For Kini Seawright, and all the other women who bury a loved one due to police or prison violence...

Monday, December 26, 2011

Mike Stauffer's take on MCSO Brutality...

Keep in mind that the following is coming from a conservative challenger 
to Joe Arpaio in 2012

-------------------from the Tucson Citizen--------------

Law Enforcer Mike Stauffer reacts to death of Ernest M. Atencio
by on Dec. 26, 2011,

Law Enforcement Analysis of the Ernest Atencio Incident
December 26, 2011
Police Lt. Mike Stauffer
MCSO Candidate • 2012

In expressing my dismay about the incident that occurred in the MCSO 4th Avenue intake area on December 16, 2011, I have angered some people employed by MCSO. To those individuals, I say, the information that I acted on came from inside the MCSO. There are employees of the organization who are disgusted by the actions of a few and will speak out.

As sheriff, I will not tolerate this behavior or this attitude. I will not tolerate those who stand by and allow this type of incident to take place. Know that the days of covering up behind stalling tactics are over. The cover-up is frequently worse than the incident itself. The MCSO is under a microscope. Even if it was not, I expect all the employees should understand that they are held to a very high standard of conduct and will be held accountable for their actions. I am outraged that even one employee of the MCSO would stand by as this incident unfolded and did nothing to intervene. I am outraged by the atmosphere and attitude fostered by Arpaio that allowed this to happen. Know that those who continue to carry this attitude will have no place at the MCSO.

I stipulate that I have not been privy to an unedited video and have formed some
conclusions based on the video available on You Tube ( and the report by Fox 10 News in Phoenix (
/7nbuyma). What I saw disturbed me greatly on many levels.

Ernest Atencio according to reports, was arrested for misdemeanor assault. He had not seen a judge. He had not even gone through the full intake process.

Nevertheless, the offense he was arrested for, even if found guilty and convicted at trial, did not warrant a death sentence. American law enforcement is not judge or jury.

Ernest Atencio arrived at the intake area under his own power and apparently healthy. He did not initially appear physically combative, and in fact, the Phoenix Police officers released him from his handcuffs. It has not been reported what the conversation was between PPD officers and Mr. Atencio that precipitated the officers to grab him and attempt to restrain him.

If the reason for the physical contact was to put Mr. Atencio back into handcuffs, why do none of the officers have handcuffs out? There are no restraining tools of any kind visible.

As Mr. Atencio struggles with the officers, a Phoenix officer appears to put Mr. Atencio into a choke hold (2:11), which is considered a deadly force tactic, and takes him forcefully to the ground. It appears that Mr. Atencio goes limp for several seconds at this point. The Phoenix officer is then pushed away by an MCSO detention officer and at least six detention officers appear to be pinning Mr. Atencio to the floor.

Although he can’t be seen under the pile of at least six detention officers, it appears that Mr. Atencio suddenly surges and the detention officers apply a Taser in “drive stun” mode. This tactic involves firing a barb from close range, into the subject and then repositioning the Taser to make contact and complete a circuit that delivers an immobilizing electric current to the subject for a five second duration. The detention officers do not appear to be restraining Mr. Atencio during any of the applications, as those properly trained to use a Taser are instructed. Taser training also warns that repeated applications of the Taser is dangerous to the health of a subject and de-escalation tactics to bring the subject under control should be employed during the subject’s incapacitation to prevent the need for continued force.

Equally disturbing are the actions of the other officers in the area. Several officers run into view from other areas and try to join in the pile. Others appear to be mocking Mr. Atencio and laughing about the encounter. Their behavior reinforces the perception the officers have a callous disregard for Mr. Atencio’s well being.

In the holding cell, a detention officer is seen making what appears to be knee strikes to Mr. Atencio’s head. Another detention officer puts a restraining hand on that officer’s shoulder to stop him. This occurs while Mr. Atencio is being held down by at least five other detention officers. The application of knee strikes to the head while Mr. Atencio is being restrained is an inappropriately high level of force for the circumstances.

Mr. Atencio is limp and unresponsive; yet, he is stripped of his clothing and dumped on the floor of a holding cell. The medical personnel present do not appear to ascertain Mr. Atencio’s medical status. No medical follow-up is conducted and Mr. Atencio is left alone. This again is contrary to Taser policies and training. Training dictates that anyone subjected to a Taser application be seen immediately after the situation is stabilized by certified medical personnel. A person subjected to multiple Taser applications should be seen by an emergency room Physician.

The vague statement issued by Chief McIntyre that night after the story broke suggests an attempt to cover up the situation. His statement indicates that there was no in-custody death that night, an outright falsehood. The week delay in releasing the video and the timing of the release further suggests an all out attempt to bury the story by the MCSO.

These situations require an open, timely release of preliminary findings. Delay and vagueness only fuel anger and distrust in the community. Hiding behind a wall of silence is not appropriate. The leader of the organization must be front and center and accountable to the community. Only in this way can the organization be trusted to do what is right.

Police Lt. Mike Stauffer
West Kenyon
Campaign Manager
Police Lt. Mike Stauffer
Maricopa County Sheriff • Candidate 2012
t: 480.414.6868

Friday, December 23, 2011

MCSO and Marty Atencio: Video released

Here's the MCSO Booking area, where Marty Atencio was attacked; this footage comes via Dennis Gilman, who edited hours of tapes. I, frankly, see no provocation for that Phoenix cop to take down Marty the way he did, much less for ten more officers to jump in...

part I

part II

Here they are putting Marty in a "safe room" now. I have a problem with this policy of stripping mentally ill or unstable prisoners naked to assure their "safety"  - it just compounds trauma with humiliation.

Good coverage and observations below, from the Phoenix New Times: Check out links to Stephen Lemons' continuing coverage of the death of Marty Atencio here.


Last week, Marty Atencio's brother Mike told me that he and his family believe Sheriff Joe Arpaio's detention officers "murdered" his brother, leaving the 44 year-old Army vet dead in a cell, only to ship him out to St. Joseph's Hospital later, so the MCSO could deny that Atencio was an "in-custody" death.

On Tuesday, Atencio's family made the decision to remove him from life support, but the family's attorney Mike Manning later noted, "[Atencio] died in the jail."

Friday, the MCSO released eight hours of video, some of it documenting Atencio's stay in the sheriff's custody. The chilling words of Atencio's brother and of Manning have not been rebutted by that footage.
Watch the video above, taken from hours of jail tape the MCSO unceremoniously dumped on a ravenous media Friday afternoon. What do you see?

I see a pack of uniformed officers jumping on one unarmed man, who seems to be making no aggressive moves toward them.

While beneath this pile-on, Atencio was Tased. That the Tasing was unnecessary is self-evident.

There's also creepy footage (not seen above) of Atencio being thrown naked into an isolation cell. In it, Atencio is not moving, and looks to be unconscious. 

The scene in the cell is eerily reminiscent of MCSO video of Juan Farias Mendoza, an inmate allegedly beaten to death by detention officers in Arpaio's jails back in 2007.

Mendoza was 40. Atencio was 44. Both men were Tased several times in custody. And each man was a father. Mendoza had three kids. Atencio's family told me he has four, ranging in ages from 15 to 24.

The world might never have known about Mendoza, had not an anonymous tipster informed New Times of his brutal demise. Recently, Maricopa County settled with Mendoza's family to the tune of $1 million.

Which makes you wonder: How many incidents like these have occurred in Arpaio's gulags that we don't know about.

So the Atencio family's response to the video's release, in a statement given to the press by Manning, seems wise and measured, an example of dignity in the face of the media's hunger for information and Arpaio's spin machine:

"The Atencio family has instructed that I make no comment today concerning the jail video just released by Sheriff Arpaio," Manning said. "They are deeply grieving the death of their Marty and do not want their burden and hurt to interfere with the joys, blessings, and good cheer that other Valley families are looking forward to on this eve of the Christmas weekend. We will have a comment on Monday or Tuesday."

Atencio was acting erratic before and after his arrest by Phoenix cops on charges of assault. The Atencio family has indicated their loved one was bipolar and not on his medication at the time of his arrest.

Manning's stated that blood tests of Atencio done at St. Joe's showed no illicit drugs or alcohol in the man's system

Such factors aside, there's no excuse for such a death. Despite this, the MCSO boasts a gruesome track record of citizens dying needlessly in its custody

These individuals often become victims because they are already part of some at-risk group. 

Over the years, New Times has stood sentinel for them all: the diabetic mom denied her medication, the mentally retarded man asphyxiated till brain dead; the legally blind man beaten till comatose; the drug addict son offed in a restraint chair of the kind now banned from Arpaio's jails; and so on.

Now New Times stands sentinel for another in a long line of those neglected and abused by the MCSO -- the beaten, the Tased, the tortured and the slain. A line destined only to end when Arpaio is removed from power.

UPDATE 12/27/11: For more video of Atencio in custody and attorney Mike Manning's comments on same, click, here.

UPDATE 12/28/11: For Atencio's obituary and funeral service schedule, please click, here.

UPDATE 1/4/12: Marty Atencio laid to rest, please click here.

UPDATE 1/5/12: Psalm for Marty Atencio, please click here.

UPDATE 1/10/12: Phoenix Police arrest report released, please click here.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

More MCSO brutality towards latino prisoners...

From facebook last night...

We received news from an inside source that a Latino inmate at the 4th Avenue Jail is brain dead due to excessive force by detention officers. 
Update tonight, from the Arizona Republic:

Phoenix inmate still critical after restraint at jail

A man who was taken to a hospital after he became unresponsive while being booked into a Maricopa County jail early Friday remains in critical condition Saturday, officials said.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has identified the man as 44-year-old Ernest M. Atencio.

Phoenix police brought Atencio in for booking on suspicion of assault at about 3 a.m. on Friday. During the booking process, Maricopa County sheriff's officials said Atencio was abusive and combative, forcing police and sheriff's deputies to use "defensive efforts" in restraining him.

In a statement issued by the sheriff's office, MCSO Deputy Director Jack MacIntyre was quoted as saying the officers took Atencio to a "safe cell" in hopes of getting him under control. While in the cell, Atencio was under observation by medical personnel, MacIntyre said. About 15 minutes later, medical staff checked on Atencio and had to start CPR and other revival efforts, McIntyre said.

Atencio was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix.

McIntyre said an investigation is ongoing.

----UPDATE December 21: PHX NEW TIMES---


Marty removed from life support;

Marty Atencio Dead, Blood Tests Show Him Free of Illicit Drugs, Lawyer Says

Friday, December 16, 2011

ASPC-Yuma Deaths in Custody: Eddie Martinez.

Eddie Martinez was beaten unconscious at APSC-Yuma on December 11, and placed on life support. The death announcement below was posted by the Arizona Department of Corrections late today. Condolences to Eddie's family. Please feel free to contact me if you wish to organize with other families to prevent this kind of thing from happening again, or if you need support fighting the state in court. Do what you need to do to grieve, but know that you don't have to go through it alone.

Peggy Plews

Thursday, December 15, 2011

ARPAIO and the DOJ: We want a perp walk.

The DOJ just released a 22-page letter of findings, concluding that the practices of Joe Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office violate the 1st, 4th, and 14th Amendments to the US Constitution, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, and Section 14141 of the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act. The feds threaten a civil suit to convince him to change his ways. It's just a letter, though, not an indictment - never mind the blood dripping from Joe Arpaio's hands. 

People have been harassed, detained, arrested, abused, and neglected to death in Arpaio's custody, and yet his treatment of them doesn't appear to be a criminal case - not yet, anyway. I "loitered" in a public park after the posted hours at a protest, though, and immediately did 18 hours in Arpaio's jail. I may face more time yet for my graffiti and activism on behalf of human rights, and he's taking campaign donations as if he's running for office again. Texas Governor Rick Perry even courted good old Sheriff Joe's endorsement for the 2012 Republican presidential ticket...that sure says a lot about Perry's character, doesn't it?

I assume that the letter of the DOJ's findings is addressed to Bill Montgomery, Maricopa County Attorney, because his office will represent the county against any suit the DOJ actually brings (Arpaio's office has a private attorney) - all parties will fight at our expense, of course. Then there are the individual civil suits against the county and Arpaio that will all be bolstered by this finding; And there's the $99 million that he "misappropriated"; this man is costing American taxpayers a fortune. 

What Arpaio's term in office has cost us, though, far exceeds the expense involved in both prosecuting and defending him - he also cost the public our safety through his harassment and by clearing real crimes by "exceptional" means. He pursued his racist agenda and employed discriminatory tactics chasing down "aliens" at the expense of solving child sexual abuse cases, rapes and homicides - is it any wonder that so many of the victims his office ignored were children of undocumented latinos?

For the harm he's perpetrated all of our communities - flagrantly violating human and constitutional rights in the process - I want to see that man prosecuted. He owes hundreds of millions of dollars in restitution to his victims and has done violence to people's lives, as far as I'm concerned, but right now the DOJ is just talking about "reform" and "remediation". Someday I hope we have no prisons, but until we come up with a better way to protect the public from racist, abusive and dangerous people, I want to see Joe Arpaio locked away by the feds, not put into outpatient rehab. We have far too many people locked up on drug charges to be squandering resources rehabilitating him. It's time to indict this Criminal Joe - and let our people go.

4th Avenue Jail, Phoenix
Chalk the Police Day 2011
Investigation of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office

In June 2008, the Civil Rights Division opened an investigation of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Following a comprehensive investigation, on December 15, 2011, the Justice Department announced its findings that MCSO has engaged in a pattern or practice of misconduct that violates the Constitution and federal law. The documents on this page provide more information about the investigation, the Justice Department's findings, and next steps.

Findings Letter:
English   |   Spanish

Victim of Yuma prison beating may soon die.

 This is eerily reminiscent of Dana Seawright's story from July 2010, when he was beaten into a coma at Lewis prison for resisting gang orders, and ultimately removed from life support by his mom. Yes, it seems it could have - should have - been prevented here, had this fellow been placed in protective segregation after he was beaten so badly the first time. Instead he was apparently offered an "alternative" and seemingly "safe" housing option at ASPC-Yuma, where many of the other PS-rejects also get sent to be victimized even further.

If anyone has any further information on this prisoner's beating in Yuma - and the long-term outcome - please let me know. I'm undertaking a massive campaign to address the skyrocketing rates of prison assaults and homicides over the past 3 years, and the troubles prisoners are having getting protective segregation status approved even after being threatened and attacked repeatedly. 

Any background information and hard documentation I can get my hands on would be greatly appreciated. I (Peggy) can be reached at 480-580-6807 or

Our thoughts are with this man and his family tonight.

----------------from AZ Range News---------------

Willcox man critically beaten in prison

By Ainslee S. Wittig/
Arizona Range News

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 1:07 PM CST
Eddie Martinez, of Willcox, turned 51 on Dec. 12, but there was no joyous occasion. Instead, his family was waiting for six doctors to determine his fate after he was nearly beaten to death the day before in Yuma.

Martinez was declared brain dead at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix and will likely have his life support turned off Thursday, said his sister, Tina Hidalgo, also of Willcox.

The tragedy is compounded by the fact that this could have been prevented.

Martinez was in prison for repetitive offenses of fraudulent schemes and theft. He was incarcerated on June 29, 2009 and has been moved five times. When he was transferred to Phoenix unit SMU 1, he was severely beaten by other inmates about four months ago, she said.

"His jaw was broken. They kept it wired shut four weeks longer than they needed to and his pain medications were being stolen. He lost 35 pounds, and had just started working out again. He was a body builder," she said.

He was moved after that incident to the Arizona State Prison Complex Yuma's Cibola Unit in San Luis.

"He had just written a letter to my mother (Helen Martinez of Willcox) saying that the inmates who had beaten him up were transferred to his unit. He did not say their names," Hidalgo said. "This time they killed him. We don't know how long he had been laying there before anyone found him."

"We want to know who is going to be held accountable for what happened to my brother."

Hidalgo said her mother had not been able to get any information from the prison.

"They called her after he was taken to St. Joseph's, but did not give her clearance to come see him until he was determined to be brain dead," she said.

When reached Tuesday morning, Bill Lamoreaux of the Arizona State Prison Central Media Office, said Martinez was discovered at just after 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11, "with injuries consistent with an assault."

"He remains hospitalized (as of Tuesday), and a criminal investigation is ongoing by the ADC (Arizona Department of Correcitions)," Lamoreaux said.

"I can't give you any more information at thei time,a sthe investigation is ongoing."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

CCA Eloy: Transgender prisoner sues over sexual assault by guard


Sadly, the following press release comes as little surprise...good for the ACLU-AZ for picking this case up and seeing the victim through - they've been busy with our state prisons of late, too.

For those who haven't been paying attention to all the glory and acclaim that Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) has brought to the prison town of Eloy, recall the lawsuits alleging torture of 18 Hawaiian prisoners, as well as the sexual assault of a prisoner by a guard (who was subsequently prosecuted). Then there are the problems with their California prisoners - and what happened in Idaho...

Needless to say, anyone thinking about having CCA move into their backyard (and take over their town council) should really think twice: their leadership clearly fails to set and demand professional - or even humane - standards of treatment for prisoners.


ACLU of Arizona Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Transgender Woman Sexually Assaulted By CCA Guard

December 5, 2011

CONTACT: (212) 549-2666;

PHOENIX – The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona today filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of a 28-year-old transgender woman who was intimidated, harassed, and sexually assaulted by a Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) guard while she was in immigration custody at the CCA-owned and operated Eloy Detention Center. CCA is the largest operator of immigration detention centers in the country and detains almost half of the 33,000 people in federal custody on any given day.

The lawsuit, filed against CCA, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, and the City of Eloy, charges that local and federal officials failed to protect Tanya Guzman-Martinez from abusive male staff members at the facility in Eloy, even after being notified about the sexual attack and ongoing harassment by staff and other male detainees.

“Tanya left Mexico to seek refuge from the persecution she suffered because of her gender identity, and was exposed to even greater trauma at the hands of immigration officials who failed to take appropriate measures to protect her while she was in their custody,” said ACLU of Arizona Immigrant Rights Attorney Victoria Lopez.

During her 8-month detention at Eloy, one of the largest ICE facilities in the country, Guzman-Martinez was sexually assaulted twice. One incident occurred on December 7, 2009 and involved a detention officer who after repeated harassment, maliciously forced Guzman-Martinez to ingest his ejaculated semen and threatened to deport her back to Mexico if she did not comply with his demands. Guzman-Martinez immediately reported the assault to detention staff and the Eloy Police Department and the detention officer was later convicted in Pinal County Superior Court of attempted unlawful sexual contact.

Despite this attack, immigration officials did nothing to protect her from further abuse. In a separate incident that took place on April 23, 2010, Guzman-Martinez was sexually assaulted by a male detainee in the same all-male housing unit where she was subjected to the first assault. She didn’t report the assault to local police until about a week later because she feared retaliation by detention staff and other detainees. Soon after she reported the second assault to the police, Guzman-Martinez was released from ICE custody.

Although Guzman-Martinez was released from detention more than a year-and-a-half ago, she still suffers from the emotional pain she endured while at Eloy.

“When we tout our country as a beacon of freedom, fairness, and individual liberties for all, the United States, as well as state and local governments, and the people and entities with whom they routinely contract, must live up to those values, especially for those people who seek refuge in this country because of those values,” added ACLU of Arizona cooperating attorney Kirstin Story of the law firm of Lewis and Roca LLP. “Unfortunately, that did not occur in the Tanya Guzman-Martinez case and in many others. We hope that this lawsuit is a step toward remedying these failures.”

Today’s lawsuit alleges that CCA, Eloy, and ICE personnel failed to take basic steps to protect Guzman-Martinez’s physical safety and emotional well-being, to properly train and monitor the staff at the center or to implement best practices to house transgender detainees and prevent the sexual assault of vulnerable populations.

Incidents of sexual abuse in immigration detention, particularly among vulnerable women and LGBTQ detainees, are widespread, the ACLU said. In October, the ACLU of Texas filed a federal class-action lawsuit on behalf of three immigrant women who were sexually assaulted while in ICE custody at the T. Don Hutto Family Residential Center in Taylor, Texas. The lawsuit was filed following the release by the ACLU of government documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act that confirmed 185 allegations of sexual abuse of immigration detainees jailed at detention facilities across the nation since 2007 alone. According to those documents, 16 allegations of sexual abuse were lodged in Arizona facilities – the third largest number of allegations after Texas and California. Of those 16 allegations in Arizona, 8 were from the Eloy Detention Center. In addition, the ACLU of Arizona documented five cases involving transgender or gay detainees who were sexually assaulted or treated in an abusive manner while in detention in Arizona facilities. The case examples are highlighted in the ACLU-AZ report entitled "In Their Own Words: Enduring Abuse in Arizona Immigration Detention Centers," which includes an entire section highlighting the array of problems confronting LGBTQ detainees.

Despite mounting documentation of widespread sexual abuse in immigration detention centers, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has proposed a rule that explicitly excludes immigration detention facilities from coverage under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). Congress enacted PREA to protect all persons in custody by setting standards for preventing, detecting, and responding to sexual abuse. “Without PREA's protection, immigrants in detention such as Tanya Guzman-Martinez, remain vulnerable to abuse,” added Lopez.

In response, the U.S. Congress will hold a briefing on December 7th titled: the Prison Rape Elimination Act and the Crisis of Sexual Abuse in Immigration Detention.

Lawyers on the case, Tanya Guzman-Martinez v. CCA, et al., include Daniel Pochoda, ACLU of Arizona Legal Director, and ACLU of Arizona Cooperating Attorneys Kristina N. Holmstrom and Kirstin A. Story of the law firm of Lewis and Roca LLP.

Click here to read the complaint.

The ACLU of Arizona’s detention report is available here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

ADC threatened with class action suit for gross medical and psychiatric neglect.

This article about the Prison Law Office and ACLU taking the ADC to court has been a long time in coming for survivors of prison suicides and gross neglect, and for those prisoners still inside - thank you Bob Ortega and AZ Republic. Here's the actual letter that was sent to Chuck Ryan listing all the allegations against his department.

In the first 2 1/2 years of his tenure, Chuck Ryan presided over 28 suicides. That's almost one per month. During that time the prison population remained relatively stable - even dropping a bit last year. In the 2 1/2 years that preceded Ryan, under Dora Schriro, there were only 12 suicides - less than 1 every two months.

Additionally, both Shannon Palmer and James Jennings were murdered by their cellies because Shannon and James were psychotic and isolated with intolerant cellies (in Shannon's case, his cellie was also psychotic).

Then there are the cases of outrageous neglect: Marcia Powell was left to die in her feces with burns on her body in an outdoor cage while on a 10-minute suicide watch; Huberta Parlee died after two days of begging for treatment for a perforated ulcer; Brenda Todd sought medical attention repeatedly before being found dead in her cell one morning last winter. The list goes on.

These are not just isolated incidents or the consequences of budget cuts made years ago. Chuck Ryan decides how to distribute resources, and sets the tone for how prisoners are to be treated through his policies, practices in disciplining staff, and promotions of bullies like himself. His administration has reduced rehabilitative programs to negligible levels, has increased medical co-pays while decreasing prisoner earnings, has eliminated things like a suicide prevention program that trained prisoners as aides, has compromised positive community and family support to prisoners by implementing fees for visitors, and has allowed rates of violence to skyrocket unchecked...

It is no wonder that so many prisoners have grown so demoralized that they've killed themselves in his custody in record numbers. One of many questions is why there's such a racial disparity in those suicides.

AZ Department of Corrections
November 22, 2011

These are the victims of our collective indifference, by gender, race and age:
Jan - June 2009 (5 suicides in 6mos): Angela Soto (MexAmer, 28) Harvey Rymer (W, 33), Angel Torres (MexAmer, 32) Dung Ung (AsnAmer, 32), Caesar Bojorquez (MexNatl, 37)

July - June 2010 (9 suicides in 12 months): Erick Cervantes (MexAmer, 30) Douglas Nunn (W, 33), Hernan Cuevas (MexAmer, 18) Monte McCarty (W, 46), Patricia Velez (MexAmer, 24), Jerry Kulp (AfAmer, 17), Jessie Cota, (MexAm, 28) James Adams (W, 46),Eric Bybee (W, 32)

July - June 2011 (14 suicides in 12 months): Tony Lester (NA, 26), Robert Medina (MexAm, 29), Geshell Fernandez (NA, 28) Patrick Lee Ross, (AfAmer, 28), Lasasha Cherry (AfAmer, 23) Rosario Bojorquez-Rodriguez (MexNat, 29), Duron Cunningham (AfAmer, 40) James Galloway (W, 54), Ronald Richie (W, 42) Susan Lopez (MexAmer, 35), Michael Tovar, (MexAmer, 20) Carey Wheatley (AfAmer, 49), Michael Pellicer (AfAmer, 35) Luis Moscoso-Hernandez (MexNat, 28)

Condolences to all the loved one's of AZ state prison violence, neglect, and suicide...

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

Prison inmates in Arizona crying foul over medical care

State to investigate medical allegations

Bob Ortega
Dec. 5, 2011 11:06 PM

The Arizona Republic

To stave off a lawsuit, Arizona's Department of Corrections has agreed to investigate scores of complaints by inmates that they are routinely denied medical care for weeks or months even for severe, life-threatening conditions. Inmates who have lost sight, had body parts amputated or been severely disfigured, among other gruesome examples, say proper medical care could have prevented needless suffering.

Based on those allegations, a legal coalition has accused the state of chronically and systemically denying medical and mental-health care to inmates, violating state and federal laws and the U.S. Constitution.

The Prison Law Office, a legal-advocacy group for prisoners nationwide, also charges that lack of care may contribute to a prison suicide rate in Arizona that is more than double the national average, with 14 reported suicides in the fiscal year that ended last June.

Interviews with current and former prisoners and dozens of inmate letters of complaint obtained by The Arizona Republic raise similar concerns.

Corrections officials say they have found no evidence of systemic problems, although they say that pending plans to privatize prison health care have made it harder to fill medical-staff vacancies and that rule changes two years ago that cut payment levels to outside contractors also crimped access to care.

But prisoner advocates say the problems are longer-standing.

Allegations made by inmates, prisoner advocates and attorneys include:

A diabetic prisoner, while waiting months for insulin, lost sight completely in one eye and partially in the other.
An epileptic who wasn't given his medications suffered repeated seizures for weeks.

A man with a growth on his penis was denied medical treatment for two years. Doctors ultimately diagnosed a cancerous tumor on his penis; the organ had to be amputated, and doctors told him the cancer had spread to his stomach.

An inmate with a cancerous growth on his lip waited seven months for treatment. Most of his lip and mouth were removed, leaving him permanently disfigured.

Prison medical staff members have repeatedly denied treatment to Tucson inmate Horace Sublett for Kaposi's sarcoma, a cancer, despite documentation, including from the VA hospital in Phoenix and other outside doctors confirming that the Navy veteran, 82, has the disease.

Prisoners with emphysema, end-state renal disease and other illnesses reported being denied treatment or medication, leading to complications and permanent side effects.

Corrections officials maintain that they provided appropriate care in these cases. Karyn Klausner, the department's general counsel, said inmates' loss of sight, amputation of the penis and disfiguring facial surgery were not related to any delays in treatment.

Donald Specter, executive director of the San Quentin, Calif.-based Prison Law Office, described his group's concerns in an Oct. 12 letter to state Corrections Director Charles Ryan.

"State prison officials are deliberately indifferent to the serious health-care needs of prisoners and to the prisoners' unnecessary and significant pain, suffering and even deaths," Specter wrote.

That letter, which lists dozens of specific allegations without naming the inmates affected and which has been obtained by The Republic, asked Ryan to agree to a court injunction to address problems as a way of avoiding a lawsuit in federal court.

In May, Specter and the Prison Law Office won landmark litigation against the California Department of Corrections. In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court required California to release about 30,000 prisoners to alleviate unconstitutional prison overcrowding.

On Nov. 17, Arizona's Department of Corrections signed an agreement to investigate the medical claims, and the California group agreed to delay any lawsuit for three months.

But, so far, Ryan said, "We don't see any systemic indication of problems or evidence of deliberate indifference."

Ryan added that the department demanded the group provide inmates' names so it could verify or disprove the claims.

Specter said his group is asking inmates whether they are willing to be identified. Many prisoners fear retaliation for speaking out.

The department doesn't deny there are problems.

"Are there instances where an inmate didn't receive medications or treatment in a timely fashion? Yes," Klausner said. "But is it systemic? No."

The Prison Law Office noted that in 2009, the Arizona State Prison Complex-Eyman in Florence had only one half-time psychiatrist for more than 1,000 patients who were on mental-health medications. As of last month, that position was vacant.

Earlier this year, inmates at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Perryville often weren't seen by mental-health staff for six months or more, according to staff quoted in the group's letter.

"We're out of compliance with our own policies," Michael Breslow, then- deputy medical director for psychiatry, warned Ryan in a Sept. 13, 2009, e-mail obtained by the law group through an Information Act request. "The lack of treatment represents an escalating danger to the community, the staff and the inmates," Breslow said.

Staff shortages also affect medical care. Both the Arizona State Prison Complex-Tucson and the Eyman unit, which house more than 5,100 prisoners each, are supposed to have five doctors on staff. In April, Eyman had two doctors and a third working half-time; Tucson had two, according to department staffing reports.

Ryan and Klausner said Corrections has improved mental-health and medical care in recent months. Ryan said Corrections provided six hours of training in suicide prevention, crisis intervention and emergency response to 8,806 staff members who have direct contact with inmates.

That training follows, among other incidents, the July 2010 suicide of Tony Lester, a mentally ill inmate at the Tucson prison. An internal investigation found that officers stood by for 23 minutes without intervening after Lester slit his throat, wrists and groin with razor blades that he wasn't supposed to have.

Ryan also said Corrections has filled 172 health-care and mental-health positions since June 23 -- including vacancies for doctors at the Eyman and Tucson prisons.

However, the overall medical-staff vacancy rate has barely budged. In April, 23 percent of positions were unfilled. As of the end of November, 22 percent were unfilled, according to staffing reports.

Ryan said the department also has reduced the waiting time for inmates who require medical treatment outside the prisons -- from an average of 77 days early last year to an average of 49 days as of this month.

But inmates say months-long waits for care and denials of prescribed medicine and medical supplies continue to be routine.

"It's a real big problem, and they're keeping it hush-hush," former inmate Eric Wright said in an interview. Wright was released from the state prison in Tucson last month after serving more than four years on drug charges. Wright said a doctor prescribed back surgery in 2008 for an injury he suffered in prison.

"Nothing in my sentence called for the death penalty," said former inmate Martin Feldman, 67, who also had difficulties receiving timely prison medical care for osteomyelitis (a chronic bone infection) and obstructed coronary arteries. Feldman recently was released after serving nearly two years for a drug violation.

Corrections spokesman Barrett Marson declined to comment on Wright's and Feldman's cases, saying Corrections had to retrieve their medical records from archives.

Some of the shortfall in medical care stemmed from legislation lawmakers advocated as cutting costs.
In mid-2009, the Republican-led Arizona Legislature passed laws requiring Corrections to privatize prison medical care and to pay providers at a rate no higher than that paid by the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state's Medicare provider.

According to Corrections officials, within months of that law's passage, there were negative repercussions:

Health-care employees, figuring their jobs were on the chopping block, started leaving in droves. Corrections spent $5.3 million less on full-time health-care staff salaries this past fiscal year than two years earlier, a 13.5 percent drop. The department has used temporary, part-time workers to partially close that gap. And many contract providers such as Carondelet Health Network stopped doing business with Corrections, saying the reimbursement rates were too low. Ryan said the department eventually found other providers.

These issues are not new. In January 2009, well before lawmakers acted, more than one in four health-care positions was vacant, and the waiting time for outside medical care averaged 11 weeks, according to the department.

In the fiscal year ending last June, Corrections spent $111.3 million, or an average of $3,258 per inmate, on health care, down 27 percent from $140.5 million, or an average of $4,482 per inmate, two years earlier.

In recent years, inmates have reported scores of incidents to prisoner advocates such as the Arizona Justice Project, which helps inmates with wrongful convictions; Middle Ground Prison Reform, a prisoner-rights group; Lynn Nau, who runs a prison ministry for Faith Lutheran Church in Phoenix; Margaret Plews, a Phoenix activist who monitors treatment of prisoners; and Rep. Cecil Ash, a Republican lawmaker from Mesa who is involved in sentencing and correctional issues.

Ash said some of the letters he has received "really give me cause for worry ... that the state could have some serious lawsuits on its hands."

Many alleged incidents also suggest that often, denying basic care not only causes prolonged pain and suffering but makes it far more expensive once doctors treat the patients.

Carlos Archuleta, a Tucson inmate, said he begged repeatedly for help after being bitten in the groin by a spider last June. After four days, he was transported to a hospital for an emergency operation to remove infected fluid and tissue. Doctors had to resuscitate him after his heart stopped during the operation, and Archuleta was kept in the hospital six days.

"The doctor said if they'd left it one more day, he'd be dead. Just because they're inmates doesn't mean you should treat them this way," said his mother, Guadalupe Lopez. She added, "If he'd gotten proper medical care on day one, taxpayers wouldn't have had to pay for an emergency surgery and the hospital stay."

Corrections' spokesman Marson said "appropriate care was provided" to Archuleta.

The bottom line isn't just that prisoners, like anyone else, should have access to adequate medical care, said Caroline Isaacs, director of the American Friends Service Committee's Tucson office, which monitors state prisons. "Ninety percent of them will get out of prison, so treating HIV or hepatitis C or whatever they have prevents a public- health risk, or they'll get out and get on AHCCCS and we're paying for it anyway."