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

Monday, June 25, 2012

MCSO Brutality: Catching up to the killers of Marty Atencio

I read this and wept. Thank you to Stephen Lemons for staying on it...

Marty Atencio, beaten, tased, stripped and left to die 
by cops and guards in a "safe cell" at the 4th Avenue Jail
Phoenix, December 15 2011

----------from the Phoenix New Times-----------

Jailhouse Goons Make Fun Of and Kill a Mentally Ill Inmate
By Stephen Lemons
Thursday, Jun 14 2012

It takes a twisted individual to delight in the sufferings of the mentally ill. A special type of sick, sadistic bully. The kind employed in spades by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.

The December 16 killing of Army veteran Marty Atencio is the latest example of the above, one of the most recent in a string of corpses that punctuates the timeline of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's nearly 20-year career as this county's top lawman.

As reported last week in my Feathered Bastard blog, the Atencio family's attorney, Mike Manning, has filed notices of claim, totaling $20 million, with both the city of Phoenix and Maricopa County in Atencio's brutal demise at the hands of Phoenix cops and MCSO detention officers working in the Fourth Avenue Jail.

Since the 44-year-old's death occurred just hours after the U.S. Department of Justice issued its scathing report on the MCSO's pattern of discriminatory policing, racial profiling, and abuse of Latinos in Joe's gulags, much has been revealed about the circumstances surrounding the Atencio homicide.

The county medical examiner's autopsy noted Atencio's history of mental illness and hospitalization for psychosis.

Toxicology results from specimens, including those taken at St. Joseph's Hospital hours after Atencio's arrest earlier that day, showed no illicit drugs in Atencio's system.

Phoenix Police Department reports reveal that Atencio generally was passive and compliant during the two encounters with Phoenix cops that culminated in his arrest on December 15.

Indeed, Atencio "showed no signs of being a danger to himself or others," according to Phoenix Officer Sarah Roberts.

Rather, Atencio "simply appeared to be not medicated and engaged in very random conversation," Roberts said.

Atencio was arrested in West Phoenix for scaring a resident, Cathy Boyd, after kicking the apartment door of her neighbor.

Manning quotes from Boyd's affidavit recounting details of the incident:

"Marty did not physically threaten me at any time . . . I knew there was something wrong with him, and I just wanted him to . . . get some help."

Apparently, Atencio was treated well until he was taken to Arpaio's infamous jail, where cruelty is king and an idiotic environment pervades.

The most damning evidence of Atencio's mistreatment comes from interviews with detention officers and Phoenix cops carried out within days, sometimes within hours, of Atencio's beat-down and Tasing, referred to euphemistically by the Medical Examiner's Office as a "law enforcement subdual."

The interviews were done by MCSO detectives. Manning's law office obtained them through a public-records request.

Apparently, Atencio's mind at the time was like that of a child's. Disoriented, spouting nonsensical comments, he often referred to himself in the third person as "Tony" and seemed to be mimicking Robin Williams' character in Good Morning, Vietnam.

Some detention officers and cops thought Atencio was on drugs, claiming that he told someone during his stay in Fourth Avenue that he had smoked meth earlier in the day.

But toxicology reports don't lie. Cops and detention officers are another story. Soon after Atencio was taken, brain dead, to St. Joe's, they were making assumptions to rationalize their behavior.

Thing is, the breakdown in law enforcement discipline — including a Phoenix cop's pushing Atencio with his cuffed hands bent awkwardly and painfully — cannot be rationalized.

It also included MCSO detention officers mocking and humiliating Atencio as they took his mug shot.

"They encouraged him to make funny faces and . . . kept saying, 'Let's make this one the Mug Shot of the Week,'" one witness said.

Another witness noted that when they took Atencio's picture, "It was a big joke" and "they all stood around and laughed about it."

This hilarity turned deadly once Atencio was surrounded by officers demanding that he remove his shoes. When in Phoenix custody, cops had gotten Atencio to take off his shoes by just being patient and repeating their request. Here, Phoenix police and MCSO guards were far from patient.

Two Phoenix police officers who were there to help process detainees initiated what Manning calls a "jailers' riot," even though Atencio was standing before them, arms crossed, presenting no threat.

The notice of claim identifies the Phoenix cops as Patrick Hanlon and Nicholas French.

Several MCSO gendarmes joined the fray, in what one onlooker called "a big ol' dog pile." Though Atencio was smothered by officers, MCSO Sergeant Jason Weiers Tased Atencio several times.

Anthony Hatton, a detention officer who since has left the MCSO, punched Atencio in the face three times. Hatton claimed the strikes were necessary, but a couple of his fellow guards did not agree.

"He shouldn't have been punching him," detention Officer Sergio Salinas told investigators. "It was excessive."

Later, after Atencio was hauled to a "safe cell," where he would be stripped of clothing and left to die, Hatton continued the abuse, kneeing Atencio as guards held him down.

Detention officer Blas Gabrial told detectives that he yelled Hatton's name upon seeing the force used on Atencio. When asked why, he said, "Because I didn't think it was necessary."

While Atencio was lying motionless and naked in the safe cell, where he would breathe his last breath without life support, what were many of these men and women of law enforcement doing?

Laughing, joking, and cutting up like teenagers. Video shows two women — one in uniform — dancing and bumping butts. Hatton laughs and demonstrates what looks like a fighting move to other officers. A Phoenix cop eats an orange and grins.

Minutes later, they're all gathering around the door, precious seconds slipping away as they take their time getting it open.

"[Prisoners] play that game a lot," Weiers told an investigator, referring to Atencio's stillness. "You know, playing like they're dead."

Atencio wasn't playing. He already was gone. But CPR was performed, and he was rushed to St. Joe's. On December 20, his family removed him from life support.

If you saw grown men and women abusing a mentally ill or disabled person, would you do something about it?

Likely so. Which is why, ultimately, I blame the voters of Maricopa County for what happened to Atencio.

They've been told about a lot of such brutality in Arpaio's jails over the years and, so far, have looked the other way.

Previous Posts: 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

ToersBijns to Twist: Walking Arizona's other death row.

Opening night of "Political Descent"
Firehouse Gallery, Phoenix
June 9, 2012
 The names of Arizona's victims of prison violence, gross neglect and despair under the administration of Chuck Ryan.

The excellent letter below was written by Carl Toersbijns, a retired AZ Department of Corrections Deputy Warden. He worked at the state's Supermax prison in Florence, ASPC-Eyman, and knows of what he speaks. The opinion piece by Steve Twist that Carl is responding to  is here.

Find Carl's personal blog here, and his blog on AZCentral under kodiakbears, here.

-----from Carl ToersBijns---

June 17, 2012


 In reply to Mr. Steve Twist’s story on Arizona state prison systems, I am compelled to write to set the record straight from another viewpoint that differs very much with those of Mr. Twist. In order to do this, I will reveal  I have 25 years in corrections with the last 5 years with the Arizona Corrections agency as a deputy warden of operations. I left on good terms but was viewed critical by many because of my viewpoints that were not shared by peers and co-workers inside the prison system. That having been said, I am readily identified as a critic of the agency and how it spends its money and how it operates it systems statewide. Being viewed as a “progressive” in this state can cause heartburn by many and conflict as well.

 Yes, Mr. Twist, Arizona prisons do make an easy target for the media but not just the Arizona Republic. There have been numerous critical reports delivered to the community by good investigative reporters who researched their stories for accuracy for they knew they would be challenged by the DOC for accuracy.

 The characterization made for the alleged “gross mischaracterization” of the “unofficial death row” that exists within the prisons statewide is accurate. There cannot be a debate about the deaths that have occurred since Director Ryan took over in the end of January 2009. To set the record straight do your homework and visit the agency’s web page at news releases and do the math.

Reporters are reporting exactly what is being provided by the agency in a most non-transparent manner as many deaths are “pending investigation”, natural deaths, suicides and homicides, just as it was reported by all media reporters especially Mr. Bob Ortega, who requested hundreds of freedom of information documents to solidify and document his data accurately.

Truth in sentencing rules of engagement were dominated by political influences of ALEC, PRIDE and many other groups who promised financial support for those who supported their views on his to be tough on crime. This is hardly an admirable position to take for what is suppose to be a task driven for justice and equality for all under our constitutional demands.

You boldly speak of “Maximum-security inmates, those who have committed brutally violent crimes, and those who have demonstrated predatory, unruly and violent behavior by being a danger to other inmates and staff, generally make up the population housed in high-security settings” and say this without one solid contribution to personally observing these conditions or walking the tiers as many of us have for at least 16 hours a day, five days a week.

 You speak of them not being in “dark isolation, deprived of human contact or anything comparable to solitary confinement.” I challenge your knowledge and ask how you arrived at this conclusion without setting one step inside one of these facilities for no less than 8 hours.

Again, as a former deputy warden of one of the highest and most restricted security units in the state, Eyman SMU II, Florence Arizona, I never remember you walking the corridors and making this evaluation or observation first hand thus I must assume you either took a 20 minute “dog and pony” tour that was offered to all politicians and attorneys from the AG’s office or you were told this by someone who didn’t work there either.

 Regardless, you information is totally misinformed as I can validate these conditions through spending my time walking, talking and interacting with both staff and inmates inside these dark corridors where direct sunlight only hits them in the outdoor recreation box if the sun is up at high noon.

In your letter you wrote “Nevertheless, these dangerous inmates are appropriately housed for the safety of the public, themselves, and other inmates and staff” which is a statement we can agree on for sure.

Your perspective in your “discussion of the rate of inmate deaths in the Arizona prison system” is either outdated or unreal. Although you mention valid reasons for death, you purposely omit the long delays of constitutionally mandated healthcare standards that accelerate or impact the risks of recovery and while we are talking about drug overdose, suicide and homicides, these events are never clearly explained or revealed as most investigations are shoddy, incomplete and designed to close the matter as “pending further investigations” with no real follow up to reveal the actual cause of death. You cite traditional and known factors as contributors to death just so you can marginalize these deaths as human beings not provided the proper custodial care and protection under law.

Your reflection of your “housing environment” is positive but lacks the details that might reveal to you problems contributing to the overall efficiency of these housing units especially in a hot state such as Arizona.  The prisons are aging and maintenance or rather preventive maintenance has been severely impacted by budget cuts and personnel cuts that once were available to take care of these physical plants and repair as needed to keep all HVAC systems in compliance and other maintenance tasks timely.

These “variety of housing environments: dormitories, double-person cells, detention areas where inmates are temporarily segregated, and maximum-security single-person cells that are exclusively for problematic, dangerous inmates -- the worst of the worst” is an untrue statement.

They are not the “worst of the worst” as I estimate at least 26 % are mentally ill; 50 % are protective segregation or death row and the rest are gang validated and behavioral problems that need to be kept out of general population because of their supervisory needs.

 For those gang and violent offenders, the state needs to review their policies and see how they can reduce their custody levels through step down programs that will allow them to return back to general population at one time or another instead of indefinitely.

There are too many mentally ill prisoners housed there who don’t belong in max custody but rather a treatment center for stabilization, recovery programming, medication compliance and crisis intervention. Mixing them with non-mentally ill prisoners impacts and upsets these “housing environments” severely and creates more uses of force, more medical injuries, more self-inflicted wounds and more staff getting hurt because of triggers inside there that is best described as chaotic and loud once the others join the rants and anger of those kept there for reasons that warrant another review by both clinical personnel and medical personnel who are violating their ethical oaths and licenses for not treating these prisoners kept there in max custody.

You state “But in all cases, an inmate is able to interact with others. This includes the worst inmates, whose cells are in areas where they can speak with others in cells around them” thus you marginalize their housing conditions as acceptable and humane yet you have no idea what goes on inside these cell areas that turn into “bedlam” or craziness on a moments notice that impacts the sanity and insanity of everyone housed there as the need to use chemical agents is often not reserved for the one individual acting out but the entire pod will be exposed because of the ventilation systems that are joined and linked to each other through their venting systems. It is obvious you have never engaged in making housing assignments for as you had, you would know there is a systematic manner of making housing assignments inside prisons that carries with it many factors too long to mention.

The fact is that I am a critic of the agency. I am a critic in the manner they dispose of human beings in a cultural demeanor that dictates “deliberate indifference” to their civil rights and standards of care as well as custodial responsibilities.  I am a critic in hope of finding change in the manner we do business in Arizona prisons.
Many of these prisoners, both the mentally ill and the others will return back to our neighborhoods without treatment, programming and successful release planning. Their chances of staying out of prison are reduced by the lack of understanding and comprehension of how prisoners do time in Arizona as you have so superbly demonstrated by your letter indicating you are endorsing the manner it is being run and that civil rights and human rights don’t matter as long as you are incarcerated in the state of Arizona.

For the record, we have a prison system that provides “food and shelter, education, work programs, alcohol- and drug-addiction programs, and medical- and mental-health care that meet community standards” and that is most certainly truth to some extent. Your statement is misdirected to those lower custody yards not written about by Mr. Bob Ortega.

However, Bob Ortega wasn’t writing about the open yards where these amenities are so closely monitored and delivered and in compliance to a large degree. He was talking about the max custody units [and administrative segegation / detention units] where a fair proportion of Arizona prisoners are now housed under current policies to fill max custody beds so they can justify asking the legislature for more max custody beds. Beds that are the most expensive type to keep and filled but that doesn’t matter to those who pay taxes as they are willing to shell out $ 1.1 billion dollars for a system that has so many problems, they are “money pits” and wasting valuable funds that could be redirected to educational and other social needs for this state instead of prisons.

The only way you can save money on prisons is to reduce the population (what a concept) and find alternative sentencing and give the discretion back to judges to apply justified prison sentences for all persons equally under the law. 

Carl ToersBijns

Monday, June 18, 2012

David's Hope: Prison, Solitary and the Mentally Ill.

Community member Mike Shipley remembering victims of prison violence and despair at the opening of "Patriotic Descent", an art show on the exercise of political speech at the Firehouse Gallery in Phoenix (June 9, 2012)


The letter below was posted to the AZCentral website in the comments following the June 16 guest editorial in the AZ Republic by Steve Twist titled 

 ----from David's Hope------

I am writing as an advocate and founder of David’s Hope, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting treatment rather than incarceration for all those with mental illness and addictions. It is extremely sad to see former deputy AG Steve Twist write his ridiculous opinion piece, published  June 16 in "My Turn", wherein he claims our Arizona state prisons to be both humane and secure.

Arizona has a long history of brutality in its prisons, being first at producing a supermax prison and choosing to incarcerate endless numbers of individuals with serious mental illness within its walls. As an advocate for those with mental illness, I receive frequent requests for help from the mentally ill and their families who are seeking to find just a glimpse of humanity from the administrators of our AZ state prisons. Instead they find themselves cast into the abyss of brutality under the reign of current ADOC administration. The current director has replaced rehabilitative policies with chemical gassing and attack dogs which are used frequently. Even those suffering from psychosis due to severe mental illness are not immune from the brutality, regularly being sent to long term isolation for refusing to obey commands of the officers in charge. Those with severe disorientation due to psychosis can be kept in isolation for years, without sunlight or fresh air, permanently cut off from contact with any other human being in any meaningful way.

You won't hear the DOC call their isolation policies solitary confinement. Officials sanitize the term calling it segregation and tell us only the most violent are sent there. I speak as an advocate in the state of AZ in behalf of those with mental disorders. I do not believe this correctional regime is forthright in their disclosures.  The ACLU of AZ filed a class action lawsuit in March of this year regarding the lack of medical and mental health care provided in ADOC. This lawsuit is a real Godsend to all those who want justice and decency to prevail in Arizona's prisons. The opportunities this lawsuit brings, give our state prisons their best chance of achieving lasting reforms, rehabilitation of offenders and successful reintegration of offenders back into our communities.

Our society will be judged by how we treat the least among us. Without adequate mental health care, our incarcerated mentally ill will return to us more ill and damaged than before we locked them up. How will this make our communities safer or save taxpayer dollars? All inmates in Arizona prisons should be treated humanely.

Over 95% of all inmates will return to our communities one day. I ask you to consider our state correctional policies and then decide.........What is it we will have taught them?

We want to express our deepest gratitude to investigative reporter Bob Ortega for shining the light of truth on the despicable lack of respect for human dignity, under which our present day DOC operates. You can find more info regarding our efforts to increase collaboration between Arizona's mental health and criminal justice systems at

Mary Lou Brncik

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Victims of the State: The family of Tony Lester to Steve Twist.

The aunt of Tony Lester and the mother of Dana Seawright
remember other victims and survivors of state violence, neglect and abuse
at the AZ Crime Victims' Memorial, AZ State Capitol.
(March 9, 2012)

Steve Twist's June 16 editorial in the AZ Republic defending the AZ DOC (dismissing the research and articles done by investigative journalist Bob Ortega earlier this month as "malicious) has invited a response from the family of Tony Lester. His Aunt, Patti Jones, forwarded the following comment to us. 

I urge other families who have lost loved ones to the state prison system due to violence, abuse and neglect to read Twist's letter and post to the AZ Republic's site as well. He's the guy who explicitly wrote prisoners out of the AZ Victims Bill of Rights, making the state and state agents the only criminal perpetrators whose injured and dead are constitutionally deprived of the rights all other victims (and their survivors) can count on.

I think we should invite Mr. Twist and his prosecutorial colleagues to help us rewrite that part of the state constitution, so that every rape, murder, and abuse victim's rights are equally protected, whether or not they are in custody for an offense...if he won't then at the very least he should get out of the way of those trying to reduce further victimization of prisoners and trauma to their families...

------------from Patti Jones---------------

"First of all Mr. Twist I realize that we as United States citizens are entitled to freedom of Speech that is what I LOVE about our country so well.  I certainly appreciate your input regarding your opinion in regards to the INHUMANE TREATMENT within our AZ Prisons, but I am a NAIVE OUTSIDER looking in; to the treatment of the mentally- ill prisoners within our prisons.

It was not until my Nephew Anthony Lester was placed into the ADOC that our Family realized the mentality of all prison officials regarding the care and treatment of our mentally-ill. Especially when all prison staff and administrators were repeatedly warned of Tony's fragile mental state of mind and when Doctors within the prison were warned of the voices that Tony heard and all prison staff referred to Tony as a Manipulator and Gaimer of the system....

From the moment our family received the news of Tony's injuries we were told that he was taken to hospital with non life threatening injuries, and then to receive  a call a few hours later that Tony had died!!!!   Then  the worse thing was to view this ICS Video taken that night that Tony committed suicide which showed a  nineteen and half minute video in which for approximately twelve minutes correctional officers stood, rummaging through the cell looking for a suicide note shining a small flashlight on Tony watching him bleed, gurgle, gasp moan struggle to breath, not one officer stepped forward to even try to render aid, now there excuse not to render aid is that he was pretty much dead so there was no need to render aid although medics when they arrived did not think twice whether or not to render aid..... What kind of human being stands around and watch someone bleed to death?????

Now the state and ADOC have placed a protective order upon this video, if these correctional officers did their job and rendered aid then why is there a protective order placed upon this video????  Answer is that if anyone were to see this it would show the total disrespect for human life...

Tony and our entire family accepted his punishment and trusted the system and the system failed Tony and more importantly my sister Tony's mother Eleanor lost her only child.  Prisons are for punishment not for the mentally ill to be warehoused and abandoned, especially when several judges recommended that Tony be placed in a mental health unit and court ordered to stay on psychotropic medications.  

I realize Mr.Twist you feel prisoners are treated humanely, but how many family members and ex prison inmates tell you repeatedly how the treatment is inhumane; you feel there is humane treat but that is what ADOC and the state would like one to think, that's what I thought until our NIGHTMARE began!!!!!

We are so much better than this we are the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!!!!  Not a third world country, we can close our eyes to these injustices this cycle of inhumanity will continue other mothers will loose their children, the mentally-ill will be abandoned as outcasts rejects of society unless people such as Bob Ortega, KPNX channel 12 Wendy Halloran step forward and expose these travesties...."

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Voice for AZ Crime Victims is not Steve Twist...

 Some of the  68 names of the AZ DOC's victims of violence, neglect and abuse over the past 3 1/2 years, 
from the roof of Phoenix's Firehouse Gallery during the opening of "Patriotic Descent".
(June 9, 2012)

The letter and video link below came to me as a response to the editorial in the Arizona Republic today by Mr. Steve Twist, titled: "Ariz. prisons are humane, secure despite criticism". As implied, the letter is a defense of the state-as-perpetrator, not an argument that human life and rights should be vigorously protected.

Mr. Twist is a founder of the conservative Goldwater Institute, and the former assistant attorney general who authored the AZ Victims Bill of Rights, a constitutional amendment passed in the early 90's which explicitly excluded anyone "in custody for an offense" (as well as their survivors, if the crimes perpetrated against them result in death) from the legal definition of victim - and thus from all resource the state allocates to help victims cope with the devastating consequences of assault, rape, murder and other such serious crimes.

The letter was composed for the occasion by a real-life survivor of the state's cruelty and neglect; she lost her brother to it. Michelle gave me her blessings to post it widely - this is one of the voices we can trust. Please pass it on.

---------------from Michelle Lependorf------------------- 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The recent articles written by Mr. Ortega in The Arizona Republic were primarily aimed at highlighting the deficiencies in health care provided to Arizona’s most seriously ill prisoners, those having severe mental and medical conditions.  It was fact-based, investigative reporting and not a media campaign or ACLU conspiracy aimed at generating sympathy and support for reduced prison terms or less restrictive environments within Arizona’s prisons.
The focus of the articles written by Mr. Ortega was not to question the housing protocol within the Arizona Department of Corrections.  Rather, it was to highlight the deliberate indifference shown to inmates who suffer from serious medical conditions wherever housed within Arizona’s prisons.  These inmates have been systematically, persistently and consistently denied or delayed meaningful and effectual medical care, the result being that far too many are dying, many of whom have not been incarcerated for violent, predatory crimes and who have not been perpetrators of inmate on inmate violence.
If officials within the Arizona Department of Corrections are, as is claimed by Mr. Twist, aware that “a significant percentage of those who live in Arizona prisons are in poor health when they enter prison,” don’t these same individuals have a heightened duty to ensure that an adequate health care system is in place to address the needs of these individuals?  This includes, at a minimum, ensuring that properly trained staff are in place and available to deliver the sophisticated health care required by such a high-risk prison population.  

Despite Mr. Twist’s assumptions to the contrary, there is a vast low-income segment of society that exists outside of the prison environs.  In that segment of society, there are a statistically larger number of individuals suffering from poor health conditions, as compared to more affluent segments of society.  This is primarily due to a lack of resources, high unemployment, low education levels, poor diet and nutrition, lack of health insurance and, perhaps, to some degree, genetic predispositions from the continuity of poor health conditions inherited by each successive generation.  That does not mean, however, that such individuals do not deserve adequate and effective medical care.  Should we deny or delay medical care for such individuals because they are born into and continually exist within a segment of society that renders them more susceptible to healthcare challenges?  Why can we not expect the same level of care for prisoners who enter Arizona’s prison systems with existing chronic conditions?  It may be true that many prisoners are entering into Arizona’s prisons “suffering from a litany of conditions.”  However, that does not mean that such individuals should not expect to receive or are undeserving of quality medical care – care that is delivered when it is needed and when it can make the greatest difference in the life of an inmate.  In fact, perhaps addressing the needs of such individuals would go a long way to improving conditions in the medically underserved communities from which these individuals come, as Mr. Twist claims. 
Given the threat it poses to public health in general, the failed healthcare system in Arizona’s prisons can no longer be denied, ignored or tolerated on the premise that prisoners, by virtue of their past misdeeds, are not deserving of adequate healthcare.  Although many in society believe that prisoners are not entitled to the same standard of medical care as individuals who have never been convicted of a crime, this view fails to take into consideration the high cost to society of substandard medical care provided to prisoners.  Inmates with serious illnesses or contagious diseases, who do not receive proper medical treatment while incarcerated, will eventually return to their communities.  When they do, they will likely be more unhealthy, unable to work and, more importantly, ineligible for health insurance.  This, in turn, will surely place a greater strain on the state’s already scarce resources.  So denying very ill prisoners adequate medical care is simply akin to being penny-wise and pound-foolish. 
What Bob Ortega’s articles make clear is that we have a failed health care delivery system in place within Arizona’s prisons.  It is a substandard, inhumane system that is responsible for the needless suffering and deaths of thousands of inmates.  For anyone who believes otherwise, the next time you or someone in your family becomes ill, by all means, opt for an exam with one of the paramedical professionals in Arizona’s Department of Corrections.  Mr. Twist, with his twisted notions, should be the first one to do so! 

For those of you who need further proof of just how inhumane healthcare is in Arizona’s prisons, you can get a first hand glimpse by clicking on the following link:
Michelle Lependorf is a NJ lawyer and the sister of Ferdinand Dix, a former AZDOC inmate who died while incarcerated in Arizona from undiagnosed, untreated metastatic small cell lung cancer.

Steve Twist and the invisible victims of Arizona's state crimes...

The following editorial in the Arizona Republic today (here, if you want to read it first) comes from Steve Twist, the author of the Arizona Victim's Bill of Rights and is founder of both the Goldwater Institute and "Arizona Voice for Crime Victims."  Here's a good link to his own narrative of his involvement in the victims' rights movement - from the early days - which is more useful and fair.

What precedes Twist's letter is my response to it, as submitted to the AZ Republic and Gannett News.
I urge everyone out there who cares about prisoner rights to contact the Arizona Republic / Channel 12 ( Editor, The Arizona Republic, P.O. Box 1950, Phoenix, AZ 85001, or here), and Gannet News (email ) every which way you can, and tell them to keep up the good work - this is just a sign that the real bad guys are getting scared, and resorting to their usual tactics (like scaring everyone else into trusting them).

Survivors of Prison Violence: 
mural made naming 68 victims from AZ Department of Corrections at the art show opening: Patriotic Descent" at the Firehouse Gallery, Phoenix (June 9, 2012).  

The prisoners listed were victims of homicide, suicide, and gross medical neglect under the administrations of Governor Jan Brewer and AZ DOC director Charles Ryan.


In his June 16 editorial in the Arizona Republic, Steve Twist complains about the recent investigative series by Bob Ortega on the high number of deaths in the state prisons under the current administration. I found it interesting that instead of writing to advance the rights of those human beings documented to be seriously neglected and abused in custody, Twist works overtime to frame the state as the victim of a "flagrantly malicious" attack by the media.

It always troubles me when it's an advocate for people who have been violated and victimized who comes to the rescue of one of the worst offenders, the prison system, by dismissing the evidence of brutality, corruption, loss of life, and sheer waste in front of them. Mr. Twist authored the Arizona Victims Bill of Rights, and has a long history of work on behalf of victims. Yet here Twist adamantly defends the perpetrators of gross neglect and facilitators of violence when it comes to the prisons - not the targets of it.

Twist argues that public safety will be compromised if we even look at the issue of the seriously mentally ill being tormented in solitary confinement and killing themselves, or the high incidence of assaults and murders in AZ's prisons. That kind of fear-mongering has been pretty effective, I'm afraid: America incarcerates more of our people than the Soviet Union or Communist China did at any time - and so much of it is for addiction and mental illness, not heinous crimes. I don't know how enforcing the law to reduce victimization behind bars could put the rest of us at risk, though. It seems to me that ignoring the soaring levels of violent criminal activity in prison is just giving the real bad guys more target practice, so they're especially vicious and well-rehearsed when they come back to our communities - which 95% of prisoners eventually do.

Twist's editorial also come to the aid of the current AZ DOC director, Chuck Ryan, on whose watch the homicide and suicide rates doubled as he eliminated mental health treatment programs, changed policies about how to match cellies, and curtailed the resources available to staff to treat the injured and dying. Ryan's also cultivated the climate of contempt for human life throughout his institution that allows such cruel and unusual medical neglect to occur as what goes on in Arizona's state prisons -  like that which Ferdinand Dix endured as he wasted away from cancer untreated, and unnoticed. Mr. Ryan should be forced to resign, frankly - he is a growing embarrassment to the Brewer Administration, and is clearly not in control of his prisons.

Mr. Twist is one who has stood with crime victims and their families time and time again. The organization he founded, Arizona Voice for Crime Victims, aspires "to establish a compassionate justice system in which crime victims are informed of their rights, fully understand those rights, know how to assert their rights, have a meaningful way to enforce those rights, and know how to seek immediate crisis intervention when they become victims of crime."

Such a vision of justice and compassion for victims doesn't apply, however, if the person against whom a crime was committed "is in custody for an offense" - no matter if one is even guilty of anything. A grocery store has more rights as a victim prosecuting a shoplifter than an Arizona prisoner who is raped in custody. That's the one category of person that was excluded from protection when Twist wrote the Victims Bill of Rights - prisoners.

The Victims Bill of Rights is part of our state constitution, having been approved by popular vote in 1990 to the applause of victims' rights advocates everywhere. I wasn't privy to discussions 20 years ago about the exclusion of persons in custody from the definition of "victim" while that document was being drafted. I have a hard time believing that idea came from the victims and survivors of violent crime themselves, though.

The government (especially the Attorney General's office) at the time this amendment was passed had ulterior motives - and they weren't to keep the People safe or even to be tough on crime. Quite the opposite:  the state was (and is) primarily concerned with making sure that two kinds of culprits - its institutions and agents - are exempt from being held to the same standards that other criminal perpetrators are. Twist's letter to the editor demonstrates one of the ways he and his partners in crime managed to get buy-in from the families and survivors of crime victims: by minimizing the extent of victimization in custody, and portraying victims of violence and abuse in prison as non-people who essentially deserve what they get. All of this is to render the victims and survivors  of prison violence irrelevant and invisible - which the Victims' Bill of Rights is partly intended to do.

By making prisoners exempt from the definition of victim in our state constitution, we communicate to their keepers and perpetrators (often one in the same) that individuals in custody are acceptable targets for violence, exploitation, and abuse. The ones most often violated in prison are not the hardened criminals who society thinks get what they deserve if they get raped or even killed, as Twist and his colleagues would have us think. The most victimized behind bars are actually the most vulnerable among us - the mentally ill, the developmentally and physically disabled, and those who have already endured physical and/or sexual abuse in their lifetimes.

If Mr. Twist doesn't plan to lead the effort to reduce their victimization behind bars, he should at least get out of the way of those who have been doing it for awhile - particularly the survivors. It's time to re-write the AZ Victim's Bill of Rights to include all human beings when they become targets of crime.

below: Kini Seawright, whose 26-year old son 
was murdered in Lewis prison (July 2010)

 from the opening of "Patriotic Descent"
The Firehouse Gallery, Phoenix
June 09, 2012

------from the Arizona Republic's "My Turn" page today------------

Ariz. prisons are humane, secure despite criticism

Steve Twist -

Jun. 16, 2012 12:00 AM

Prisons are an easy target for the media. The case in point is the recent series of articles in The Arizona Republic about inmate deaths in the state prison system.

The opening sentence of the series states, "Arizona's prison system has two death rows," followed by a gross mischaracterization of an "unofficial" death row where inmates die as a result of prison violence and neglect.
It compares the Arizona Department of Corrections' use of maximum security to house dangerous and violent inmates to "solitary confinement," citing the case of a woman held in a prison in Iran for 14 months who is now psychologically traumatized. There's something flagrantly malicious about using a prison experience in Iran as a comparison to an Arizona prison experience.

Having advocated for truth in sentencing, and wanting a prison system that focuses not only on the rights of inmates but also the rights of the victims of their crimes, I know firsthand that the term "solitary confinement" does not exist in the vocabulary of the Arizona Department of Corrections. DOC's practice is to employ multiple custody levels based on the nature of a crime and an inmate's assessment and behavior while in prison.

Maximum-security inmates, those who have committed brutally violent crimes, and those who have demonstrated predatory, unruly and violent behavior by being a danger to other inmates and staff, generally make up the population housed in high-security settings. No, they are not in dark isolation, deprived of human contact or anything comparable to solitary confinement. Nevertheless, these dangerous inmates are appropriately housed for the safety of the public, themselves, and other inmates and staff.

Certainly, some perspective is necessary in a discussion of the rate of inmate deaths in the Arizona prison system. In any population of 40,000, deaths will occur. Among those deaths will be a number due to serious illness, drug overdose, suicide and, tragically, even homicide.

I do not argue that those types of deaths in prisons are not proportionately higher than deaths that occur in a community with a population roughly matching that of our prison system.

But consider this: Unlike the vast majority of the people who live outside the system, a significant percentage of those who live in Arizona prisons are in poor health when they enter prison, suffering from a litany of maladies caused by years of a lack of health care and a basic understanding of taking care of oneself; drug addiction; physical abuse; and mental illness.

Moreover, prisoners frequently come from sociopathic and often violent backgrounds brought about by drugs, gang activity, or both, which have become so prevalent in our society. It is reasonable to assume that characteristics such as these are a major contributing factor in proportionately higher numbers of inmate deaths caused by illness, drug overdose, suicide or homicide.

We have a prison system in Arizona consisting of a variety of housing environments: dormitories, double-person cells, detention areas where inmates are temporarily segregated, and maximum-security single-person cells that are exclusively for problematic, dangerous inmates -- the worst of the worst. But in all cases, an inmate is able to interact with others. This includes the worst inmates, whose cells are in areas where they can speak with others in cells around them.

Critics of the Arizona Department of Corrections -- the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International and inmate advocacy groups -- blindly blame maximum security as a cause of inmate deaths and want a less-restrictive environment in our prisons.

What we have now is a humane prison system that provides food and shelter, education, work programs, alcohol- and drug-addiction programs, and medical- and mental-health care that meet community standards.
Further, it is a system designed with emphasis on safety and security for inmates, staff, and, most of all, the public. Arizonans should want it no other way.

Steve Twist, a Phoenix lawyer, was chief assistant attorney general in Arizona from 1978 to 1991.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Marty Atencio's family fights back and files suit.

Thanks JJ and the AZ Republic for keeping up with this tragic case...and to Marty's family for holding the real bad guys accountable...

Marty Atencio

-----------from the Arizona Republic-------------

$20M claim alleges excessive force in AZ inmate's death

by JJ Hensley
Arizona Republic
June 8, 2012

The family of a man who died in December following an altercation with police and detention officers in a Maricopa County jail has filed a $20 million notice of claim against the city of Phoenix, the Sheriff's Office and the county agency responsible for health care in the jails.

The claim, filed Friday, alleges that excessive force, coupled with a series of failures by medical professionals to tend to Ernest "Marty" Atencio, contributed to the 44-year-old's death in December.

Atencio died four days after he was removed from a "safe cell" in the Fourth Avenue Jail.

document The notice of claim (WARNING: Contains graphic images)

The Maricopa County medical examiner last week issued a report that concluded that Atencio died of cardiac arrest, acute psychosis, medical problems and "law-enforcement subdual," but the report did not list a manner of death.

Atencio's family believes that the manner of death was homicide, committed at the hands of sheriff's detention officers in an altercation that began when two Phoenix police officers began to struggle with Atencio after he refused to remove his left shoe. They wanted the shoe removed to be scanned as he prepared to enter the jail.

The Phoenix officers took Atencio to the ground, and surveillance footage shows the detention officers dragging Atencio into a safe cell, where the number of officers in the small cell obscured their actions from the camera.
A safe cell is a room designed to reduce inmates' ability to injure themselves or others.

The claim contends that at least one officer punched Atencio and that another officer shocked Atencio with a stun gun six times, with several of those strikes coming within inches of his heart.

The notice of claim is a necessary precursor to a lawsuit against a public entity. State law requires a claim to list a dollar amount for which it can be settled. Atencio's family set that amount at $5 million for Phoenix police and $15 million for the county agencies.

The Sheriff's Office is continuing to investigate the incident and declined comment.

A pair of Phoenix police officers contacted Atencio twice on the night he was detained.

During the first contact, outside a convenience store, officers noticed that Atencio was acting erratically and told him to go home. Moments later, the officers received a call about a man kicking at a woman's apartment door in the 2800 block of West Laurel Lane. The officers recognized Atencio as the man they had encountered outside the convenience store, and they arrested him after the woman requested prosecution.

When Atencio arrived at the Fourth Avenue Jail's intake area -- where inmates are screened for medical and mental-health concerns and the most serious are supposed to receive immediate attention -- officers recognized his signs of mental illness but failed to respond, according to the claim.

"She (mental-health professional Monica Scarpati) admitted that she did not complete a full assessment of Marty and sent him to an isolation cell," the claim states. "Ms. Scarpati and (Correctional Health Services nurse Bill McClean) fell below the applicable standard of care by, in RN McClean's words, 'accepting' Marty into the jail and not doing anything to make sure that Marty got the immediate medical attention that he so obviously needed and deserved."

According to the claim, as Atencio waited for further processing, other officers noticed his mental state and began mocking him. According to an interview with an inmate who was nearby at the time, one officer thought Atencio's mug shot could be featured on the Sheriff's Office website that posts booking photos.

"An MCSO lieutenant stated in an interview that the process of taking Marty's photo was, 'Ah, you know, it's kinda comical,'" according to the claim.

As Atencio prepared to leave the booking area, he became uncooperative with Phoenix officers but was not violent or combative, according to interviews with officers contained in the claim.

Surveillance video shows that when a Phoenix officer placed his arm around Atencio's neck and took him to the ground, nearby officers joined in the effort to subdue Atencio. His family called the events that followed a "jailers' riot."

The claim does not request any damages from the Medical Examiner's Office, but it does allege that the office attempted to shield the county from liability by failing to name a manner of death from one of the four descriptions: suicide, homicide, natural causes or accidental.

"The medical examiner's report is part science and part defensive doublespeak designed to deflect and limit the county's liability," the claim states. "The notion that Marty's manner of death is 'undetermined' is a farcical sleight of hand by the county. The cardiac arrest was induced by the 'law-enforcement subdual,' so it was obviously a 'homicide,' i.e., caused at the hands of other human beings."

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ortega: AZ Prisons deadly for the sick.

AZ Crime Victim's Memorial
Wes Bolin Plaza, Phoenix
March 9, 2012
Here's the moving slideshow of prisoners put together by the AZ Republic for this series...check it out at the source.

-------from the Arizona Republic--------

Arizona Prisons Can be Deadly for the Sick
by Bob Ortega
Arizona Republic
June 4, 2012

For two years, Ferdinand Dix repeatedly filed requests with Arizona's Tucson state prison staff, asking to be examined for a chronic cough, shortness of breath and loss of appetite.

When Dix, who was serving five years on forgery and drug charges, finally received a checkup, the doctor didn't notice cancer had caused his liver to swell to four times its normal size. He told Dix to drink energy shakes.

It wasn't until he was "nonresponsive" and had been transported to an outside hospital that Dix was diagnosed with small-cell lung cancer. He died a few days later, on Feb. 11. He was 47.

Dix's case is cited in a federal lawsuit accusing the Arizona Department of Corrections of medical neglect. It's a charge the system has faced before, from activists, inmates' families and at least one Arizona lawmaker.

Citing the litigation, Corrections officials declined to discuss Dix's care.

A review by The Arizona Republic of deaths in state prisons over the past two fiscal years found at least four inmates, in addition to Dix, whose medical care was delayed or potentially inadequate leading up to their deaths. The records of these cases, together with interviews of officers, medical staff and inmates point to a system in which correctional officers routinely deny inmates access to timely care, and in which treatment sometimes falls short of accepted standards.

These deaths are among dozens of examples of preventable deaths uncovered in a broad investigation by The Republic into high rates of suicide, homicide and accidental deaths in state prisons.

Corrections Director Charles Ryan denies that health care in Arizona's prisons is inadequate or that there is an institutional indifference toward ailing inmates.

But Corrections officials do acknowledge that a long-planned privatization of prison medical care has made it difficult to fill vacancies. They also say care has been hobbled for more than a year by cuts to outside contractor payments, which state lawmakers imposed two years ago.

Allegations of substandard care, however, predate those developments. For example, the suit in which Dix is named -- filed in March by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Prison Law Office of San Quentin, Calif., -- lists dozens of allegations of inmates waiting months for medicine or medical treatment, and suffering permanent damage and disfigurement as a result.

"Our correctional health care is shocking; it's unacceptable," Rep. Cecil Ash, a Mesa Republican, told his fellow lawmakers last year.

Ash warned that providing inadequate care not only harmed inmates, it also exposed the state to costly lawsuits. His effort to fund improved care for prisoners garnered little support in the Legislature.

"They're out of sight, out of mind. And they don't vote," he said of inmates.
There is also a general lack of public sympathy for prisoners, particularly those who have committed heinous crimes.

Take Carey Wheatley, a convicted child molester serving a life term. He was 49 when he died of pneumonia on April 24, 2011, while in solitary confinement at the Florence state prison. For days leading up to his death, nurses offered him only the pain reliever acetaminophen, according to the Pinal County medical examiner's report.

Medical experts say antibiotics or antivirals are the standard course of treatment for bronchial pneumonia.

When Daniel Porter, who shot to death two clerks at a Circle K store in Tucson in 1986, was sentenced in 1992 to life on two murder charges, he begged to be put to death. But the Superior Court judge ruled that the murders were the result of mental illness -- paranoid schizophrenia -- which caused Porter to believe the clerks were trying to poison him. He also noted that Porter had been beaten and sexually abused as a child by his father and stepfather, and had been in and out of mental hospitals beginning when he was 13.

When Porter died, it was the result of hyponatremia, a chronic sodium deficiency that causes excessive thirst. Porter drank gallon after gallon of water for days, while correctional officers yelled at him to stop drinking or occasionally hit him with pepper spray, according to a report by Corrections investigators. He died in solitary confinement at Eyman state prison on Feb. 20, having literally drunk himself to death with water. Corrections officials listed his death as "accidental."

"His sodium deficiency was well documented," said Porter's sister, Elaine Faith.
"That he was allowed to go two, three days drinking that much water and they knew about it and didn't take him in because he needed IV therapy."

"I know nothing can bring my brother back, but prisoners deserve at least humane medical treatment," Faith said.

Kenneth Lucas, 65, died Oct. 4 at the Eyman state prison of a heart attack -- "natural causes," according to Corrections. But according to the same lawsuit that cites Dix's death, when Lucas collapsed in his housing unit the day before, other prisoners yelled to officers to contact medical staff but officers didn't take action.

Another inmate, finding no pulse, performed CPR, and Lucas began breathing again.

Officers then took him to the medical unit, where an appointment was set for a few days later. He died before he could be seen by medical staff.

The inmate who had performed CPR on Lucas was disciplined for breaking a rule that prohibits inmates from performing medical procedures, according to the lawsuit.

A Corrections spokesman declined comment on the case, citing the litigation.
Donna Hamm, a former state judge and prisoner advocate, said incarceration is the punishment for prisoners, not inadequate health care. And Arizona has a constitutionally mandated obligation to provide adequate care to prisoners, she said.

"The delays are just incredible," she says. "I've advocated for people who've been diagnosed with a lump or growth and who are supposed to be biopsied and have to wait six months, eight months, extraordinary amounts of time before being diagnosed."

A class-action ACLU suit alleges that medical and mental-health care in Arizona's prison system is so inadequate as to be unconstitutional and demands improvements in access to and quality of care, and "timely and competent" emergency response.

By the end of June, Wexford Health Sources Inc. of Pittsburgh will assume responsibility for medical and mental-health care at Arizona's state prisons under a three-year, $349 million contract. Wexford's contract includes performance standards for inmate care, including deadlines for inmates to be seen following a request for care and guarantees that prescriptions will be filled within a specific time.

The Department has struggled in the past two years with a medical-staff vacancy rate consistently higher than 20 percent, among other problems. Corrections spending on medical care fell 27 percent from fiscal 2009 to 2011, to $111.3 million, or an average of $3,258 an inmate.

Critics, though, citing Wexford's mixed record elsewhere, are skeptical about whether it will improve care. Regardless, Daniel Pochoda, the ACLU's Arizona director, said the change in management won't alter the legal demands for improvements in the suit.

Michelle Lependorf, the sister of Ferdinand Dix, said that she hopes the lawsuit leads to improved care.

"The real Ferdinand was loving, charming, fun to be around and caring," she said. Because of poor medical care, "the person they turned him into was angry, in pain, suffering and mistreated. ... He should have had a chance to live. They gave him none."

Ortega: AZ prisons deadlier than most...

mural and post-production rendering by Margaret J Plews     Photo by Robert Haasch
Sandra Day O'Connor Federal Courthouse, Phoenix
November 2010

Here's the moving slideshow of prisoners put together by the AZ Republic for this series...check it out at the source.

-------from the Arizona Republic--------

by Bob Ortega
Arizona Republic
June 5, 2012
At least seven Arizona inmates have been murdered over the past two years, a prison-homicide rate more than double the national average, an Arizona Republic investigation shows.

The killings have occurred amid rising violence behind bars. Between fiscal 2009 and 2011, as the state's prison population rose by less than 6 percent, inmate-on-inmate assaults jumped 90 percent, to 1,478, and assaults on corrections staff rose 18 percent, to 362.

The Republic investigation found two common threads in a majority of the killings: inmates housed with violent cell mates and inmates targeted by groups or gangs.

Among the victims was Eduardo Martinez, 51, who was beaten to death in the Yuma state prison in December, reportedly by the same men who six months earlier had assaulted him at the Florence state prison.

Martinez was serving time for writing bad checks, the result of his addiction to the painkiller Oxycontin, according to his mother, Helen Martinez. She says that her son had told her during his time at the Florence prison that he was being pressured to sell drugs for other inmates and that when he refused, the inmates had assaulted him, breaking his jaw. He thought he would be safe after he was moved to Yuma, but shortly before he was killed, he told Helen that the same men who assaulted him in Florence had been transferred to Yuma, she says.

Echoing the families of several prison-murder victims, Helen Martinez says she has been told little about the murder. "They haven't told me anything. I've asked and asked, and I get no response."

Corrections officials declined to comment on Martinez's death, saying only that they have referred the case to Yuma County for prosecution.

Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan denies the rising murder and assault rates indicate there's a problem with violence in the prison system.

He attributes the increase in assaults, in part, to staffing cuts before he became director in 2009 and to a change in how the department defines them. Ryan says his predecessor recorded assaults only that resulted in injury. The department now records a range of incidents as assaults, from inmates flinging urine or feces at officers through their cell's food slots, to attacks with crude weapons in which inmates or officers are badly injured.

Ryan predicted assault rates will remain the same or decline slightly for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. Having more corrections officers will improve safety for inmates and officers, he said.

Arizona's prison-murder rate equates to 8.75 murders per 100,000 inmates, while the national rate is four. (There are about 40,000 inmates in Arizona prisons.)

In at least three inmate murders over the past two years, the victims were killed by their cell mates, according to the department.

Two murders took place in two-man maximum-security cells at Eyman state prison: Jeremy Pompeneo, 25, serving a life term for murder, was killed on May 31, 2011. Nolan Pierce, 23, serving 25.5 years for burglary and armed robbery, was strangled on March 16, according to the Corrections Department.

"I talked to him four days before, and he sounded like everything was fine," said Mackenzie Smith, Pierce's girlfriend. She said the warden at Eyman told her several weeks after Pierce's murder that they had a confession. But neither she nor Pierce's mother has heard anything more, she said. "If the cell mate admitted to murdering him, why is it taking so long for the investigation?" she asked.

Prison officials said they have referred Pierce's and Pompeneo's cases to prosecutors.

The third cell-mate victim was Shannon Palmer, 40, a mentally ill man sentenced to three years in prison for climbing a utility tower during a thunderstorm. He was placed in an isolation cell at the Lewis state prison with a murderer, Jasper Rushing, who later told a PhoenixNew Times reporter that he slit Palmer's throat and castrated him on Sept. 10, 2010, because Palmer wouldn't stop talking.

Ron Ozer, an attorney representing Palmer's family in a wrongful-death suit against the state, said corrections officers should never have put Palmer in a cell with Rushing, nor should they have given Rushing access to the razor blade he used to kill Palmer. "If the Department of Corrections had followed its own policies, this murder would never have taken place," Ozer said.

Margaret Plews, who runs the Arizona Prison Watch website and monitors prison deaths, agreed that corrections officials should not have housed a mentally ill inmate with a murderer.

A corrections spokesman declined to comment on Palmer's death, citing the family's lawsuit against the state. The department has disciplined three officers involved in placing Palmer with Rushing.

Little is known of the circumstances surrounding two prison murders.
Shon Wilder, 33, who was serving nearly 20 years for car theft and extortion, was murdered at Winslow state prison on April 20, according to officials.
James Jennings, 59, who was serving three years for assault, was originally listed as dying of "natural causes" at Eyman in September 2010. Corrections officials now say that Jennings died of "blunt-force trauma" and that the case was "referred to the County Attorney's Office. However, they declined prosecution."

County medical examiners refused to release the autopsy reports in these cases, citing homicide investigations. Family members of the victims couldn't be reached.

The seventh murder acknowledged by the department is that of Dana Seawright, who was found stabbed in his cell at the Lewis state prison on July 8, 2010. While the Corrections Department has not released other details, the inmate's mother, Kini Seawright, says her son, who was Black, was murdered by a Black prison gang because he failed to carry out their order to attack a Mexican inmate.

More murders may have occurred during the two years examined by The Republic, including one described by the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office as "extremely suspicious for foul play."

The death of David Moreno, 40, who was serving a life term for murder when he died in his two-man cell at the Lewis state prison on Jan. 12, 2011, is listed as "under investigation." The autopsy report by the medical examiner notes that although Moreno was found hanging in his cell, and his cell mate claimed to be away using the phone at the time, "the cell mate's story was not consistent with the scene findings, and the cell mate had rope-type abrasions over his hands."
The report also noted contusions on Moreno's mouth and arms, suggesting he had been hit, a mop and bucket with red fluid found in the unit, and other details that couldn't be explained by a supposed suicide.

Corrections officials declined to comment on the Moreno case.

Fights and assaults on inmates range widely. Daily incident reports obtained by The Republic for May listed, among many other incidents, a fight on May 18 at the Yuma state prison's Dakota unit, involving 75 prisoners. Order was restored in less than 10 minutes, and only one inmate was transported for medical treatment as a result of the incident, according to officials.

On May 8 an inmate at the Douglas prison was stabbed 10 times on his abdomen and arm with a homemade weapon, and an inmate at Florence's Central Unit had to be airlifted with a collapsed lung to a hospital after being stabbed with a 5-inch piece of wire. On May 31, in one of five assaults that day, an inmate at Florence's East Unit had his arm broken by two other inmates. None of the reports explained the attacks.