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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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Wexford slapped for negligence: Silence on Botulism?

I've been hearing nothing but complaints about Wexford since they took over - especially about the delays in getting prescribed medications to people. The biggest snafu next to the Hep C incident seems to be the 4 cases of Botulism at Eyman in August, though, which no one is talking about. Check out the excerpts from the letter below. Three of the botulism cases went undetected for over a week, despite the fact that the first guy who got ill was on life support and the three who ate with him (no, it wasn't hooch - they were cooking food in their cell) were begging for medical care - which they were repeatedly denied - as their symptoms progressed. One guy told the guards it was hooch they got sick from just because that was the only way the guard would take him to medical. I'd think the CDC would have something to say about the prison medical (and security) staff blowing off something this significant...

------From ASPC-Eyman (September 3, 2012)----


--------from the AZ Republic------

Arizona fines provider of prison health care
by Craig Harris - Sept. 28, 2012 

The Republic |

The Arizona Department of Corrections has levied a $10,000 fine against Wexford Health Sources Inc., a new private medical-care provider for inmates that is accused of improperly dispensing medicine  and wasting state resources.

The DOC called on Wexford to fix staffing problems, properly distribute and document medication for inmates, show a sense of urgency and communicate better with the state when problems occur.

Wexford was fined over the actions of a nurse who caused a hepatitis C scare in August at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Lewis in Buckeye, and for failing to properly report the problem to authorities.

Corrections Director Charles Ryan in a statement said the state's demands, called a cure notification, give the state and Wexford an opportunity to "improve communications and ensure the health care  needs of the inmates incarcerated by the State of Arizona are being met."

Ryan was not available to answer questions. Bill Lamoreaux, a DOC spokesman, declined to answer specific questions about the matter.

 Wexford was hired after the Republican-controlled Arizona Legislature pushed to privatize inmate health care to save money. The DOC in strongly worded letters to Wexford alleges the company forced the  state to use public employees to fix its deficiencies. The amount of wasted tax dollars was not disclosed. Arizona houses close to 40,000 inmates.

Lamoreaux declined to answer if taxpayers were still saving money with Wexford's services.

The Pittsburgh-based company took over inmate care July 1 after winning a $349 million, three-year contract. The company plans to appeal the fine, according to Wexford spokesman Jason Rose. Wexford, in a letter to Ryan, contends the conditions of health care in the state prison system were poor and problems existed prior to privatization.

The Arizona Republic learned of the punishment after filing a public records request Friday. The state on Sept. 21 sent a seven-page letter to Wexford outlining the company's alleged deficiencies, according to  documents obtained under the Arizona Public Records Law. The state on Friday notified Wexford it had until Oct. 22 to respond to the notice.

In that letter, the DOC says:

A Wexford nurse on Aug. 17, at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Perryville in Goodyear, improperly administered medication to an inmate by having the inmate "lick the powdered medication from her own hand," instead of putting the medication in a small cup of water.

In August, the state learned that "a significant number of inmates may not have been receiving their medications as prescribed due to expired prescription(s) and inappropriate renewals or refills." The state said Wexford showed a "lack of urgency" to correct the problem, and the state had to deploy staff "to identify inmates in need of medication renewals."

An inmate was found hanging from a sheet in his housing unit in Florence on Aug. 23. The state determined that the inmate had not received his psychotropic medication for the entire month of August,  prior to his hanging, and Wexford's failure to deliver the medication was a "significant, non-compliance issue." Records do not indicate if the inmate survived.

On Aug. 27, a nurse hired by Wexford contaminated a vial of insulin, potentially exposing roughly 100 inmates at the state prison in Buckeye to hepatitis C. Another Wexford nurse was aware of the problem
Aug. 27, but she did not file an incident report until Sept. 4, violating policy. The state was forced to deploy additional compliance monitoring staff to correct the problem. It said Wexford failed to follow established nursing protocols, mismanaged documents and engaged in inadequate and inaccurate communication.

At the Goodyear prison, meanwhile, a known case of whooping cough, a reportable infectious disease, went unreported to DOC staff and Wexford's state-level management for 30 days, indicating a "lack of
urgency" and a "lack of awareness of the situation's potential seriousness."

"This is more proof that privatization is not saving us money, not providing better services and is not any more efficient," said Caroline Isaacs, program director for the prison watchdog group American Friends Service Committee. "While the state clearly had its problems, just inserting another layer to the bureaucracy is no way to address the problems, and it complicates the matter."

Wexford, in a letter to Ryan, said it believed in being held accountable, but added the DOC "must recognize that the system that was in place less than 90 days ago was extremely weak." Wexford also
said 34 people who were previously in state prison management positions were hired by the state as monitors, and that has created a void in "leadership and institutional knowledge that Wexford Health is
working hard to fill."

Wexford said those monitors are the same people who allowed the system to get to its current state, and they have interfered with Wexford's efforts to provide appropriate health-care services to inmates.

Before the problems in Arizona, Wexford had issues in other states.

Clark County, Wash., declined to renew a contract with Wexford in 2009 at its county jail and juvenile-detention center after complaints that Wexford was not dispensing medications to inmates in a timely fashion.

And New Mexico terminated a statewide contract with Wexford in 2007 after an audit by that state's legislative finance committee found shortages of physicians, dentists and other prison medical staff, and
noted that Wexford had failed to issue timely reports on the deaths of 14 inmates the previous year.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Seawright Prison Justice Project organizing.

I've been pretty swamped with letters from prison lately, and it's pretty much all bad news. Assaults are so prevalent that guys are having to get smashed or stabbed on several different yards before their protective custody applications are finally approved. I'm in a heated battle with the DOC over the violence they allow to be perpetrated against gay prisoners in particular. Mentally Ill prisoners are racking up tickets for refusing to house where they don't feel safe, and being punished with higher classifications that justify placing them in solitary and Supermax.

I know it sounds crazy, but from everything I'm seeing and hearing go on in the prisons right now, Arizona is actually building 500 new Supermax beds to classify the victims of extortion and violence into needing - particularly those who are mentally impaired - when they seek the protection of the state. That's instead of locking up the guys demanding to see their paperwork at every yard and ordering them to be hurt for the pettiest of infractions. Kill or be killed over bullshit, is what it comes down to, and good for all the guys who call it that and walk away knowing they just got a Kill On Sight jacket put on them. They want to go home to their kids someday, and few really want to keep anyone else from getting home to theirs.

I'm also hearing from families of prisoners who have been deteriorating for months waiting for their medication or a specialist consult to be arranged by Wexford. Wexford has a 1-800-we-hate-prisoners "help line" for families to call (okay, it's really 1-855-890-6307 ), but I was told not to waste my time, and instead got the contact info for the DOC's Director of Health Services in case I ran into any problems regarding health care delivery for prisoners. 

That fellow, Richard Pratt, says he passes my concerns on to the appropriate parties, and I guess I have no reason to disbelieve him. The problem may simply be that Wexford just doesn't care what he has to say, either, because we're having a hell of a time getting decent medical care to prisoners at ASPC-Phoenix/ Flamenco, which is the mental health yard. My friend there went for almost a week without any of the cream he needed when his interferon treatment caused him to break out in boils all over his body. He got visibly agitated about the oozing and pain after 5 days, so instead of filling the prescription he needed for relief they placed him on a suicide watch to make him suffer under closer observation. Brilliant, eh?

I already posted on the stuff I've been hearing from Perryville; it's all pretty bad across the state, but the women are especially vulnerable when buried in the misogynistic heart of any police institution, especially Chuck Ryan's prison system.

Anyway, my mailbox is overflowing these days and it may take me longer to get back to folks than it used to, but I want prisoners to keep on writing if they need help or if they have abuses to report for me to follow up on. I can't promise anything, but if there's something I can do to help even one person survive that place, I'll try. I've been organizing with some friends and families of prisoners lately - people are really rolling up their sleeves and giving to the cause, so I'm not so alone in trying to keep on top of my correspondence and expenses anymore. 

Speaking of organizing: The Seawright Prison Justice Project is hosting meetings at my place every Sunday this fall - contact me for the address and to confirm time ( Generally speaking, families come by in the mornings (10-noon) to do case management and advocacy type stuff, while the anarchists tend to come out at night (6pm). Go like the page if you want to join us, and keep posted.

Scottsdale PD and the Wrongful death of John Loxas.

-----------from the American Civil Liberties Union-----

September 24, 2012
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666;

PHOENIX -   The family members of John Loxas, Jr., who was killed instantly after being shot in the forehead while holding his infant grandson, today filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Scottsdale and the Scottsdale Police Department. The 50-year-old Scottsdale man was shot in February by Officer James Peters without warning and despite having no weapon and posing no threat.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Loxas' daughter, Alexandria Loxas, and his father John Loxas, Sr. They are being represented by attorneys with the Chicago-based law firm of Loevy & Loevy and the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona. The plaintiffs seek an unspecified amount of damages.
"My father was my best friend," said Alexandria Loxas, 23, whose son, Neo, now 14 months old, fell to the ground after her father was shot. "I felt safe knowing I had him in our lives because he was always there to protect us, and now he's gone forever."

In addition to listing Officer Peters as a defendant, the lawsuit also names Scottsdale Police Chief Alan Rodbell, arguing he failed to implement adequate policies to hold the City of Scottsdale and abusive officers accountable.   Officer Peters was involved in an unprecedented seven shootings over the past ten years - six of them fatal. A Scottsdale Police Department official acknowledged that Peters' history of shooting civilians was "an anomaly in our department, and in most departments." Peters also had a long history of excessive use of force against civilians, including dozens of incidents involving Tasers; he was the subject of four separate citizen complaints in the three months leading up to the fatal shooting of Loxas.

"There may well be no other police officer in the country who has been involved in more fatal shooting incidents over this time period," said attorney John Loevy of Loevy & Lovey. "Our lawsuit alleges that the Department had no business trusting him with a gun after he had killed so many other Scottsdale residents."

The incident that led to Loxas' death occurred shortly after 6 p.m. on February 14th, when police officers showed up at his house after he got into a dispute with his neighbors who called police.  Several Scottsdale police officers arrived at the house and confronted Loxas while he was standing in the doorway of his home. He was unarmed and holding his grandson in his arms. Without any warning, Officer Peters shot Loxas in the forehead with a scope-equipped rifle, killing him instantly. None of the other officers at the scene fired a weapon.

There is no indication that since starting as Police Chief in 2003, Defendant Rodbell has ever determined that a   shooting by a Scottsdale officer that resulted in death was improper or outside of police department policy.  The complaint outlines the inadequacies in the city's internal review process for officer-involved fatal shootings, including the failure to obtain testimony from civilian witnesses and the reliance on the involved officers' self-serving version of events.

For example, on November 7, 2008, two SWAT team officers shot David Hulstedt in the back, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.  Despite the fact that Hulstedt - like Loxas - was unarmed and holding a child in his arms, Rodbell found the shooting justified and "within policy."  A federal court judge later concluded that "no reasonable officer could have believed that shooting David without warning, while he calmly walked back toward his house with the young child over his head, was a proper means of protecting [the child's] safety."

"What we have here is the total absence of meaningful review by the Scottsdale Department and City of Scottsdale even for deadly shootings done without warning and involving unarmed civilians," said ACLU of Arizona Legal Director Daniel Pochoda. "The clear message to Scottsdale officers, including Peters, has been: there will be no consequences, no loss of gun privileges, no matter how questionable or illegal the nature of the shooting."

In addition to Loevy and Pochoda, the plaintiffs also are being represented by Elizabeth Mazur and Elizabeth Wang of Loevy and Loevy, and Kelly J. Flood and James Duff Lyall of the ACLU of Arizona.
Click here to read the complaint that was filed today.

police brutality protest in Old Town Scottsdale
February 25, 2012

Sunday, September 23, 2012

ACLU: 2012 PREA Standards and LGBTI Prisoners.



New Federal Standards Offer Unprecedented Protections to LGBTI Prisoners

May 21, 2012
Last week, the Department of Justice released the long-awaited Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) regulations, representing the first time that the federal government has issued national standards to help end sexual abuse in correctional facilities. The regulations are two years late and a lot of harm has been done in their absence, but now they will help protect important constitutional and human rights and ensure safe and fair correctional facilities that assist prisoners in rehabilitation rather than needlessly brutalizing them. This is the final of three blogs marking the occasion.

Yesterday the Department of Justice (DOJ) released the long-awaited National Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Prison Rape. These standards – the first of their kind—create an historic opportunity to put an end to the epidemic of sexual abuse in prison, which disproportionately affects prisoners who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or have intersex conditions (LGBTI).
Sexual abuse in prisons is so common that it’s a subject of jokes, but it causes severe and lasting harm to thousands of people each year. A report just released by DOJ shows that almost one in 10 former state prisoners were sexually abused during their incarceration. For gay men, it was nearly four in 10. A separate survey reported that 15 percent of transgender people in prison were sexually assaulted; for transgender African-Americans, the number was 35 percent.
The new standards aim to prevent sexual abuse from occurring in the first place, and to detect and appropriately respond to it when it does happen. We are thrilled that DOJ adopted several recommendations we made as part of a coalition of LGBTI advocacy groups, including:
•  A prohibition against segregated units for LGBTI prisoners, which can stigmatize them and increase the risk of abuse. 
•  Requiring consideration of a prisoner’s actual or perceived LGBTI status or gender non-conformity in assessing the risk for victimization.
•  Staff training on effective communication with LGBTI and gender nonconforming prisoners, which will help prevent abuse and encourage reporting when it occurs.
•  Case-by-case determination of housing assignments for prisoners who are transgender or have intersex conditions – no more assignment based on genital status alone.  
•  Allowing prisoners who are transgender or have intersex conditions to shower separately from others, removing one of the most vulnerable situations for these prisoners.
•  A prohibition against physical exams of transgender prisoners and those with intersex conditions solely for the purpose of determining genital status, which can be humiliating and traumatic and also an opportunity for sexual abuse by staff.
•  Strict limits on the use of isolating protective custody.
These standards have the power to save lives and transform the way LGBTI prisoners are treated in prison. We now need to ensure that they are fully enforced.
The standards were adopted by DOJ to comply with the Prison Rape Elimination Act, a law enacted by Congress in 2003. They apply to all facilities operated by the federal Bureau of Prisons as well as adult prisons and jails, juvenile detention facilities, police lock-ups, and community confinement facilities that receive federal funds.
Unfortunately immigration detention facilities have been left out of the protection of the standards even though sexual abuse of immigration detainees is a pervasive problem. Indeed, a report issued last year by the ACLU of Arizona documented sexual abuse of gay and transgender immigration detainees, including a gay man who was raped by another detainee and then put in protective custody and left completely alone, where he kept reliving the trauma. A memorandum issued by President Obama requires the Department of Homeland Security to develop its own standards over the next eight months for immigration detention facilities. We will be urging DHS to adopt equally rigorous standards to protect immigration detainees.

Walshe: The ordeal of being gay in prison.

I've been hearing from queer prisoners under attack at the AZ Department of Corrections lately, and will have some excerpts form their letters in the weeks to come as I struggle to get at least one of them into protective custody before he gets hurt. In the meantime, this brief article is a good way to open the discussion - I've been impressed with how hard Sadhbh Walshe has worked on exposing human rights violations in our prisons this past year. Check out her other work at the Guardian...

---from the Guardian----

The grim truth of being gay in prison.
Sadhbh Walshe
March 7, 2012

In 1984, when Calvin Burdine was awaiting sentencing for allegedly stabbing his gay lover to death, the prosecuting attorney encouraged the jury in his closing remarks to award Burdine the death penalty, rather than life in prison, on the grounds that sending a gay man to prison was akin to sending a kid to a candy store. After 17 minutes of deliberation, the jury obliged and sentenced Burdine to die. His death sentence was later overturned (mostly because Burdine's public defender had slept through much of his trial), but the homophobic thinking – that prison is some kind of paradise for gay men – lingers on.

The reality of life in prison for homosexuals and transgender individuals does not appear to reflect this myth. One young man named Rodney, imprisoned for fraud and check-forging, sent me a detailed account of his life so far in prison. He described a litany of brutal rapes, assaults, beatings and, eventually, the total abandonment of his male identity as his only means of survival in the hyper-masculine and often homophobic prison environment. His account suggests that far from being a paradise, prison for gay men can be a living hell.

Within days of his first entering prison, the 23-year-old Rodney claimed he was the victim of three separate sexual assaults, involving five different inmates. The prison he was first sent to did actually have a separate tier for gay inmates, but according to Rodney, because he did not "appear overly effeminate" during his classification, he was placed with the general population; and because it was supposedly rare to have a gay person slip through the cracks of the system, his fellow inmates took full advantage.

"My first week or so in general population was hell on earth. Physical, mental and emotional torture. After being raped, I performed acts by request. It was understood and expected. I had no means to protect myself, being only 23 and scared for my life.
"I dared not report anything because I was clearly warned that my life would be in jeopardy should I do so. I quickly learned that a snitch is a worse label than a fag.
"Against popular opinion, jail is not heaven for a homosexual. Nothing is heaven about being intimidated into performing sexual acts. It is also rape, just like the three forcible rapes were.
"True enough, I am attracted to men and always have been, but in life [outside], it's my choice whom I share a bed with; it's intimate and personal. Having my mouth and anus aggressively penetrated by several strangers is anything but."

He went on to report how one of his rapists took a fancy to him and "purchased" him from the tier rep for $20. Even though he was thereby essentially enslaved by his new "prison husband", he was grateful – because his days of "being the communal bitch were over". He said he tried to do whatever his prison husband wanted or needed, including cleaning his cell, washing his clothes, preparing his food, and whatever else his "husband" wanted or needed, including, of course, being available for sex – because "he did what I wanted and needed – kept other inmates off me."

As time wore on and "husbands" came and went, Rodney perfected the art of being a "prison ho", as his only means of surviving intact. This involved establishing a female name and identity, learning how to speak when spoken to, "respect his man" and emasculating himself to the point where he could not stand while urinating. There is nothing about the experience that could be considered enjoyable.

"I've heard before that 'jail is a faggot's dream.' I assure you that cliché is not the case. Gay men who do not attempt to hide their sexuality are forced into passive and submissive roles. To live with some standard of equality, we have to trade in our manhood. We are completely emasculated. It's a form of technical castration. The role of woman is forced upon us and any rebuttal is considered a sign of disrespect. My way of thinking about myself and my sexuality has been permanently altered."

It's difficult to assess how typical Rodney's prison experience is, but numerous studies conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, based on anonymous inmate surveys, have shown that gay and transgender inmates are among the most targeted groups for sexual victimization. Until fairly recently, little has been done to help them. Just Detention International (JDI), an organization whose aim is to eradicate prison rape (pdf), is trying to change that.

JDI has been working with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to establish "sensitive needs yards" (pdf), where gay, transgender and other vulnerable inmates can serve out their time in safety. Several prisons operated by the CDCR have now established sensitive needs yard with some success, and the JDI is hoping that other states will adopt this model.

In the meantime, prisoners like Rodney have been forced to make their peace with their "prison ho" fate.
"I've grown to realize that I am a man and being a prison ho is an act."
It is not, however, an act that Rodney or any other inmate should be forced to perform.

Friday, September 21, 2012

NO PAPERS, NO FEAR: SB1070 is here.

 Driving without an AZ license 
is apparently cause to suspect one is in the country illegally

Funny how mine just got lost.

---------this in today from my friends at PUENTE---------

Today, SB1070 goes into effect.  The courts have failed us, allowing racial profiling to be made law.  Here in Maricopa County, we already live 1070 every day under Arpaio.  According to the Department of Justice, he enacts the 'worst case of racial profiling' they have ever seen.  Judge Bolton's recent ruling, to allow section 2b to take effect today, will only expand the human rights crisis in Arizona.  The police can no longer protect and serve our communities, but only racially profile us.

Ahora la SB1070 entro en efecto. Las cortes nos han fallado, dejando que el perfil racial se haga ley. Aquí en el condado deMaricopa, ya vivimos con la SB1070 todo los días con Arpaio. Como el Departamento de Justicia a dicho ‘ Arpaio a cometido el peor caso de perfil racial’ que han visto. Hoy la juez Bolton a dejado que la sección 2b entre en efecto, esto solo incrementara la crisis de derechos humanos en Arizona. La policía ya no nos puede proteger y servir, solo detenernos por perfil racial.

We will remember today as not only the day that 1070 went into effect, threatening to separate our families and communities.  We will also remember today as the birth of a new era of the struggle for human rights, justice, and dignity in Arizona, a struggle that will not stop until we win.  We have seen that we can depend on no one but ourselves to turn the tide from hate to human rights.  We know that building our community's power is the way we will stop deportations and family separation.  We know that together we are strong and that together, we can overcome Arpaio, 1070, and police-ICE collaboration.  When we unite and take brave action, we are unstoppable.

Recordaremos este día no solo como el día que la SB1070 entro en efecto amenazando a separar nuestras familias ycomunidades. También recordaremos este día como el día que a nacido una nueva época de lucha por derechos humanos, justicia y dignidad en Arizona, una lucha que no parrara hasta que ganaremos. Hemos visto que no podemos depender en nadie mas que en nosotros para cambiar de odio a derechos humanos. Sabemos que construyendo el poder de nuestra comunidad es como pararemos las deportaciones y la separación de familias. Sabemos que juntos somos mas fuertes y podemos vencer a, SB1070, Arpaio, y la cooperación de policía e inmigración. Cuando nos unimos y tomamos acciones de valentía somos imparables.

So today, more than ever, we need you to join us in the struggle for human rights and dignity that is happening right now in Arizona.  As many before us have said, and as we know now is true, when injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.  This is the moment we fulfill our duty by organizing and growing the grassroots movement against hate, racism, and deportations.
Ahora mas que nunca necesitamos que nos acompañen en la lucha por los derechos humanos y la dignidad que esta pasando en Arizona. Como muchos antes de nosotros han dicho, y ahora sabemos que es verdad, cuando la injusticia se hace ley, la rebeldía se hace obligación. Este es el momento que efectuamos nuestra obligación en organizarnos y crecer el movimiento del pueblo contra el odio, racismo y las deportaciones.

Call to Struggle/Llamado a La Lucha:
1. WE FIGHT FEAR: We continue to organize our community  as we know that the way we will stop hate is by building a movement based on the power that already exists in our own families, neighborhoods, and communities.  As our members who travelled with the No Papers, No Fear Ride for Justice doing civil disobedience here and at the Democratic National Convention showed us, we are safer when we organize and come out of the shadows.  We have learned how to organize to stop deportations and family separation through know your rights trainings and by building peaceful neighborhood defense networks.   Send us an email at to join our next Curso de Defensa, or to help us organize one in your neighborhood.
1. LUCHAMOS CONTRA EL MIEDO: Organizando a nuestra comunidad, ya sabemos que pararemos el odio creando un movimiento basado en el poder que ya existe en nuestras familias, barrios y comunidades, como los que han viajado en la caravana Sin Papeles Sin Miedo nos han mostrado hacienda desobediencia civil aquí y en Carolina del Norte, estamos mas seguros cuando nos organizamos y salimos de las sombras. Sabemos organizar para parrar deportaciones y la separación de familias, ensenando los derechos y creando bases de redes de protección. Mándenos un mensaje para involucrarse en nuestro próximos curso de defensa.

2. WE FIGHT HATE:  SB1070 poses a moral dilemma that everyone must answer: will you comply with hate or will you side with the struggle for human rights and dignity?  We demand that every city, every police department, every school, and every institution in Arizona refuse to comply with SB1070 by not allowing their officers to racially profile.  To businesses, we ask your support in not complying with 1070 by becoming Human Rights Zones.  Those that do not we will boycott.
 2. LUCHAMOS CONTRA EL ODIO: La SB1070 crea un dilema moral que todos tendrán que contestar: cumplirás con el odio o estarás de el lado de los derechos humanos y la dignidad? Le pedimos a todas la ciudades, municipios, departamentos de policía, escuelas, o cualquier otra institución en Arizona que NO cumpla con la SB1070, no dejando que sus oficiales cometan violaciones de perfil racial a nuestra comunidad. A negocios les pedimos su apoyo al igual no cumplir con la ley y a negocios que estén al favor les haremos boicot.

3. WE FIGHT DEPORTATIONS: We know that Arizona cannot deport people on its own. President Obama can follow the brave example that undocumented people have set by taking immediate action to stop deporting Arpaio and 1070's victims by ending Secure Communities in Arizona.  Sign the petition at
3. LUCHAMOS CONTRA LAS DEPORTACIONES: Sabemos que Arizona no puede deportar a personas solo. El presidente Obama puede seguir la valentía que la gente indocumentada a mostrado y tomar acción inmediata y parar las deportaciones de las victimas de la SB1070 y Arpaio, con solo terminar el programa de comunidades seguras en Arizona firma la petición aquí

How you can get involved/Para involucrarte:
Tell your story: Share your experience of racial profiling.  The more we go public with what is happening to our community, the safer we are.  Contact us for support at
Cuenta tu historia: Comparte tu experiencia de perfil racial.  Lo mas que hablamos en publico sobre lo que pasa en nuestra comunidad, lo mas seguro estamos.  Escribenos por apoyo a
Stay informed: Follow us on Twitter @puenteaz and Like us on Facebook
Quedate informad@: Siguenos en Twitter @puenteaz y da nos Like en Facebook.
Share our updates: Spread the word on the human rights crisis happening in Arizona and the powerful ways we are fighting back
Comparte nuestros datos: Corre la voz sobre la crisis de derechos humanos pasando en Arizona, y las maneras poderosas que luchamos y resistimos.
Volunteer with the Puente Movement: There are so many ways to get involved in the struggle for human rights, from canvassing local businesses as part of our Human Rights Zone campaign, to fundraising, to teaching English classes, and so much more.  Email to get involved!
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ASPC-Tucson/Santa Rita: September Prison Riot.

UPDATE: OCTOBER 3, 2012: this account of prisoner unrest explains a lot more than the whole race riot thing alone did (click link below). The DOC has a  problem with racial violence for sure, but it's never just about race alone...

"He is concerned because many of the inmates are complaining they are not getting enough food and the doctor is concerned about the weight loss he has actually observed.  His says he has heard comments from many people that the real reason for the recent riots/disturbances at Tucson and Rynning is because of an underlying tension or stress among the inmate population due to (1) not enough food; (2) being denied medical care.  The DOC explained the reason for the riots to the media as "racial disturbances."

------original post (9/21/2012)-----

Several prisoners remain hospitalized from this; at least one is in ICU. Sounds like the DOC just let people have at it for half an hour, till these guys got too tired to fight. If anyone knows what really happened - particularly families of prisoners who were injured - please contact me, Peggy Plews at 480-580-6807 or at  I never believe the state's version of events.

Families trying to get information on their loved ones at Tucson/Santa Rita should probably call the AZ DOC Constituent Services' office at  602-364-3945 or in-state toll-free 1-866-333-2039

-------------Here's the DOC's UPDATE for Friday 9/21-----------


For Immediate Release

For more information contact:
Bill Lamoreaux
Jennifer Bowser

September 21, 2012
Disturbance Update

Tucson, Az – As a result of the disturbance yesterday in the Santa Rita Unit at ASPC-Tucson, two officers were taken to the hospital where they were treated and released. Eleven inmates were also transported out to the hospital for treatment to injuries sustained in the disturbance. Six of the inmates are still at the hospital in stable condition at this time. The other five inmates have been treated and returned back to the complex.

The Santa Rita Unit remains locked down, while this incident is investigated. The Santa Rita Unit will not have visitation this weekend. The other units of the complex are slowly returning to normal activities.
The fight started at the Santa Rita Unit around 5:30 p.m. yesterday, and involved approximately 200 inmates. Tactical Support Unit teams and on duty personnel were able to secure the yard with minimal force, including the use of pepper spray. Control of the unit was regained at approximately 6:00 p.m. No other units were involved.

ASPC-Tucson has 5,150 beds in custody levels of minimum, medium and close custody. Yesterday’s inmate count for the complex was 5,132. The Santa Rita Unit has a total of 727 inmates housed in 768 beds across four yards within the unit.

-----the original release from the AZ Department of Corrections-------

September 20, 2012

Disturbance locks down Tucson complex

Tucson, Az – A fight started at the Santa Rita Unit of the Arizona State Prison Complex Tucson earlier this evening, around 5:30 p.m., involving approximately 200 Hispanic and African-American inmates.  Tactical Support Unit teams and on duty personnel were able to secure the yard with no force required.  Control of the unit was regained at approximately 6 p.m.  No other units were involved.

All staff have been accounted for with one officer sustaining an injury to his rib cage.  Some inmates have sustained injuries.  The details of these injuries are not known at this time.   

All of the Tucson complex is on lockdown status at this time.  The Santa Rita Unit will remain locked down for several days, while this incident is investigated.

ASPC-Tucson has 5,150 beds in custody levels of minimum, medium and close custody.  Today’s inmate count for the complex is 5,132.  The Santa Rita Unit has a total of 727 inmates housed in 768 beds across four yards within the unit.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

SOS: ASPC-Perryville Conditions of Confinement.

September 20, 2012 

My friend Christy, a prisoner out at Perryville / Santa Cruz, dropped me a letter late last week that just came in yesterday. It was dated 9/14/12. Here's the update:

"I was called up to the Deputy Warden's office to talk about my kites. Here is what has been done:

Water was turned down (hot water off)

Coolers were purchased but they ran out of money to install them so that is still a problem
I was given tape to tape my vent for roaches
the exterminator is supposed to come out & spray inside and out
the back window is still broken does not close (we have a bag with tape covering it)
they power-washed the showers 
we still only have 2 showers working - the lady who was fixing them was out here on 9/11...
the doors are still having to be keyed for a total of 48 rooms - that is a fire hazard!"

All that happened in response to earlier complaints filed by her and a few of the other women prisoners, and while I brought some things to the  DOC's attention a couple of weeks ago, this happened before I made the following post which had new information, so I can't really claim the credit for getting them to clean things up there. Christy and these women who protested their conditions of confinement have my respect for their courage and persistence.

I plan to organize a prison watching group for Perryville, soon, so stay tuned.

Peggy Plews

----------Original post (9/16/12)----------

I received this anonymous letter this past week from ASPC-Perryville/Santa Cruz yard, and have since challenged Richard Pratt, the Director of Health Services for the AZ DOC, to take the lead in cleaning up the place since so many chronically and critically ill women are trying to survive more than just their sentences under these conditions. I also asked him to set me up with a tour - suggesting we go together unannounced, if things are really as hunky dory at Perryville as they want me to believe. We'll see what he says once he gets a chance to respond. I'm probably now considered an external Security Threat Group leader, so my chances of getting in - sans the orange jumpsuit and chains the DOC would no doubt like to see me in - may not be too good.

In addition to the letter below from Santa Cruz last week, I received another one the week before from the same yard stating that there's a huge roach infestation problem that wasn't mentioned below, as creatures can easily enter through the cracks in the walls and window sills. 

Furthermore, I've been told by several sources that many women haven't been getting their medications for most of the time that Wexford has been in charge of medical services - that's been since the beginning of July. Hopefully, Wexford's brilliant administrators have finally figured out how to get their drugs to Arizona from Pennsylvania (or Columbia, or China, or wherever they're really importing their prescriptions from).

Also not articulated in the letter below is my concern about the high rate of suicide and deaths from sheer neglect at ASPC-Perryville. Most of those have occurred on Lumley yard, though, not Santa Cruz. Lumley is the maximum security yard where female prisoners who are seriously mentally ill, defiant, assaultive, or on death row are typically held in isolation cells. The ACLU's lawsuit Parsons v Ryan enumerates many of the additional concerns I have about the conditions of confinement and medical/mental health care for the women across the prison complex. Lumley is where Marcia Powell was killed by the desert sun after being left in an outdoor cage for four hours - theoretically while on a suicide watch.

I'm planning to set up a "Perryville Prison Watch 101" meeting this fall for community members who are interested in bettering the chances these women have of surviving prison and coming out able to lead lives as "responsible citizens" again; we aren't going to change any of this without help from more of the ordinary People out here who believe this kind of abuse and neglect - in our names, with our money - is unacceptable. And for Women's History Month in March 2013 we'll be celebrating the history of women's resistance in prison. Stay tuned for more on all that.

Remembering some of the women who have died out at Perryville, the following photos were taken from a mural laid out by community members in front of the Phoenix Art Museum for Prisoners' Justice Day in August of this year. Some things at Perryville can be fixed with caulk and elbow grease that the women would put into it themselves, given the right resources, but the culture of contempt for prisoners that fosters this kind of neglect is going to take a lot more to change.

Brenda Todd, 44. 
Victim of institutional indifference.
(January 21, 2011)

 Susan Lopez, 35. 
Victim of suicide and psychiatric neglect.
(March 25, 2011)

Victim of a 10-minute suicide watch, bad policy, 
unconstitutional practices, and cruel and abusive guards.
(May 19, 2009)

-----------------received 9/13/2012--------------

"In the winter months, the heat is turned on by date rather than temperature. The heat runs full blast and the rooms get to be unbearably hot. The officers do not have the authority to turn the heat off, even if it is an unseasonably warm day. On a "warm" winter day, the room temperatures can reach the 90+ degree mark. The window cranks in most of the rooms are broken and do not open so there is no way to get any relief. This is absolutely cruel and unusual punishment.

In the summer months, the evaporative coolers or air conditioners are turned on by date rather than temperature. Some rooms have coolers, others have AC. In the early spring, the rooms are very cold. In the heat of the summer, when the humidity rises, the coolers do not work well. Once again the temperatures inside the rooms can reach the 90+ degree mark, with no way to get any relief. When the AC works, the rooms that have it are comfortable in the summer. The challenge is that they are often broken. As of this writing, the temperature outside is 113. The AC In my room and the 7 other attached rooms is not functioning at all. It has been out of service for the past 2 weeks. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I do not perspire very much. Extreme heat causes my muscles to cramp. I get very light headed and dizzy and ultimately vomit. I do not know if there is a medication of any kind of solution since I cannot seem to get to medical. Often we live in exceedingly hot, or exceedingly cold rooms with windows that do not open. Just another example of cruel and unusual punishment.

The Arizona sun can be punishing,. especially for those of us that have little or no tolerance for heat exposure. Lines for medical appointments, property pick up, state issue, and the store are often long. In the medical waiting area, shade and water are provided. Not much can be done to reduce the heat since the waiting area is outside. The wait can be several hours. The lines for property, state issue, and store are not in shaded areas. The wait is usually a couple of hours at best.

The mattresses in most of the cells are worn out. They are leaking black material of some kind. The coverings are cracked. The mattresses are thin and do not provide any kind of support or much protection from the metal bunks.

Many of the cells have cracks in the walls that leak rain water. In my cell, water seeps in only one corner so I am lucky that mine is not one of those that floods. However, in that corner mold is growing. In one of the rooms next to a shower, the mold is so bad that it is growing down the outside walls as well as the inside.

The showers leak gallons of water daily. Some of them have been leaking for years. The erosion of both the concrete and the metal support beams is clearly visible. I am not a building inspector, but I can clearly see that the iron railings and support beams are rusted clear through.

Hot water for showers is not always available. Sometimes we have no hot water for days at a time. When this happens, there is no hot water for washing the trays or kitchen utensils either. This has been an on-going challenge since I have been here (1997). Budgets were not restricted for the majority of those years so I find it difficult to understand the situation. The trays, sporks, and cups in the kitchen are frequently dirty. Dirt is actually embedded in the trays and sporks where the plastic coating has been worn away.

On 16 yard, dinner "sacks" are passed out at 5pm Monday-Friday. Breakfast starts being served at 8 or 8:30 on Saturday mornings. 15+ hours between meals. ON weekends, we are provided with breakfast and hot dinner, just two meals. The ladies from 14 yard walk to our kitchen and eat breakfast around 7am. The kitchen on 14 yard has been closed and the building has been condemned. At 5pm the ladies from 14 yard come to our kitchen once again for dinner. Our yard has dinner after all of them have left the yard. That is usually around 6:30 or so. For those that do not have money to purchase food from the store, it is a very long time between breakfast and dinner.

Adequate clothing is no longer provided. I waited over 6 months to have 2 pairs of panties that were lost in the laundry replaced. per policy, we are allowed to exchange clothing or linens once every 90 days. The challenge is that most of the time, state issue does not have the size or the items that are needed. On this unit we have been out of medium panties, small pants and medium t-shirts for months. When I tried to exchange clothing I was told sizes 3x were the only one available. I weigh 120 pounds! Incoming inmates are not provided with the policy-stated issue.

Each inmate is provided with 1 roll of toilet paper for the week and 12 sanitary napkins for the month. Further discussion of this is probably unnecessary."

EJI and children: Life still = Death in prison.

A little catching up on the sentencing of children as adults, with help from Equal Justice Initiative...

Death in prison sentences for 13 and 14-year olds.


Dominic Culpepper has been sentenced to imprisonment until death in Florida for a crime committed at age 14. 

 View Slideshow

In the United States, dozens of 13- and 14-year-old children have been sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole after being prosecuted as adults. While the United States Supreme Court recently declared that death by execution is unconstitutional for juveniles, young children continue to be sentenced to die in prison with very little scrutiny or review. EJI has documented 73 cases where children 14 years of age or younger have been condemned to death in prison. Almost all of these kids currently lack legal representation and in most of these cases the propriety and constitutionality of their extreme sentences has never been reviewed.

Most of the sentences imposed on these children were mandatory: the court could not give any consideration to the child’s age or life history. Some of the crimes charged against these children do not involve homicide or even injury. Many of these children were convicted for offenses where older teenagers or adults were involved and primarily responsible for the crime. Nearly two-thirds of these adolescents are children of color.

EJI has launched a litigation campaign to challenge death in prison sentences imposed on young children. We are also working to increase public awareness in order to reform policies that reflect a lack of perspective and hope for young children.


California Supreme Court Rules 110-years-to-life Sentence Imposed on a Juvenile Is Unconstitutional

In People v. Caballero, the California Supreme Court unanimously struck down the 110-years-to-life sentence imposed on Rodrigo Caballero for nonhomicide offenses when he was 16 years old. The court concluded that the sentence, which required Caballero to serve more than 100 years before being eligible for parole, denied him the opportunity to “demonstrate growth and maturity” to try to secure his release, in contravention of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Graham v. Florida.

Supreme Court Ruling Banning Mandatory LWOP for Juveniles Gets Nationwide Editorial Support

Editorials across the country have expressed support for last Monday's U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs holding that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger convicted of homicide are unconstitutional.

U.S. Supreme Court Bans Mandatory Life-Without-Parole Sentences for Children Convicted of Homicide

The U.S. Supreme Court today issued an historic ruling in Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs holding that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger convicted of homicide are unconstitutional. Kuntrell Jackson and Evan Miller, sentenced to life in prison without parole at 14, are now entitled to new sentencing hearings. Today’s ruling will affect hundreds of individuals whose sentences did not take their age or other mitigating factors into account.

Child Offenders Can Recover

Caril Ann Fugate following her arrest in 1958 at age 14. Register file photo.
The Des Moines Register this week detailed the story of Caril Ann Fugate, a 14-year-old girl whose 18-year-old boyfriend involved her in a sensationalized series of crimes in Nebraska in 1958. Despite being sentenced to life in prison, Caril became a model prisoner and her sentence was commuted. She was released after serving 18 years, worked as a medical aide, has never run afoul of the law, and is now a married retiree.

EJI Seeks Relief for Disabled Pennsylvania Child Sentenced to Die in Prison

Trina Garnett

In 1977, a 14-year-old mentally disabled girl was charged with second-degree murder after setting a fire that tragically killed two people in Chester, Pennsylvania. She was tried in adult court and sentenced to die in prison. EJI is now challenging her sentence and seeking relief for Trina Garnett, whose story is profiled in this month's issue of The Nation.

The Atlantic: An American Gulag, Part III.

Part III of an excellent series on why we should abolish these kinds of prisons in particular...don't think this doesn't go down in Arizona, either. The abuse of the mentally ill and the conditions in solitary confinement are why the ACLU has a class action lawsuit, Parsons v Ryan, in the works against the AZ Department of Corrections right now.

Support the campaign to stop the building of more supermax beds in our state here:  

ACLU-AZ Action Center


Supermax: The Constitution and Mentally Ill Prisoners

The Atlantic: June 20, 2012
By Andrew Cohen
The Eighth Amendment prohibits the "cruel and unusual punishment" of inmates. So how will the Bureau of Prisons defend itself at Supermax?
supermax-flo copy.jpg Reuters 
The first two parts of this series begin to tell the tale of the way a handful of mentally ill prisoners allege they are being treated at ADX-Florence, widely known as "Supermax" and commonly perceived as the most secure federal prison facility in America. So far, officially, the story is just a series of dramatic prisoner allegations of abuse, cruelty, and torture against prison officials and medical personnel. Soon, the Justice Department, on behalf of the Bureau of Prisons, will answer the long complaint filed Monday by five inmates at the southern Colorado prison.

Allegations are not evidence. But in this case, they raise profound questions about how the famous facility is run and whether it is wise as a matter of law and policy to have ceded so much power to the Bureau of Prisons, which controls, in near absolute terms, the treatment of the nation's federal prisoners. The lawsuit seeks no money damages but instead aims to require federal officials to treat mentally ill inmates in accordance with existing law. The case demands a measure of accountability from a sprawling bureaucracy that seems to answer to no one.

The plaintiffs and others named in the lawsuit -- there are 11 men in all and more will likely be added -- live in a world recognizable more from the work of Kafka and Dostoevsky than from modern American life. In the name of prison safety, or in the name of nothing at all, they are often treated like animals and, when they complain, they are punished. The Eighth Amendment prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment," and it's hard to imagine anything more cruel than punishing a mentally ill person for the manifestations of his illness. Yet this allegedly occurs regularly at the ADX/Supermax facility.

Indeed, one of the fundamental concepts in American law is that we generally do not criminalize conduct by people whose minds do not have the requisite "criminal intent" at the time of the commission of the crime. This is why we don't prosecute people who are adjudged to be mentally incompetent -- think Jared Loughner, the Tucson shooter -- and why "legal insanity" has for centuries been an affirmative defense to criminal conduct. A significantly mentally ill person, almost per se, cannot have the requisite intent to be culpable in any justifiable legal or moral sense.

The lawsuit is worthy of particular notice in part because it was spearheaded by serious attorneys like Ed Aro -- a partner at a law firm, Arnold & Porter, that has a long and admirable tradition of pro bono work on behalf of the voiceless. Also filing the pleading was Deb Golden and the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, another organization with a long history of groundbreaking reform litigation. Dozens of other earnest, well-meaning women and men have devoted a great deal of time and effort to serve as a tribune for the Supermax prisoners.

Nor should the timing of the case be underestimated. It comes at a time when more participants in the criminal justice system, and especially the nation's penal systems, are questioning the wisdom of America's current obsession with the concept of "solitary confinement" and other harsh punitive measures. Yesterday, for example, Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) held an important Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee hearing on the topic. Here's how the senator's office framed the issue in a press release before the event:
The hearing will focus on the human rights, fiscal and public safety consequences of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, jails, and detention centers. During the last several decades, the United States has witnessed an explosion in the use of solitary confinement for federal, state, and local prisoners and detainees. The hearing will explore the psychological and psychiatric impact on inmates during and after their imprisonment, fiscal savings associated with reduced use of solitary housing units, the human rights issues surrounding the use of isolation, and successful state reforms in this area.

Good questions, indeed. Our prison policies have evolved from generation to generation, but the law (and legal protections) don't appear to have caught up. Here is a link from the Innocence Project detailing the Capitol Hill testimony of six people who were wrongly convicted and spent time in solitary confinement. And here is how Charlie Samuels, the director of the Bureau of Prisons, opened his remarks to the subcommittee:
Inmate safety and well being is of the utmost importance to the bureau, as is the safety of our staff and the community at large. As such, we do all that we can to ensure that we provide outstanding care, treatment and programming to federal inmates, giving them the best opportunity for successful reentry to their communities...
When inmates are placed in restrictive housing there are varieties of significant safeguards in place to ensure inmates' due process rights are protected. Additionally, inmates' mental health is always a factor in decisions regarding segregated housing. Bureau psychologists are integrally involved in the restrictive housing placement process, and all staff who work in these units receive training and input from psychology services above and beyond our general staff training.
Samuels still has to answer for Supermax. And Senator Durbin need look no further than to the Florence, Colorado, federal prison for some of the answers to his questions. The Supermax lawsuit, styled Bacote v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, suggests that America is failing to adequately treat its mentally ill prisoners and, worse, that the punitive prison methods employed at ADX/Supermax are actually making previously sane inmates mentally ill. Part I of this series focused upon just such a story, about Jack Powers, whom the Bureau of Prisons essentially turned mad and now won't treat.

Go to the Bureau of Prisons' website and it tells you immediately that the goal of the massive federal bureaucracy is "Protecting Society and Reducing Crime." Yet, as the lawsuit suggests, Supermax practices do neither. "Society" is left unprotected because the prison doesn't adequately treat even those mentally ill prisoners who soon will be released back into the public. One of the named plaintiffs, John Narducci, is scheduled to be released in 2015, and another, Ernest Norman Shaifer in 2014.
From the website, here is how the Bureau of Prisons wants the world to perceive the core of its work:
The Federal Bureau of Prisons was established in 1930 to provide more progressive and humane care for Federal inmates, to professionalize the prison service, and to ensure consistent and centralized administration of the 11 Federal prisons in operation at the time.
Today, the Bureau consists of 117 institutions, 6 regional offices, a Central Office (headquarters), 2 staff training centers, and 22 community corrections offices. The regional offices and Central Office provide administrative oversight and support to Bureau facilities and community corrections offices. In turn, community corrections offices oversee residential reentry centers and home confinement programs.

The Bureau is responsible for the custody and care of approximately 217,000 Federal offenders. Approximately 82 percent of these inmates are confined in Bureau-operated facilities, while the balance is confined in secure privately managed or community-based facilities and local jails.

The Bureau protects public safety by ensuring that Federal offenders serve their sentences of imprisonment in facilities that are safe, humane, cost-efficient, and appropriately secure. The Bureau helps reduce the potential for future criminal activity by encouraging inmates to participate in a range of programs that have been proven to reduce recidivism. Approximately 38,000 BOP employees ensure the security of Federal prisons, provide inmates with needed programs and services, and model mainstream values.

I added the italics to illustrate how vast the gulf is between rhetoric and reality when it comes to Supermax's mentally ill prisoners. The Bureau isn't candidly telling Americans that it often treats some of its mentally ill prisoners like animals. Instead, even as prison officials "four point" such prisoners in their cells or deprive them of needed medicine or treatment, the Bureau is telling us that it is treating the men with "humane care." This is not a new hypocrisy but rather an eternal truth of civilized life on this planet; prisons are always worse than the officials who run them say they are.

But websites are for marketers, not lawmakers, so we need to look further to identify relevant Bureau of Prisons policies with respect to mentally ill prisoners. In the Bacote complaint, the plaintiffs cite, among other Bureau regulations, BOP Program Statement 5100.08 (chapter 7, page 18). It states that prisoners within the federal system "currently diagnosed as suffering from serious psychiatric illnesses should not be referred to placement at ... [ADX/Supermax]."

There are also federal rules that more broadly govern the responsibility prison officials have to treat the mentally ill prisoners in their care. There are rules that require prison officials to give medicine to prisoners in their care -- yet the ADX prisoners claim they often are not given their medicine or are given the wrong medicine. There are rules for the formal way prison officials are supposed to evaluate the mental health status of incoming prisoners -- the Supermax prisoners allege these evaluations are a joke.

Moreover, many of the plaintiffs in the new lawsuit, as well as the likely future plaintiffs, reside in Supermax's "Control Unit," its most secure unit. This is partially because of the dangerous, violent conduct the prisoners have exhibited in other prisons, or in other wings of Supermax, as a result of their mental illnesses. But the Code of Federal Regulation governing "institutional referrals" to federal prison "Control Units" appears to directly prohibit this.

The "Judicial Administration" section of the Code of Federal Regulations states that the "warden may not refer an inmate for placement in a control unit ... if the inmate shows evidence of significant mental disorder or major physical disabilities as documented in a mental health evaluation or a physical examination." Is schizophrenia a "significant mental disorder"? How about "delusional ideation" or post-traumatic stress disorder? Is it "significant" when a prisoner mutilates himself or tries to commit suicide?

Dostoevsky was right: How we treat our prisoners says more about us than it does about them
The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the government from inflicting "cruel and unusual punishment" upon its citizens, even its convicted ones, and especially its mentally ill ones. Over the decades, vast groves of trees have been sacrificed papering prison-related litigation over the meaning of the phrase in the context of medical and mental health care. Some of the lawsuits, filed by inmates and others, has been frivolous. Many, however, have not. None like the one filed Monday has reached a point in litigation where a federal judge has issued a substantive ruling on its merits.

Much of this litigation has involved the conditions and lack of mental health care at state prisons. In Brown v. Plata, for example, decided just last May, the United States Supreme Court narrowly affirmed a lower court order that required California to release thousands of non-violent state prisoners to reduce unconstitutional overcrowding in the Golden State's prison system. The lawsuit was based upon the inability of state prison officials to provide their prisoners with adequate medical and mental health care and treatment.

In his 5-4 majority opinion, which infuriated his conservative colleagues, here is how Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Reagan appointee, described the case's mental health component:
Prisoners in California with serious mental illness do not receive minimal, adequate care. Because of a shortage of treatment beds, suicidal inmates may be held for prolonged periods in telephone-booth sized cages without toilets. A psychiatric expert reported observing an inmate who had been held in such a cage for nearly 24 hours, standing in a pool of his own urine, unresponsive and nearly catatonic. Prison officials explained they had " 'no place to put him.' "

Other inmates awaiting care may be held for months in administrative segregation, where they endure harsh and isolated conditions and receive only limited mental health services. Wait times for mental health care range as high as 12 months. In 2006, the suicide rate in California's prisons was nearly 80% higher than the national average for prison populations; and a court-appointed Special Master found that 72.1% suicides involved "some measure of inadequate assessment, treatment, or intervention, and were therefore most probably foreseeable and/or preventable." (citations omitted by me).

From the high suicide rate to the inadequate "assessment, treatment, or intervention," there are many similarities between the proven facts that compelled Justice Kennedy to side with California's prisoners and the facts alleged in the new complaint against ADX/Supermax. But still we need to look a little further. The leading case in the area, the one closer on point, perhaps, than even the Brown v. Plata case, comes from litigation nearly two decades ago over California's Pelican Bay State Prison.

The case, styled Madrid v. Gomez, represents what many consider to be the most comprehensive of all modern prison mental health care rulings. In it, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson (the first black judge to serve in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division) displayed another copious amount of courage for skewering prison officials for the way in which they were treating California prisoners. The gravamen of his order was that prison officials are required by law to provide reasonably adequate mental health care for inmates.

Perhaps the most efficient way to illustrate Judge Henderson's meticulous analysis of the mental health care in those prisons is to look merely at the outline of this section of his long ruling. Even in just the titles and subtitles, you can see many of the same themes and issues raised by the new Supermax lawsuit. The decision is laden with the acknowledgement that prison officials simply fail or, worse, refuse to treat mentally ill prisons in a way demanded by the Eighth Amendment.
C. Mental Health Care
1. The Need for Mental Health Services At Pelican Bay
2. Systemic Deficiencies In the Delivery of Mental Health Care
    a. Staffing Levels
    b. Screening and Referrals
    c. Psychiatric Records
    d. Delays in Transfers for Inpatient and Outpatient Care
    e. Lack of Procedures for Necessary Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment
    f. Failure to Involve Mental Health Staff in Housing Decisions
    g. Suicide Prevention
    h. Quality Assurance
    i. Treatment Provided
    (Specific inmate cases were discussed here)
3. Defendants' State of Mind
At the beginning of a lawsuit there are always more questions than answers. For example, how do law and policy permit the Bureau of Prisons to routinely ignore the recommendations of federal trial judges who, when sentencing mentally ill felons, specifically direct prison officials to ensure that the men are to be properly treated for their illness while in prison? The Bacote complaint alleges no fewer than four examples (Jeremy Pinson, John W. Naducci, Jr, William Concepcion Sablan, and David Shelby) where this disconcerting practice allegedly occurred.

How does the Bureau of Prison justify the expense of its punitive policies when compared to the cost of treating mentally ill prisoners properly in the first place? The Bacote complaint is filled with examples of crimes that could have been avoided had mentally ill federal prisoners been given the right medication, in the right form, with the right supervision by the prison medical staff? Do the American people know how expensive it is to treat these mentally ill inmates with such callous disregard?

How does the Bureau of Prisons justify the evident disconnect between the diagnoses of the mentally ill prisoners made at other federal prisons and the diagnoses offered at ADX/Supermax? The Bacote complaint is filled with examples of prior diagnoses being disregarded once an inmate arrives at ADX/Supermax. There are sound reasons why a defendant must be deemed mentally competent to stand trial -- but why does such a competency determination not impact the severity of an inmate's incarceration?

It is hard to predict how this lawsuit will play out. Federal judges are generally reluctant to force bureaucracies to justify their conduct. First, the Bureau of Prisons likely will move to dismiss the complaint on procedural grounds before prison officials are required to provide the plaintiffs with access to internal case files. Then, federal lawyers likely will argue over the scope of that discovery. If the case ever makes it to trial, it will be years from now.

And through it all, through all the years of briefing and hearings and argument ahead, the daily fate of Supermax's mentally ill prisoners will continue to be at the whims and caprices of their captors. It would be one thing if federal law and Bureau policy explicitly permitted ADX officials to treat the mentally ill this way. But of course the American people would not countenance such inhumane treatment, even toward society's least loved segment. That's why Bureau Director Samuels had to tell the Senate yesterday that his officials give Supermax prisoners "outstanding care, treatment and programming."

Dostoevsky was right: How we treat our prisoners says more about us than it does about them. Earlier this year, I read Pete Early's bestselling book Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness. One of its many profound lessons is that America pays an enormous price for trying to sweep its mentally ill prisoners under the rug. Win or lose on the merits, the Bacote case represents a vital new opportunity to shed light on what is happening to these profoundly ill men -- what is being done to them in our name.

This is the third in a three-part series about a new class-action lawsuit filed Monday against the Bureau of Prison and the officials who run ADX-Florence, the "Supermax" facility that houses some of the nation's most dangerous criminals. Part I focused upon the complaint, which alleges torture, abuse, and neglect of the prison's mentally ill prisoners. The second part focused upon the plaintiffs and other prisoners named in the lawsuit.