names remain unknown. And there are facts still in dispute, such as whether Powell, whose body temperature when she was found had reached 108 degrees, was provided water.
But the report makes clear that established procedures and policies guiding prisoner treatment were ignored on that fateful day.
As a result, three employees have been fired, two have resigned in lieu of being fired, 10 have been suspended for up to two weeks and one employee has been demoted. Two others will face discipline upon returning from medical leave.
"This is the most significant example of abuse that I'm aware of that an inmate had to endure," said Charles Ryan, interim corrections director. "Frankly, that's just unconscionable. That is an absolute failure on the part of the department and its employees."
The thoroughness and bluntness of the report, which was prepared by the Corrections Department's Office of the Inspector General, are reminiscent of an investigation by the U.S. Marine Corps into the deadly crash of one of its fighter jets into a San Diego neighborhood last December.
Not everyone will be satisfied. Longtime prisons watchdog Donna Leone Hamm acknowledges the depth of the investigation but contends it reveals only the "tip of the iceberg" regarding problems with the prison system. Perhaps so.
Whatever the outcome of this tragic incident, the final chapter must begin with a thorough review of the facts. Investigators have done a good job of starting us toward that conclusion.
But one of the most gratifying outcomes of this tragedy is the determined sense of openness and honesty displayed by the interim director of the Department of Corrections. Charles Ryan aired a lot of dirty department laundry in authorizing this report. Tough as that might have been, good will come of his grit.
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