Retiring Arizona Prison Watch...

This site was originally started in July 2009 as an independent endeavor to monitor conditions in Arizona's criminal justice system, as well as offer some critical analysis of the prison industrial complex from a prison abolitionist/anarchist's perspective. It was begun in the aftermath of the death of Marcia Powell, a 48 year old AZ state prisoner who was left in an outdoor cage in the desert sun for over four hours while on a 10-minute suicide watch. That was at ASPC-Perryville, in Goodyear, AZ, in May 2009.

Marcia, a seriously mentally ill woman with a meth habit sentenced to the minimum mandatory 27 months in prison for prostitution was already deemed by society as disposable. She was therefore easily ignored by numerous prison officers as she pleaded for water and relief from the sun for four hours. She was ultimately found collapsed in her own feces, with second degree burns on her body, her organs failing, and her body exceeding the 108 degrees the thermometer would record. 16 officers and staff were disciplined for her death, but no one was ever prosecuted for her homicide. Her story is here.

Marcia's death and this blog compelled me to work for the next 5 1/2 years to document and challenge the prison industrial complex in AZ, most specifically as manifested in the Arizona Department of Corrections. I corresponded with over 1,000 prisoners in that time, as well as many of their loved ones, offering all what resources I could find for fighting the AZ DOC themselves - most regarding their health or matters of personal safety.

I also began to work with the survivors of prison violence, as I often heard from the loved ones of the dead, and learned their stories. During that time I memorialized the Ghosts of Jan Brewer - state prisoners under her regime who were lost to neglect, suicide or violence - across the city's sidewalks in large chalk murals. Some of that art is here.

In November 2014 I left Phoenix abruptly to care for my family. By early 2015 I was no longer keeping up this blog site, save occasional posts about a young prisoner in solitary confinement in Arpaio's jail, Jessie B.

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

I've linked to some posts about advocating for state prisoner health and safety to the right, as well as other resources for families and friends. If you are in need of additional assistance fighting the prison industrial complex in Arizona - or if you care to offer some aid to the cause - please contact the Phoenix Anarchist Black Cross at PO Box 7241 / Tempe, AZ 85281.

until all are free -

MARGARET J PLEWS (June 1, 2015)


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Thursday, January 31, 2013

AZ DOC medical: Corizon not expected to be much improvement...

Excellent commentary by our friends at The Tucson Citizen's Cell Out AZ Blog (I believe the American Friends Service Committee in Tucson is behind that) on the recent announcement by Wexford and the AZ Department of Corrections that they're parting ways. This doesn't bode well for the DOC as far as Parson v Ryan goes, of course - I really don't think Corizon is about to pull the DOC's medical delivery system out of the toilet fast enough to make much difference...

 At Wexford's AZ HQ in Phoenix - time to go!!!

Arizona Corrections Replaces Horrible For-Profit Prison Medical Corporation With…Another Horrible For-Profit Prison Medical Corporation

Tucson Citizen
on Jan. 31, 2013

On Wednesday, January 30th, the Department of Corrections abruptly announced that it had severed its contract with Wexford Health Sources Inc. and had already reached an agreement with Corizon, Inc. of Brentwood, Tenn., to become the health care provider for all state-run prisons as of March 4.

Reportedly, the divorce was initiated by Wexford, which claims it’s “performance was hindered by state monitors and a lack of cooperation by corrections.” The company was also testy about the fact that ADC had threatened it with a $10,000 fine for failure to fix staffing problems, properly distribute medication, and communicate problems to the state. Not to mention the fact that one of their “nurses” managed to expose 103 inmates to Hepatitis C because she apparently didn’t know that you can’t stick a dirty needle back into a bottle of insulin you plan to give to other people.

Is Wexford at all apologetic for all this? Not in the slightest. And they don’t have to be. They know that there’s another state legislature somewhere that, like ours, is naïve enough to believe that privatization of prisons and prison medical care will save them money. Why put up with Arizona’s pesky monitors and pay fines when you screw up when you can go somewhere where everybody’s willing to look the other way for the promise of saving a few bucks?

After all, it’s not like ADC didn’t know Wexford’s dismal track record when they hired them. Bob Ortega reported in the Arizona Republic that:

  • Wexford opted not to renew a contract with Clark County, Wash., that expired at the beginning of 2010 after an independent audit concluded that “Wexford has systematically failed to comply” with its contract and had failed to provide adequate staffing, properly licensed staff, and adequate and timely medical service.

  • In Mississippi, a 2007 audit was harshly critical of both the company and state corrections officials for failing to provide timely, adequate medical care. It also found that Mississippi’s Department of Corrections failed to collect $931,310 in fines its chief medical officer recommended against Wexford after the company charged the state for more staff members than it actually provided.

  • Wexford has also faced fines for similar problems in numerous other states, including a $12,500 fine by New Mexico’s Department of Corrections in 2006; a $106,000 fine by Ohio’s Correction Department in 2009; $50,000 by Chesapeake, Va., in 2006 for staffing shortages; three fines totaling $273,000 by Florida’s Department of Corrections in 2005 for what it described as “service-delivery issues that were resolved” before the contract’s end; and a $68,000 fine by the Broward Sheriff’s Office in Florida in 2003 for delays in providing medical services.
And now ADC would have us believe that Corizon will do better. Did anybody bother to do the due diligence on these guys?

A little background: Corizon was created after the merger of two other huge for-profit prison health care corporations—PHS Corrections and Correctional Medical Services (CMS). Prior to the merger, PHS had 57 contracts in 150 jails across 19 states, serving about 165,000 prisoners. CMS served 250,000 in 19 states. When the two merged, Corizon became the largest prison health care provider in the country, operating in 400 correctional facilities in 31 states. Now, about 400,000 prisoners are subject to Corizon’s “care.”

A quick internet search of just the last three years of articles on the corporation’s misdeeds yielded enough evidence of medical neglect, wrongful death lawsuits, financial shenanigans, and outright abuse to give any rational person pause. Here’s a brief rundown:

A wrongful death and malpractice lawsuit was filed in St. Louis last year over the death of a jail inmate from complications of a heart problem. The suit alleges that the prisoner collapsed and died an hour after a doctor instructed jail staff to send him to a hospital immediately. Records show that a Corizon nurse believed that the prisoner’s episodes were ‘staged,’ and point to numerous instances of doctor’s orders not being consistently followed. (“Suit blames St. Louis medical care in inmate’s death,” St. Louis Post Dispatch, 5/24/12).

In 2012, Corizon paid the city of Philadelphia a $1.8 million fine after an investigation found the company was using a sham female-owned subcontractor to falsely claim it was meeting city requirements for participation by firms owned by women or people of color. A rival company owned by a woman claimed that it submitted a bid that was $3.5 million per year less than Corizon’s. Despite the fine, Corizon retained its right to bid on contracts and is up for renewal. Meanwhile, the city has paid out at least $1 million since 1995 to settle lawsuits over negligent medical care.. (“With contract out to bid, prison health care questioned,” Philadelphia Daily News, 8/28/12 and “City questioned over prison health care firm,” Philadelphia Daily News, 1/10/13).

A federal lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Corrections was filed last year after an inmate with a history of seizures was denied emergency care by a Corizon nurse who overrode doctors’ orders for an ambulance. Within an hour, the man suffered irreversible brain damage that led to his death. Records indicate that Corizon’s “rationed care philosophy” is at the root of many such problems. For example, no Corizon doctors work after 4pm or on weekends. Nurses employed by the state department of corrections end their shifts at 10:30pm, leaving the prisons without medical staff overnight. Under Corizon’s contract, there is just one on-call doctor to serve the entire state prison system, and this doctor cannot access the medical files because the health services units are shut down overnight. (“Prisoner dies after denial of care,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, 7/9/12).

Washington County, OR ordered an audit of Corizon’s jail health services after the county went $171,000 over its almost $4.6 million budget in FY 2011-12. Cost overruns were reportedly common over the past six years. However, the county ran into “legal roadblocks” in obtaining the needed documents from Corizon. The company’s lack of transparency prompted the county to amend its contract with Corizon in 2012 in order to ensure that the county will have access to financial records and other documents, as well as the ability to perform site reviews. (“Long-delayed Washington County audit of jail health services points to contract problems, new auditing approach,” The Oregonian, 8/20/12).

In 2011, Corizon was fined nearly $400,000 by the state of Idaho for failing to meet some of the most basic health care requirements outlined by the state. Among the problems listed were the fact that one women’s prison had gone without an OB/GYN for two years and another maximum security prison had no staff psychologies for at least 8 months. These lapses were in violation of Idaho’s contract, which requires that vacant positions be filled within 60 days. The Director of the Department of Corrections indicated that the steep fines were the only way to ensure that the corporation comply with its contract requirements. “They’re bottom-line driven,” he remarked. (“Idaho fines prison health care company $382K,” Associated Press, 6/5/11).

Then, in 2012, A Federal report on the Idaho State Correctional Institution charged that prison care under Corizon “amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.” The court-ordered report, part of decades of litigation by Idaho inmates, was released publicly even though the state had argued to keep the report sealed. The report states that Idaho Department authorities are “deliberately indifferent to the serious health care needs of their charges,” says corrections medical expert Dr. Marc Stern, who was appointed by the court to review Idaho prison care. According to the report, Corizon failed 23 of 33 audit categories in 2010 – and despite feedback and follow-up – failed 26 of 33 categories in 2011. (“Federal court unseals report on prison health care,” KIVI News, 3/19/12). You can read the full report here.

Here’s the take-home message to taxpayers: Privatization of anything in a corrections context will always result in fraud, waste, abuse, and neglect.

That’s because the profit motive is directly at odds with the purpose of correctional institutions. There will always be a perverse incentive not to rehabilitate, not to treat, and to prioritize the bottom line over public safety. Because it is in the corporation’s financial interest to keep prisoners coming back. And, if they get sick or even die, the worst your company will face will be a series of fines. Even if the state cancels the contract, there are always some schmucks in some other state or some other town, who want to believe the myth that you can have mass incarceration on the cheap and who really don’t give a damn what happens to incarcerated people.

Noted privatization expert Alex Friedmann, Associate Editor of Prison Legal News, said it best:
“If you take all the bad parts of the HMO [Health Maintenance Organization] and put it in a monopoly situation, then you have the private prison medical care industry…But prisoners can’t go to another clinic, can’t pick a plan.”

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wexford can't stand the heat: Corizon takes on AZ prison health care delivery.

So, not to be a Debbie Downer, but here's Corizon's rap sheet...that's whose name will go on the next round of lawsuits.

                Think they'll be smart enough to introduce themselves to us, families?


 Outside the Federal Courthouse in PHX, where the ACLU presented arguments for class designation of 
Parsons v Ryan from US Judge Neil Wake last week due to system-wide deliberate indifference to prisoner medical needs...


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

CLASS ACTION: 'Parsons v Ryan' - Medical neglect and suicide at the AZ DOC

Join us to support 14 prisoners suing Charles Ryan, Director of the Department of Corrections and Richard Pratt, Director of Health Services for gross negligence, deliberate indifference, and unconstitutional conditions of confinement. 

CLASS ACTION Memorial Mural
Friday, Jan 25, 7:30-9:30am 

Sandra Day O'Connor Federal Courthouse 
401 W. Washington St. PHOENIX

We will make a chalk mural outside the Sandra Day O'Connor court house in solidarity with these 14 prisoners who are fighting to change the criminal neglect of health care of Arizona prisoners. The mural will remember those who have been lost under this administration.

These are the stories of those still fighting for their lives:

Victor Parsons has ADHD and bipolar disorder. In June 2010, his medication was abruptly discontinued without explanation. When he began to experience psychotic symptoms, he submitted a request for treatment. His medication was restarted abruptly without titrating, placing him at high risk for severe side effects. When his tooth filling fell out, they gave him a temporary filing which fell out weeks later. Each time he was seen, he was given a temporary filing again, forcing him to restart the process.

Shawn Jensen had an elevated score on a Prostrate Antigen Test and a nodule on his prostrate in November 2006. The prison doctor ordered a prostrate biopsy in 2007, but Shawn did not receive the biopsy until 2009. By that time, he had Stage 2 prostrate cancer, an aggressive form. He experienced delays of two months in getting medication prescribed by his urologist. He was not taken for surgery until July 2010, and as a result, suffered permanent injuries.

Stephen Schwartz was assaulted by another inmate in February 2010. He suffered eye injuries and extensive facial fractures, but was not referred to an opthamologist until January 2011, almost a year later. He filed numerous health care grievances for his pain, but waited months to learn whether pain medications would be approved. He was also diagnosed with bipolar and major depressive disorder, but has received inadequate mental health care while on suicide watch.

Dustin Brislan has bipolar disorder, schizo-affective disorder, and borderline personality disorder, with a designation of SMI (Serious Mental Illness). He engages in severe self-injurious behavior, including cutting, head banging, and self-starvation. As a result of his mental illness, he experiences depression, hallucinations, sucidal ideation, and paranoia. Despite the severity of his condition, the Dpt of Corrections has failed to provide him with minimally adequate mental health care. He has had medications delayed, has not been regularly monitored by a psychiatrist, and has been on suicide watch for excessive lengths of time without adequate supervision, where he committed repeated acts of self-harm.

Sonia Rodriguez is also designated as SMI, and experiences depression, anxiety and hallucinations. The Dpt of Corrections has failed to provide therapeutic treatment and has kept her in cruel and inhumane confinement in Perryville's and on suicide watch. The harsh conditions and extreme isolation of the Special Management Unit (SMU) and on suicide watch. On multiple occasions, her medicine has been abruptly changed without explanation. As a result, she has severe side effects, including uncontrolled shaking, difficulty sleeping, and worsening of her mental health symptoms.

Christina Verduzco is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder. She experiences auditory and visual hallucinations, anxiety, paranoia, and self-harm by cutting herself. She is confined in Perryville SMU and placed on suicide watch on several occasions. While on suicide watch, Christina is forced to wear a smock that barely comes up to the top of her thighs. The lights are kept on 24 hours a day, and she is subjected to 'safety checks' every 10-30 minutes a day where correctional officers wake her if she is asleep. She has minimal human contact, cannot go outside, cannot brush her teeth or bathe regularly. Outside of suicide watch, her experience is similar: extended isolation, limited exercise, and limited therapeutic treatment. Christina has asthma, but has been pepper sprayed repeatedly by correctional officers. After being sprayed, she has been dragged out of her cell, hosed down, and thrown back into her cell.

Jackie Thomas is diagnosed with depression and seizure disorders. Although Jackie did not have suicidal ideation when he first arrived at the SMU, his mental and medical health conditions have deteriorated during his isolation in the SMU. He was placed on suicide watch many times, where he received minimal mental health care. He has experienced many failures of his medical treatment, including improper cessation and initiation of psychtropic medications, failure to administer prescribed medication, repeated use of ineffective medications with severe side effects, lack of informed consent, and long delays in follow up and psychiatric evaluation.

Jeremy Smith has depression, aggravated by interruptions in his mental health treatment and prolonged isolation in the SMU. His medications have been abruptly discontinued without explanation and restarted at inappropriate times and after lengthy delays. Jeremy has also been prescribed powerful medications not indicated for depression.

Robert Gamez suffered a childhood head injury and was diagnosed with borderline IQ, possible Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and possible frontal lobe dysfunction, symptoms of which include major depression, panic and anxiety. Although his symptoms are consistent with frontal lobe dysfunction, the Dpt of Corrections never conducted follow-up tests to confirm his diagnosis. He has experienced multiple interruptions in care, received improper medications, and was not given psychological services for his pronounced mental health deterioration during his prolonged isolation in SMU. In August 2009, Robert began experiencing intense paranoia, anxiety, panic, and psychosis, asking to be taken off his medication and out of isolation. Despite his severe condition, he was not seen for five months.

Maryanne Chisholm has been diagnosed with hypertension but was not referred to a cardiologist for eight months, despite experiencing chest pain and shortness of breath. She has bipolar disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and depressive disorder. Maryanne has experienced significant delays in psychiatric care, medications, and follow-up, which has contributed to worsening symptoms. In April 2011, she had a nervous breakdown and requested an adjustment of medication; she was not seen for a month. Her mental health condition is exacerbated by guard harrassment. She has been subject to repeated and frequent room searches, and her art supplies, which she relies on to manage metal health symptoms, were confiscated.

Desiree Licci has a family and personal history of cancer. In 2010, she observed multiple masses growing on her breasts, mouth, and arms. In December 2010, Desiree requested testing. In April 2011, the prison doctor referred her to an oncologist. However, she was not seen for a CT scan until September 2011. In the interim, she began experiencing diarrhea, nausea, exhaustion, weight loss, and pain. Desiree did not receive an MRI until December 2011 and it was not properly administered. She had to submit a grievance and wait another month until a proper MRI was done, confirming multiple masses on both ovaries.

Joseph Hefner's vision rapidly deteriorated after a Dpt of Corrections nurse gave him expired eye drops. In 2006 and 2008, Joseph did not receive timely doctor-prescribed eye medication following eye surgery. Although he has submitted numerous health care requests for eye pain and his doctor has referred him to the opthamologist, he has been waiting to see an opthamologist for over three years.

Joshua Polson has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, mood disorder, and psychosis. He has a family history of suicide and has attempted suicide three times. Nonetheless, he is in isolation, where he has minimal human contact, which results in increased suicidal ideation. He has experienced repeated gaps in his medication and sporadic monitoring of his medication levels. Additionally, he has chronic ear infections, and permanent hearing loss in his right ear following significant delays in care. After losing hearing in his right ear, Joshua submitted health care requests for pain in his left ear, but was not seen for over a month.

Charlotte Wells has a history of heart disease and high blood pressure and suffered a heart attack prior to being incarcerated. She arrived in custody complaining of chronic chest pains, and continued to experience dizziness and high blood pressure, but was not seen by a cardiologist until she was hospitalized for a blocked artery four months later. Charlotte was not seen by a doctor or returned to the hospital thereafter, despite her history and the high risk of heart attack following the placement of a stent. Additionally, Charlotte experienced broken fillings in two of her teeth in 2010. She complained of pain and requested fillings be repaired, but was told the only option was to have the teeth pulled, or wait months to have the filling approved. She did this, and endured pain for several months before her fillings were replaced; however, when she got the filling, the dentist cracked an adjacent tooth.

The hearing will be in Judge Neil Wake's courtroom at 3 pm. The mural will take place the morning of the hearing, at 7:30 - 9:30 am.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Pissing on the PEAKS: Snowbowl makes the NY Times.

this year, Snowbowl celebrates 75 years by spewing sewage all over the sacred San Francisco Peaks to fatten their purses...

"Snowbowel: 75 Years of Desecration..."
 Snowbowl Road, Flagstaff
New Year's Day 2013

 for more on the desecration of the Peaks, see

Indigenous activists and allies in Flagstaff, January 8, 2013

Thoughts on Snowbowl from the New York Times, below. 
Too bad they missed the beautiful action above.

January 11, 2013, 6:02 pm

Discolored Slopes Mar Debut of Snow-Making Effort

After a decade of legal battles, a ski resort in Northern Arizona recently became the first in the world to make artificial snow totally out of sewage effluent. On Dec. 24, Arizona Snowbowl fired up its snow guns for the first time, and to everyone's surprise, the snow that blasted onto the mountain was yellow.
The discolored snow has sharpened an already fraught conflict.

Snowbowl's manager, J. R. Murray, said the problem was caused by rusty residue in the new snow-making equipment that carries the wastewater from neighboring Flagstaff, where it is piped directly from the town's sewage treatment plant.

But Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity, a conservation group, says something seems fishy. "I question whether that explanation is based on tests of the water or conjecture," he said.  "Something's awry, and the onus is on the Forest Service and ADEQ to protect the public and determine the cause." (ADEQ is the acronym for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.)

As I have reported, environmentalists and Native American groups have long opposed the ski area's snow-making plan, arguing that the wastewater snow poses risks to public health and the ecology of a mountain considered sacred by 13 American Indian tribes.

Mike Fulton, water quality division director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, said the agency was "looking hard" into several complaints it had received claiming that the presence of the manufactured snow on the slopes violated state laws on the use of reclaimed water, which prohibit ingesting it. Critics argue, among other things, that wastewater snow is being tracked into eating areas and that children are playing in it and touching their faces with it.

The water used for making snow at the ski area is not drinking water. Studies have found that it contains hormones, pharmaceuticals, antibiotics and other chemicals. There is much debate about whether these chemicals are harmful in small amounts.

Regardless, the discolored snow has meant Snowbowl has to contend with a heightened ick factor. Kaelan Monroe, 11, said he went skiing on New Year's Day and that the conditions were "kind of disgusting."

"The snow is crusty and icy and doesn't look very clean," he said. But that won't keep him from Snowbowl, where he has skied since age 3, he said. "I'm not too worried about face-planting in the snow and getting sick," said Kaelan, who describes himself as a proficient skier.

Arizona Snowbowl operates on public land under a special-use permit issued by the Forest Service. In 2005, the agency approved the ski area's upgrade plans, including artificial snow-making, after conducting a long environmental impact study.

That study "did not predict that the snow would be yellow," Mr. McKinnon said.

He said the yellow snow and "a growing list of unforeseen impacts," including new scientific research that indicates harmful chemicals in the wastewater, have rendered the 2005 study obsolete. "Snowbowl would be smart to update the study before they're forced to do so in court," Mr. McKinnon said.
Mr. Murray counters that the excitement over the yellow snow is "a lot to do about a small issue."
"No one here even cares except for those that oppose us," he said.

However, a worker hired just before Christmas for making snow said that his impression had been that the management was concerned about the image problem posed by the yellow snow. The worker, Grayson Lookner, said part of his job had been to drain the snow guns when they were not in use and he was told to drag them into the woods so the ski trails would not turn yellow.

He said he worked there only eight days and then resigned because the work was quite hard and he felt a growing unease. "I didn't feel right about blowing" the effluent "all over a sacred mountain," he said. Snowbowl confirmed that Mr. Lookner was employed by the resort from Dec. 20 to 28.

With climate change and prolonged drought in arid places like the Southwest, the use of reclaimed water is gaining importance as a conservation tool. Snowbowl officials portray the resort as on the cutting-edge of creative water recycling. Opponents argue that economic interests are driving a federal wastewater policy that puts commerce ahead of ecology.

Snowbowl officials have said that, because of reduced snowfall, the resort needs to make snow to stay in business. And so far snow-making has been a boon for the resort, it says. "The skiing is great! The pipes are now cleansed," Mr. Murray said in an e-mail.

State environmental officials say they have sent an inspector to Snowbowl and expect to complete an investigation next week. And Mr. Fulton said the agency had already worked with Snowbowl to construct barriers around the ski lifts to prevent overspray from entering the adjacent forest, where endangered plants grow in the fragile alpine tundra.

Potential harm to that that habitat was the focus of a lawsuit that was recently settled out of court.

To date, the discolored snow has not been tested.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Idle No More Phoenix: Action, Solidarity, and Resurgence.

Over the course of the past week I've had the privilege to bear witness to several events in the Phoenix area with Indigenous activists involved in the Idle No More movement out of Canada, now sweeping the planet.

Join Idle No More - Phoenix at Steele Indian School Park (parking lot C) on Friday, January 11, 2013 at 5:30pm to support a Global Day of Action, Solidarity and Resurgence

Below: Idle No More at PUENTE with migrant justice and other anti-racist organizers, 
preparing for the Jan 11 action...

"Idle No More calls on all people to join in a revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water. Colonization continues through attacks to Indigenous rights and damage to the land and water. We must repair these violations, live the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship, work towards justice in action, and protect Mother Earth."

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Federal Persecution of Indigenous Activists steps up.

I lifted the following posts from Indigenous Action Media to catch myself up to speed on the resistance in Arizona. I spent New Year's Eve with Klee Benally and a small gathering of friends in Flagstaff, and saw the sunrise from the San Francisco Peaks before leaving the gift below at the entrance to Snowbowl Road. I was deeply troubled by all I learned about the US Attorney's office's latest attacks on Klee and his comrades. 

As many readers of this blog know, Snowbowl is celebrating 75 years of desecration this year with a new feature: treated sewage effluent. Flagstaff's waste water has extended their season as well as the amount of recreational activities they offer now. Of course, it's not only a health and environmental concern, but the spewing of sewage all over the mountain is desecrating a sacred site, a continuation of the genocidal process the prison industrial complex is now playing its part in perpetrating - witness the persecution of Indigenous resisters to the violence against their people and culture, and join us in solidarity actions. 

You don't need a Facebook event page or a whole crew to make your own thoughts on the desecration known, by the way...this was done by my lonesome with simple food coloring and spray bottles, and I set up my tripod so my camera was watching my back. Always make sure someone is watching your back...

 Snowbowl Road Entrance, Flagstaff
New Year's Day 2013

Below are the last three posts from Indigenous Action Media. They do good work there. Please support them every way you can. Info from their site:

Indigenous Action Media (IAM) was founded on August 25th, 2001 to provide strategic media support and direct action to address issues impacting Indigenous communities.

IAM offers media strategy consultation and support in the face of environmental & social injustices. We do this through direct support, workshops, web and graphic design services, documentaries and youth empowerment projects.

We are a volunteer collective of experienced Indigenous media makers & activists that work together on a project by project basis for media justice from an anti-colonial & anti-capitalist framework.


Peaks Activists Targeted with Federal Charges and Arrest Warrants as Forest Service Announces New Sacred Sites Policy

December 10, 2012
Monday, December 10, 2012
Klee Benally

National Forest Service Announces New Sacred Sites Policy at the Same Time That Flagstaff Peaks Activists Are Targeted with Federal Charges and Arrest Warrants 
Peaks Activists Vow to Fight Charges and Plan to Turn themselves Over to U.S. Marshalls 
What: Peaks activist Klee Benally and others expected to be arrested
When: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 at 8:15 a.m
Where: US Marshall’s Office 123 N. San Francisco St, Flagstaff, AZ

FLAGSTAFF, AZ — On the same day that secretary Tom Vilsack of the US Department of Agriculture issued a final report on Sacred Sites and an inter-agency memorandum to work towards Sacred Sites protection, the Coconino Forest Service filed federal charges against four Sacred Sites advocates who were part of a protest at the Forest Service offices three months earlier.

On September 21, 2012 more than a dozen Flagstaff community members peacefully delivered letters to address the US Department of Agriculture’s policy on sacred places. While community members delivered the letters, a “quarantine” was also theatrically staged in the Coconino National Forest Service lobby to protest the agency’s role in approving of an Arizona Snowbowl ski area expansion and snowmaking with treated sewage effluent on the Holy San Francisco Peaks. Several members of the theatrical staging wore white suits and held caution tape with signs that said, “Quarantine Snowbowl,” “Forest Service Kills Native Culture, Stop Snowbowl,” and “Protect the Sacred.”

The four protestors are facing multiple counts (Section 261.3a) of a misdemeanor charge for allegedly interfering with a Forest officer. The statute reads, “Threatening, resisting, intimidating, or interfering with any forest officer engaged in or on account of the performance of his official duties in the protection, improvement, or administration of the National Forest System is prohibited.”

“Not only are these federal charges absurd, they are an attack on freedom of expression,” stated Klee Benally, a Dine’ (Navajo) activist who has been advocating for Indigenous religious freedom and protection of the holy Peaks for more than 14 years. “The fact that the USFS would bring these charges the same day they released their report on the protection of sacred sites demonstrates that they are not acting in good faith.”

Klee Benally delivered two letters to acting Forest Supervisor Earl Stewart calling for an immediate halt to ski area expansion and snowmaking with treated sewage effluent on the holy San Francisco Peaks. The letters were addressed to the Obama administration and included: US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Tom Vilsack, Senior Adviser for Tribal Affairs USDA Janie Hipp, Coconino National Forest Supervisor Earl Stewart, and Counselor to the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Dion Killsback. The letters called for the termination of Snowbowl’s Special Use Permit and the protection of sacred places.

The letters also focused on public health concerns due to contaminants in the treated sewage effluent that Snowbowl ski resort intends on using for snowmaking on the Holy site and demanded a moratorium on the use of treated sewage effluent, commonly called reclaimed wastewater to avoid the “ick factor”, in public places.

“I entered the building with a group of people and requested to speak to Forest Supervisor Earl Stewart, we had a cordial conversation, he accepted letters regarding the sacred sites policy, we shook hands multiple times. We broke no laws. The Forest Service is the one who is violating the law of the creator.” stated Benally. “Myself and others will turn ourselves over to the U.S. Marshall tomorrow at 8:15 a.m. so we can move towards ending this act of repression and political retaliation against us by the US Forest Service.”

The U.S. Marshall’s office is located at 123 N. San Francisco St.. Benally and others are expected to be arrested and appear before a judge for arraignment at 10:00 a.m.

According to the Forest Service complaint, the fire department and a hazmat team were called to address a potentially hazardous spill of clear liquid that had flooded the Forest Service lobby floor after protesters exited. An unknown individual allegedly tipped over a 5 gallon bucket full of what the hazmat team determined to be treated sewage effluent.

“These charges are absurd! The irony is that the USFS has authorized Snowbowl to spill more than one million five hundred thousand gallons of treated sewage effluent per day onto a rare and pristine alpine habitat. Yet they feel its appropriate to call hazmat when a pail of wastewater is allegedly poured onto their polished tile floors? I hold the USFS liable for the environmental poisoning that is set to occur on the Peaks right now,” stated Flagstaff resident Evan Hawbaker.

On December 6, 2012, while addressing more than 500 Indigenous leaders at the “White House Tribal Nations Conference” Secretary Vilsack unveiled a sacred sites report stating, “This report represents a commitment by USDA and other agencies to be better partners and improve communications about Sacred Sites, better protecting those sites, access and provide government-wide training to ensure that there is a better understanding of the relationship those sites have to decisions we make.” Vilsack continued, “While we have made strides in improving services to Tribes, much is left to be done. One step we are taking today is the filing of our Sacred Sites report.”

“The President is insistent that these Sacred Sites be protected and preserved: treated with dignity and respect.  That is also my commitment as Secretary of USDA.  I know my fellow Secretaries share in this commitment.  We understand the importance of these sites and will do our best to make sure they are protected and respected.” Vilsack stated.


Read the delivered letters here:

Read the sacred sites report here:

News Release: Peaks Supporters Face Federal Charges in ‘Politically Motivated Attack’

December 12, 2012
Forest Service attempts to ‘Ban’ Peaks Activists from the Peaks to Prevent Further Protests

December 12, 2012
Klee Benally

Peaks Supporters Face Federal Charges in ‘Politically Motivated Attack’
Forest Service attempts to ‘Ban’ them from the Peaks to Prevent Further Protests

Note to editors: Video of September 21, 2012 protest available upon request.

Klee Benally sings before being arrested.
FLAGSTAFF, AZ — On December 11, 2012 three Peaks activists peacefully turned themselves over to U.S. Marshalls in response to allegations of federal charges and “sealed” warrants resulting from a civil protest at a Forest Service building on September 21, 2012.

“It is obvious why these court documents were sealed, the Forest Service wanted to arrest and make an example out of us to deter further protests for protection of the Holy San Francisco Peaks.” stated Klee Benally a Dine’ (Navajo) activist. Benally has been advocating for Indigenous religious freedom and protection of the holy Peaks for more than 14 years, “This is a politically motivated attack that was clearly timed to send a message to anyone who cares about the Peaks from protesting Snowbowl snowmaking with treated sewage effluent.”

Benally declared to a crowd of supporters at the Marshall’s office, “The Forest Service lied in the Environmental Impact Statement, they lied in court, they are lying about these charges, and they are lying about their sacred sites policy. We are being arrested today because we are not afraid to stand up and speak the truth!”

Protect the Peaks supporters gather outside the Federal Courthouse.
The three Peaks activists were kept in shackles around their waists, hands and feet and caged for nearly 5 hours while waiting to appear before a judge. While in custody, plain clothed U.S. Forest Service agents attempted to individually interrogate the Peaks activists without lawyers present.

Forest Service law enforcement captain John Nelson was the only Forest Service representative in the courtroom. Nelson has a history of intimidating and harassing Peaks supporters and traditional practitioners engaged in prayer on the Peaks.

“It seems clear to me,” Benally stated, that the Forest Service is seeking to suppress any further possibility of us speaking the truth for religious freedom and protection of the holy San Francisco Peaks.”

The prosecutor repeatedly requested that the judge “ban” the activists from going on the San Francisco Peaks and to any Coconino Forest Service building as a condition of their release. During the arraignment, the federal prosecutor continually stated that he was concerned about the possibility of further protests.

Attorney Matthew Brown argued that Benally’s religious practice was directly connected to the San Francisco Peaks and restricting his access to the Holy Mountain would be akin to preventing him from going to church. The judge agreed not to ban Benally from the Peaks but cautioned him that if he broke any laws he would be immediately imprisoned until trial. Even a wrongful arrest on USFS lands would be grounds for imprisonment until trial.

The three Peaks supporters were released just after 2:30 p.m.. They re-joined the group of supporters and held a banner stating, “Protect Sacred Sites, Defend Human Rights.”

A status hearing for the Peaks activists will be held on December 27, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. at the Flagstaff Federal Courthouse. A date for a bench trial is expected to be set then.

The four protestors are facing multiple counts (Section 261.3a) of a misdemeanor charge for allegedly interfering with a Forest officer. The statute reads, “Threatening, resisting, intimidating, or interfering with any forest officer engaged in or on account of the performance of his official duties in the protection, improvement, or administration of the National Forest System is prohibited.”

“Not only are these federal charges absurd, they are an attack on freedom of expression,” stated Benally, “The fact that the USFS would bring these charges the same day they released their report on the protection of sacred sites demonstrates that they are not acting in good faith.”

“The final report on Sacred Sites repeatedly points directly at Coconino National Forest and Secretary Vilsack’s callous handling and subsequent approval of using treated sewage effluent to make snow at Arizona Snowbowl.” stated Rudy Preston, a citizen of Flagstaff. He continues his statement “it was the single most detrimental action to their ability to even be taken seriously while doing public outreach to create the report. I feel like the timing of these arrests had two goals in mind: the first was to ban effective activists from Snowbowl as the resort begins to make poop snow, and the second was to thumb their noses at the Sacred Sites report and say, ‘this is how we do it in the Coconino and we don’t care if you want to make good relations with Indigenous cultures.’ Even the Snowbowl Record of Decision clearly states ‘this project will likely have a disproportionately adverse effect on affected Native Americans (p.32)’ and additionally states that the no action alternative ‘is the environmentally preferable alternative because it would not have approved any of the physical, cultural or biological impacts that are anticipated under the implementation of Alternative 3 (snowmaking and expansion, p.33).’”

Peaks supporters have stated that they are undeterred from this attack on their freedom to express themselves and will continue their efforts to protect the holy San Francisco Peaks.

“The natural laws and the indigenous people were already here in a good relationship before the coming of the colonial society who draws law and boundaries.” stated Big Mountain resister Louise Benally who was outside the courthouse offering support, “However we Indigenous Peoples will always have ties with these lands, we will continue to live that way with nature and we will carry on. These man-made laws by the U.S. government will vanish soon.”

Previous News Release & Forest Service Report here:

More info:

News Release: Arizona Snowbowl Starts Making Fake Snow from Treated Sewage… and it’s Yellow

December 24, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012
Contact: Rudy Preston
Phone: 480-382-5288
Arizona Snowbowl Starts Making Fake Snow from Treated Sewage… and it’s Yellow
FLAGSTAFF, AZ (San Francisco Peaks) — After a decade of legal battles and opposition from environmental groups, concerned citizens, and Indigenous Nations, Arizona Snowbowl ski area has started making fake snow from Flagstaff’s treated sewage effluent.

Surprise… it’s yellow!

“My parents always told me not to eat yellow snow, this is absolutely disgusting,” said Katie Nelson, longtime resident of Northern Arizona. “ Will parents tell their kids it’s OK to play in it? I used to be a skier and snowboarder, but I am boycotting Snowbowl because they obviously don’t care about my health or the environment.” stated Nelson.

Snowbowl is set to be the only ski area in the world to make snow from 100% treated sewage effluent. This action has raised serious concerns from community and environmental groups due to potential risks to human health and the sensitive mountain ecosystem.

“Snowbowl is clearly disregarding public health by not fulfilling their requirement to have signs posted that the fake snow is made from treated sewage and that it must not be consumed. I checked the entire area where kids ski and learn to ski and I could not find any warning signs.” stated Rudy Preston, former board member of the Flagstaff Activist Network. “There were none posted on the childrens ski lifts either,” he continued.

Although Snowbowl manager JR Murray has stated that treated sewage would be “…cleaner than the snow falling out of the sky” the yellow colored snow clearly indicates that something is wrong.
State law mandates that it is illegal for anyone to consume snow made from treated sewage effluent. Ingestion pathways include the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and skin. Additionally, any “direct reuse” cannot even have the “potential for ingestion.” While Snowmaking is considered legal, the “direct reuse” of this treated sewage effluent is in fact “skiing” and ADEQ is ignoring their own laws when it allowed Snowbowl to make snow (Arizona Administrative Code: R-18-9-704).

“Despite the obvious health risks, you would have thought that respect for our Indigenous brothers and sisters would have been enough to stop this project years ago, treated sewage for snowmaking is an absolute affront to Indigenous Nations that revere the Peaks as holy and I for one choose to respect their wishes and will no longer ski at Arizona Snowbowl.” stated Rudy Preston.

Multiple protests and prayer gatherings have been held since Snowbowl opened last Thursday.
On November, 14, 2012 the Hopi Tribe filed a new lawsuit and for injunctive relief due to threats reclaimed water poses to an endangered plant that is found nowhere else in the world but on the Peaks. The Hopi Tribe requested an injunction to be placed on snowmaking activities until consultation was completed with both the US Fish and Wildlife and Department of Agriculture. The court has yet to issue a response.

The wastewater, which is treated to Flagstaff’s highest standard, has been proven to contain endocrine disrupting chemicals ( and now even anti-biotic resistant genes ( Since the Environmental Protection Agency has no regulations addressing these contaminants in treated sewage, the Forest Service, City of Flagstaff, AZ Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), and Snowbowl continue to call it “clean enough to drink” although it would be illegal to do so.

ADEQ regulations allow A+ treated sewer water to contain fecal matter in three out of seven daily samples (R18-11-303 2a). In addition, according to Northern Arizona University biologist Dr. Paul Torrence, the treated sewage effluent may also contain antibiotics such as triclosan and triclocarban, which break down into bio-accumulating cancerous dioxins when exposed to sunlight.

For nearly a decade every environmental concern brought to the courts by Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Flagstaff Activist Network have been swept under the rug on filing technicalities and no court has ruled on the issues raised about direct reuse and ingestion. In another lawsuit by the Hopi challenging the legality of the City’s contract with Snowbowl, Judge Joe Lodge ruled that the tribe waited too long for the court to make a ruling on clear ADEQ environmental law violations.

Download high resolution pictures here:

Photo credits: Katie Nelson and Rudy Preston