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

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Deliberate indifference in AZ DOC custody continues under Corizon.


Good article today in the Tucson Weekly about the DOC's deliberate indifference to human life and their unnecessary deaths in custody.  Please go to the source and leave your comments, especially if you have personal experience with the DOC. 

This is what I had to say:

"Thank you so much for this article. As one who hears daily from prisoners and their families and fights with the DOC about health care and safety in custody, I can attest to the unconstitutional - the outright inhmane - standard of medical care in AZ prisons. From the deliberate indifference to pain and suffering of cancer patients to the brutal, degrading treatment dished out to the traumatized and mentally ill, the conditions of confinement under DOC director Charles Ryan are horrendous.

Ryan's reputation for running the cruelest system in the country actually invites some pats on the back from thick-headed legislators here, but from the junk laws and sentencing guidelines we pass to the implementation of our penal system, Arizona is exceptionally stupid on crime. What is the logic behind depriving prisoners of access to the resources they need to be rehabilitated while subjecting them to the rising violence, trauma and terror that has caused AZ prison homicide and suicide rates to double under Brewer's adminstration? We are simply inflicting further injury on already-damaged people.

Chuck Ryan seems to implement policy based on his contempt for prisoners and desire to punish rather than his duty to try to rehabilitate any of his charges so they are safe to be released back to the community. He's an embarassment to other law enforcemnt professionals in arizona, many of whom don't subscribe to his ideology. He doesn't seem to know what "evidence-based practice" is, or why it's so important to invest public resoures in corrections programs that are actually proven to increase parolee success and public safety.

For example, despite the fact that 75% of incoming prisoners are identified as having problems with addiction or alcoholism, and the growing epidemic of hepatitis c in the prison system (being spread by the obscene abundance of heroin and lack of access to clean needles behind bars) - only 4% of all state prisoners even got substance abuse treatment last year. That's unacceptable. In their 5-year plan the DOC claims not to have enough funding to increase the number of prisoners to more than 3000 a year who get treatment, either
(that's out of a total of 60,000 prisoners who cycle through there)

The problem with the AZ DOC isn't a lack of money, though - they have a billion dollar budget, and its still growing. Their problem is the failure to spend it responsibly. Instead of fully funding programs to help prisoners transition to the community again, the DOC actively convinced the legislature to take money out of an account for those kinds of services and put it into the building fund to support the construction of their new $50 million supermax to warehouse people in.

In fact, the state is facing a class action suit not only for gross medical neglect, but also for their illegal use of administrative segregation (i.e solitary confinement, which the DOC denies they ever use) to manage the symptoms of priosners with serious mental illness in the current supermax facility. If some of the folks currently filling those cells don't belong there to begin with, why build another one?

The only explanation I can see for that new supermax - other than the financial incentives all the obvious beneficiaries have to push this through - is that Chuck Ryan wants this monstrosity to stand as a monument to his brief reign as the DOC's king-baby. I think it's criminal for the public to have to pay for him to fulfill that immature fantasy, especially while other state DOC's are shutting down prisons AND bringing down crime rates by redirecting resources to supporting the reintegration of prisoners in their communities. If Jan Brewer had any real courage or common sense she would fire DOC director ryan immediately and reconstruct the entire system based on contemporary models of crime reduction and the rehabilitation of offenders."

If you are a prisoner's loved one fighting Corizon and the DOC for their access to health care, here's a link to a post that may help:

Corizon and the AZ DOC: Prisoners Families, Know Your Rights.

 please also feel free to contact Peggy Plews at 480-580-6807 or

----from the Tucson Weekly-------

Cruel, But Not Unusual

State prisoners say lousy medical care is killing them

A narrow road shadows the outer fence at Arizona's state prison in Tucson. Composed of light gravel, always raked smooth, the lane is a blank palette for the footprints of escape. Yet much of this complex holds only petty offenders—short-termers, really—for whom such capers would seem pointless.

But it seems even they can face a death sentence of sorts, delivered by a culture of medical neglect.

That's why two top dogs at the Arizona Department of Corrections are currently being sued, not only by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, but also by the potent, San Quentin, Calif.-based Prison Law Office. In 2011, Prison Law scored a resounding U.S. Supreme Court victory that compelled California to reduce prison overcrowding.

The Arizona lawsuit was filed in March against Corrections Director Charles Ryan and his health services director, Richard Pratt. It alleges that "medical, mental health, and dental care" provided to inmates is "grossly inadequate and subjects all prisoners to a substantial risk of serious harm, including unnecessary pain and suffering, preventable injury, amputation, disfigurement and death...

"Critically ill prisoners," the lawsuit continues, "have begged prison officials for treatment, only to be told 'be patient,' 'it's all in your head,' or 'pray' to be cured."

Dan Pochoda is legal director for the ACLU of Arizona. He calls health care in our state prisons "the worst I've ever seen, in terms of clearly increasing harm unnecessarily because of the inadequate care, and the absence of anything except trying to save money on the backs of the prisoners."

Because of its sweeping implications, the case has since evolved into a class action lawsuit. The next step is proving in court just how dire the situation truly is, says Pochoda. "The ideal outcome would be a finding that there is clearly deliberate indifference to the serious medical and mental health needs of the inmate population, that people are dying unnecessarily, that folks who are in for sentences of a few years—not life sentences or death sentences—are coming out with permanent and serious illnesses."

Their ranks include Robert Plasa, now doing three years at the Tucson prison for violating his probation. Back in 2011, before he was sent to jail, Plasa says he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. He was waiting to have the gland removed when he was arrested.

Today, he's still waiting. "I have been strung along for almost a year-and-a-half here without treatment," he wrote me in a letter this March.

In that time, Corrections has turned its state-run prison medical program over to one private health care provider, and then to another. But for Plasa, apparently little has changed—except that his diagnosis has grown even more grim. "I have recently had blood work done and ultrasound on the thyroid," he wrote. "This revealed that the cancer not only spread through the whole thyroid, it is now in the lymph nodes. The thyroid could have been cut out before, and isolated the cancer. Due to the lack of medical attention and negligence on the part of the Department of Corrections, I have a more serious and maybe life-threatening medical condition."

When I asked Corrections for details on Plasa's plight, spokesman Andrew Wilder referred me to the state's current prison health care provider, Corizon Inc. of Brentwood, Tenn. Citing privacy laws, Corizon also refused to comment on Plasa. But in an email, company spokesman Brian Fulton did issue this boilerplate response: "We can say that since Corizon assumed providing medical services for the Arizona Department of Corrections in March 2013, our caregivers have worked hard every day to provide quality health care services that meet and exceed national accreditation standards."

To Caroline Isaacs, however, Plasa's version sounds much closer to the truth. She heads the American Friends Service Committee's Tucson office, which has long agitated for Arizona prison reforms. "This guy's problem is not an isolated issue," Isaacs says. "There are really serious consequences to this type of incompetence. But prisoners are people that nobody cares about."

Indeed, the ACLU's Pochoda provided a stream of examples in which prison medical care was seemingly riddled with negligence. They include the inmate displaying chronic and mysterious flu symptoms that were never treated. Or the prisoner with a growth on his throat that was left untreated until it burst. Following surgery, his condition was again ignored until it worsened. Only then did the doctors decide that the growth was cancerous; the man has yet to receive standard treatment such as radiation.

Then there's the guy who did have his cancerous prostate removed, but then received no follow-up testing to ensure that the cancer had not returned. Only much later—too much later, it appears—did he receive tests showing that the cancer had not only rebounded, but was now spreading.

In response to their panicky letters, distressed relatives or partners of inmates received cavalier responses from Corizon—at least when they weren't outright ignored. "Please be assured that (your boyfriend) is not going to die," a Corizon apparatchik finally wrote to one worried woman, after she repeatedly tried to get information. "It is important to remember that (the inmate) is an adult and must take some part in his day to day health care."

This current wave of incompetence dates to 2011, when the Legislature directed Corrections to put its health services out to bid. Last summer, a three-year, $349 million contract was awarded to Pittsburgh-based Wexford Health Sources despite the company's troubled history in other states. True to form, Wexford's Arizona tenure soon hit turbulence when Corrections blamed it for poor record keeping and staffing problems. In less than a year, prison medical care had switched over to Corizon.

But for critics such as Pochoda, that's like choosing which train to ride off the rails. "Wexford has a very spotty record, after getting kicked out of other states, and it was a disaster," he says. "After nine months, they got fired or quit, and now (Corrections) has brought in Corizon, also with a spotty record. And we don't believe it will make a bit of difference because the goal is to reduce costs. For the private firms, there's a profit motive: the less they spend, the more they keep."

Ultimately, he blames state lawmakers for privatizing prison health care to save a buck, "but not uttering a peep about how it should be a better service, and not result in so many deaths, etc."

That's hardly news for guys like Robert Plasa.

"I have a good company I work for and a beautiful family waiting for me," Plasa wrote in his letter. "I wasn't figuring that paying my dues to the state of Arizona meant a life sentence from cancer."

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

AZ Death Row Deaths In Custody: Dale Hausner, 40.

UPDATED July1, 2013 10:44am:

Most of the time, when a prisoner dies, my condolences go to his or her family.  But my thoughts are with the victims and survivors of this man's crimes, as well - even if his death is celebrated by some, such events can bring up painful memories. I still object to the death penalty, but not because I don't find violence like this to be contemptible. Still, there's some suggestion in his remarks thathe felt remorse and hoped his death would help survivors heal...that's really interesting.  

When I talk about abolishing prisons and what that future might look like, just how communities would deal with the kind of harm this man perpetrated is the sort of thing that still stumps me. That doesn't mean the project of abolition should be abandoned, though - the prison industrial complex is destroying us. I believe in holding people more accountable than I think the criminal justice system often does, anyway - not less. Letting people run amok hurting others isn't what prison abolition is about.

Here's a good lead-in to what abolition IS about, though. It makes a lot of sense...

I don't know how this man died yet - he looks pretty sickly in his DOC mug shot - but if he killed himself, he'd be the second guy on death row in just over a month to have done so. Interestingly, he recently asked the Arizona Supreme Court to hasten his execution. The article regarding that is below.

That said, I'm investigating the homicides and suicides in Arizona's state prisons - which have doubled under the current administration - and would appreciate any information anyone out there has about how Hausner died. Please contact me (Peggy Plews) at  or 480-580-6807.

Ariz. serial killer wants media kept from hearing

by Paul Davenport, Associated Press

Posted on February 1, 2013 at 3:57 PM
Updated Monday, Feb 4 at 6:28 PM

PHOENIX (AP) -- An Arizona serial killer on death row wants the media barred from a hearing on whether he is mentally competent to waive further appeals so he can be executed as soon as possible, his lawyer said Friday.

Court-appointed attorney Julie Hall made the disclosure during a hearing without explaining why Dale Shawn Hausner wants reporters and cameras kept from the April proceedings in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Judge Roland Steinle will hear from Hausner and mental health experts at the hearing.

The judge intends to hold a separate hearing for media organizations to object.

Hausner was convicted of six murders and numerous other crimes in a series of random shootings in the Phoenix area in 2005 and 2006. Victims included pedestrians, bicyclists and animals.

During an automatic appeal for Hausner in July, the Arizona Supreme Court upheld the death sentence and all but out one of his 80 convictions.

Hausner then asked the justices to set his execution date. He said he wanted to forego further appeals -which could take years to resolve - and to represent himself in any court proceedings. The state high court ordered the Superior Court to determine Hausner's competency to waive appeals.

Hausner didn't acknowledge guilt during his trial but told the jury before sentencing that he should be sentenced to death "to help the victims heal."

He was allowed to not present evidence for leniency in sentencing after Steinle ruled he was competent to make that decision.

Hausner, Hall and a state prosecutor participated by phone in Friday's hearing. Hall did not immediately respond to messages later in the day.

A Phoenix crime author who wrote a book about Hausner's case said Hausner "loves the media" because of the attention it provides him. But he successfully fought to keep secret the psychological evaluation report prepared for the previous competency ruling, author Camille Kimball said.

"He did not want his childhood explored and any psychological records revealed at that time," Kimball said. "He does not want people to know what his childhood was like."

A lawyer for a group that advocates for open government said there were no compelling reasons to bar the media from the upcoming hearing.

"There's no jury to influence, or anyone, for that matter," said attorney Daniel Barr of the First Amendment Coalition. "The public's interest in Dale Hausner's fate is extremely high."

The attorney general's office said it will have no position on Hausner's request until his lawyer files a written motion.

The office's general position is that all such proceedings should be open to the public, but there could be extraordinary circumstance allowing a court to privately consider information, spokeswoman Amy Rezzonico said.

Also during Friday's hearing, Hall reiterated Hausner's desire to keep his in-person court appearances at a minimum. Hausner has expressed concern about his safety in Maricopa County jails, where he was previously assaulted.

In a letter submitted to the court, he also expressed concern about a court-appointed expert's ability to provide the judge with an honest and professional report.

Hausner said the expert needs to put aside her expressed opposition to the death penalty. Hausner also said the expert told him that his body language indicated that he's depressed, which Hausner disputed.

Steinle told Hausner that he was confident that questioning of the expert in court would detect any bias and that Hausner himself would be heard.

"I will have a colloquy with you," Steinle told Hausner.

ASPC-Lewis: Deaths in Protective Custody: John Jones, 63.

I've been hearing, of late, that the AZ DOC Protective Custody yards are as violent as the GP yards now - this guy was just murdered in PC this week, on the Bachman Unit. 

I'm currently compiling a report on the violence in the state prisons to submit to the US DOJ and ask for their intervention in the way of a federal investigation about policies and practices since Charles Ryan took over that have resulted inthe escalating level of violence and despair at the AZ DOC. If anyone has any information about this homicide or any other act of violenc ea tthe AZ DOC,  please send it my way (Peggy Plews) at

Here's the DOC's news release. Condolences to this prisoner's family, if there's anyone left out there for him.

---------------REVISED June 21, 2013-------------

received a copy of this interesting email yesterday...

From: Middle Ground Prison Reform <>
Date: Tue, Jun 18, 2013 at 6:42 PM
Subject: Death of John Jones #054741: Gross Negligence?
To: Charles Ryan <>

Mr. Ryan:

I was  sorry to learn about the apparent murder of Inmate Jones at the Lewis prison.   As you know, I recently contacted you about some serious security concerns that I noted when I visited the Lewis Prison as an agent of an attorney.  You have not responded to my email on that topic.

While my observations about lapses in security at Lewis Prison and the murder of Mr. Jones may not be connected at all,  I am especially concerned about what I consider to be a lackadaisacal attitude toward security at the Lewis Prison.

Today,  I examined Mr. Jones' inmate internet record.  I note that he had several disciplinary infractions, the most recent being just a year ago (unless there are more that are not recorded on the website) which reflect that this man apparently was given disciplinary for "refusal to house."  Often, inmates who are seeking protective custody (frrom gangs, drug or gambling debts, after having snitched on another prisoner, and for many other reasons) will be denied protective custody and issued a disciplinary ticket for refusal to house (in general population).

Is this issue one that relates to the apparent homicide of Mr. Jones?  Has he been seeking protective custody but, instead, been moved to "alternative placement" with DNHW (Do Not House With) names added to his file as the "remedy"?  If so, it would seem that this method did not suffice to protect him.

How many times has this inmate requested an 805 investigation and been denied?  How many times has this inmate been placed in an 805 investigation and subsequently denied protective custody?

Please consider this a standing request to examine the public records documents (written, electronic, video and by any other means collected)  on the investigation into this man's death.  Please have your staff notify me when the records are available for my review at the Central Office.

Donna Leone Hamm, Judge (Ret.)
Director, Middle Ground Prison Reform
Criminal Justice Consultant
(480) 966-8116

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

NAACP urges AZ legislators to stop the new Supermax.

As posted here recently, the Joint Committee on Capital Review is meeting this Wednesday morning at 9am in the Senate Appropriations Room 109, June 12, and will be discussing the AZ Department of Corrections' request to build a news $50 million Supermax prison out a tthe Lewis complex in Buckeye. In case you missed my last post on that, here it is:

Why AZ doesn't need another Supermax prison...

from the JCCR website: "The primary powers and duties of the Joint Committee on Capital Review relate to ascertaining facts and making recommendations to the Legislature regarding state expenditures for land, buildings and improvements.  This portion of the state budget is known as “capital outlay. ”"

Below is a copy of the letter just submitted as testimony to the committee by the president of our local NAACP Rev. Oscar Tillman; NLG attorney Dianne Post was instrumental in putting it together. It's coherant and complete - she does her homework.

If you are submitting testimony to this committee, do so today - I understand there will be an opportunity to be heard tomorrow, but they usually have their minds made up beofre these meetings are even held. The DOC gets a rubber stamp on just about everything they ask for from the legislature, which needs to stop before we squander another dollar on this project - it's already sucked up over $5 million in the preparations. 

The NAACP knows just what kind of obscenity Arizona's elected officials plan to saddle future generations with - this prison is what this particular gang of 12's legacy will be, if they let it go through despite all the reasons it shouldn't. 

What will our grandchildren do with these torture facilities when our society has evolved beyond them? We will one day, you know - unless we plan to devolve and descend into more crimnality and vindictiveness and brutality as the rest of the world moves forward, which is kind of how we're heading. Anyone who thinks we can't outgrow our need to incarcerate such vast numbers of people in our country has sold humanity short. 

If you have comments for this committee, bring them in writing when you come to speak Wednesday morning (so you can be sure your text is in the record too) or hand deliver them by the end of the day Tuesday, June 11 (today!) to:

Joint Committee on Capital Review
Joint Legislative Budget Committee
AZ Legislature
1716 West Adams
Phoenix, Arizona 85007
Phone: (602) 926-5491  

Call if you can't write, and let them know this new supermax is bad for AZ 
and needs to be stopped. It's up to them to do that.
Here's the letter from the NAACP, to give you an idea of just how messed up the AZ DOC is...

Friday, June 7, 2013

Why AZ doesn't need another Supermax Prison...

Hey Folks:

*** much to my surprise, there apparently IS supposed to be further discussion on funding for the new Supermax: The AZ LEG Joint Committee on Capital Review  is meeting next Wednesday (June 12) at 9:00 a.m. in the Senate Bldg, Appropriations Room 109. The committee documents most pertinent to this discussion are here. We need to get as many people out to that as possible and/or contact those members ahead of time. Keep an eye out for it to be rescheduled at the last minute, though.****

In light of that, I have just a few thoughts: the last part of this post below addresses how so many prisoners inappropriately end up in Supermax.  My buddy C  gave me his full blessings on this campaign (see flyer). Since I launched this campaign a couple of months ago, the DOC has reclassed him down again and moved him to a close custody general population (GP) yard at ASPC-YUMA - punishing him further by forcing him back into GP, where he has told them he is in danger (especially now that I've made him a high-profile prisoner). 

I think we should demand that an audit be done by the legislature of who exactly the current Supermax prisoners are and why they happen to be there - how many are inappropriately there because they are Seriously Mentally Ill (SMI) - does the ACLU already have a count on that? how many are like C (I can probably name/ identify about 15 actual prisoners like him), and  how many really are the "worst of the worst"? And what exactly is being done about the violence on the GP yards? Substance abuse (SA) treatment programs would help, as would educational and vocational opportunities - Ryan wiped everything out when he took over. I bet recovering drug addicts can't even designate that they want to be in clean and sober dorms - that would be another idea, though...

Those of you with family in prison: you might want to emphasize to your own legislators (find them here) that the DOC has failed to provide adequate mental health care and offers hardly ANY substance abuse treatment, yet they're putting people in supermax who have disciplinaries due to mental health and addiction problems, not violence. (the violent ones are being left to run the yards while the pacifists get punished.)

Check out the DOC's own records: below is their "Corrections at a Glance April 2013" monthly report (here's the section with all thier reports). In the left hand column (the red ink is mine) you can see how DOC identifies 75% of incoming prisoners as having a major substance abuse problem, but in 2012 only 2,633 prisoners received any kind of substance abuse treatment - that's only about 4% of the nearly 60,000 prisoners who went through our state prisons last year. 

Now this is especially alarming given that the DOC is planning to take all the money from the Transitional Program fund (which prisoners pay into from their earnings). The Transitional Program fund pays for the services that are supposed to help prepare prisoners for release - some may qualify for up to 90 days early release.  Evidently the DOC thinks putting money it takes from the wages of prisoners into new prisons is a better use of the funds than providing substance abuse treatment or helping people adjust to the community again. That's about 3 1/5 million dollars, as far as I can tell. Boy, are the prisoners ever going to be mad about that one. They pay $.08 out of every dollar they earn into that fund.

Another fund that could be used for treatment services for drug-dependent prisoners is the Inmate Store Account - where they have nearly 9 million dollars they haven't spent on prisoner programs, like they once promised they would. In 2011 the legislature approved annual transfers of $500,000 from that account to the DOC Building Renewal Fund, and it looks like the DOC wants the rest for general operations.

(see page 87 of this document for those figures)

Perhaps the DOC has better plans to rehabilitate prisoners down the road? Hardly. Here's Chuck Ryan's vision for our collective future: despite packing our prison system full of drunks and addicts, and a plethora of best practice guidelines about treating them, only a handful of AZ prisoners will ever get treatment for their addictions or alcoholism in his custody. While fighting for tens of millions to increase their capacity by thousands of beds in recent years, the AZ DOC's strategic plan for 2014-2018 indicates that they only plan to increase the number of prisoners who receive substance abuse treatment services from 3,000 in 2013 to 3,250 in 2014. But in the Governor's Master List of State Government programs 2012-2015 the DOC says that without an increase in what they call "human resources" both the substance abuse and the sex offender treatment programs will be maxed out, at capacity, at the 2013 levels.

It's troubling that Chuck Ryan's prisoners have been killing eachother and themselves at twice the rate they did under previous administrations...That doesn't sound anything near what we should be getting from our state's Department of Corrections - especially for a billion dollars a year. No wonder there's so much heroin and extortion and violence in our state prisons. And what happens to these prisoners when you kick them lose with nothing but $50 and a prison ID card at the end of their sentences? Are they all really coming out better prepared to deal with life clean and sober than when they went in?

Here's some "truth in sentencing" for the judges out there: some of those homeless or seriously mentally ill folks who you locked up "for their own good" will come out addicted to worse drugs with more skills to commit new crimes - and probably infected with Hep C, too. Some won't even survive it - they may end up like Shannon Palmer, Marcia Powell, Carlo Krakoff or Tony Lester instead.

Now that's just plain shameful.

SMI prisoners and addicts should be placed in more appropriate facilities with the proper treatment resources before a new Supermax is built. Furthermore, if more resources went into community treatment options and re-entry support for prisoners, not plans for re-incarceration of the most vulnerable and troubled, there would be less demand for more prison space down the road. 

This is the Joint Legislative Committee on Capital Review - tell them we don't need another Supermax, and they need to look into who we are imprisoning in the Supermax we already have. Here are the committee members  to contact before next Wednesday's discussion about approving the new Supermax:

Senator Don Shooter
Chairman 2013
Representative John Kavanagh
Chairman 2014
Senator Gail Griffin
Representative Lela Alston
Representative Chad Campbell
Senator John McComish
Representative Tom Forese
Senator Al Melvin
Representative David Gowan, Sr.
Representative Rick Gray
Senator Anna Tovar
Representative Andrew C. Sherwood


This is one way that Supermax gets so full:

You would think from all the rhetoric about trying to curb gang violence that prisoners would be encouraged and rewarded when they resist gang domination - especially the younger, more easily-influenced guys. Often these men say they refuse to perpetrate gang violence because they're trying to turn away from criminal activity, or because they don't believe in hurting people they have no personal issue with - I'd want to help those guys if I was running the prisons, frankly. Once they make themselves a target by asserting their autonomy, though, instead of being provided some measure of protection by the DOC they're being pushed back out into GP yards with the mark of "snitch" on them for having sought out PC even once.

To assert their dominance, the yard leaders or gang leaders these PC prisoners push back against give the nod to putting a "green light" on them for things like eating or speaking with members of the wrong race or with someone who is openly gay or transgender - meaning they're fair game for anyone to attack. The violence isn't just reserved for child molesters or career "snitches".

Since virtually all of the General Population (GP) prison yards are now run by the gangs, not the guards, prisoners who are thus targeted are forced to seek protective custody (PC) from the state - which immediately means they go into the hole (detention), not the perpetrators of threats or violence against them - those guys are often left to keep running the yards, despite all sorts of witnesses that they are dealing drugs and extorting prisoners.

There they sit for one or two months while the DOC justifies denying their PC applications (if they don't have an attorney on board, anyway) and placing them on a different prison yard, asserting to the prisoner that the threat that drove them to seek safety in a hole is simply "self-reported" (i.e. their death warrants aren't signed by gang leaders on letterhead, so therefore they must be fabricating said threat), doesn't pose a substantiated danger from a security threat group (STG), isn't statewide/ systemwide, and doesn't warrant much concern simply because the terrified, traumatized prisoner may not have been "smashed" (beaten into a coma) yet.

When prisoners who are denied PC status get pushed out into a new GP yard, they're usually quickly confronted by other prisoners and told to leave or they will be hurt for having PC'ed up on the yard they just got off of.  They aren't any safer on a prison yard across the state than the one they originally get into trouble with the gangs on  because of both guard corruption and the prevalence of cell phones inside - the gang members and gang wannabes waiting to assault them often know about PC prisoner moves and their issues before the prisoners even land on the next yard.

In fact, by pushing them onto one GP yard after another - from which they will predictably PC up off of to avoid being assaulted - the DOC is exposing these guys to an even larger number of state prisoners who will identify them each time they land on a new yard on out as prisoners with PC issues (code for snitches and sex offenders). The DOC is thus setting that prisoner up to get hurt again, and again, and again for a long time to come that way.

If a prisoner refuses to go onto a GP yard because they are afraid of being assaulted - which they have the "right" to do - they can be given a major disciplinary ticket for an "aggravated refusal of an order to house" (RTH). That means they go back into the hole another month or so AND lose good time and visitation and other privileges, and eventually get enough RTH tickets that their custody scores are jacked up to maximum security - whereby the DOC can place them in the Supermax prison and simply bury them there, where no one can hear them any more.

I dare the legislature to audit the Supermax - ALL the Maximum custody cells across the system - to see who's really there. I have a real problem with this pattern of punishing the prisoners who resist violence. For refusing to comply with gang orders to extort, hurt or kill others - including guards and community members - prisoners shouldn't be forced into Supermax cages for 23 hours a day, only to be allowed out to exercise or use the shower if chained up with two guard escorts.

In fact, many of those in ASPC-Eyman/SMU-I now are actually low-risk, non-violent, and mentally ill - they landed there thanks to RTH tickets. They include prisoners like C, here - HIS STORY IS QUITE COMMON...

The intent of funding and exercising that level of control over prisoners movements is to manage highly dangerous prisoners - not to punish them for passivity, or simply move them out of the way because the administration and guards have lost control of the GP yards. That's an absurdly abusive and expensive response to punish and silence a guy who just doesn't want to go along with the gang rules or perpetrate racist violence. The DOC doesn't have to be too conscientious about who they put there, though, because no one pays attention out here, and they already have 500 more Supermax beds approved to build and bring on line, no more questions asked ***

HELLO??? Is anybody at the AZ LEG really watching how the DOC is spending our money? They have a billion dollar budget and it's still growing, even though the prison population has been shrinking. This is one reason why we have a ton of guys in Supermax now who really don't meet the DOC's standard criteria for maximum security. The legislature is being taken for a ride, deluded about who that new prison is going to house, and deliberately indifferent to all the class action lawsuit allegations about the mentally ill being warehoused there already.

The AZ Inspector General's office and a legislative committee - as well as the US DOJ, in my book - needs to audit the DOC's PC program and the use of the existing Supermax prison and maximum security designations before they build that addition out at ASPC-Lewis..."


FYI, families and recent prisoners:  I'm compiling a report for the US Department of Justice right now about the violence in AZ DOC prisons and the problems with the protective custody process (805), whereby it's impossible for male prisoners to refuse to "join" the gangs (which often involves assaulting another prisoner)  - much less just refuse to follow their stupid racist, sexist, patriarchal rules - without being victimized themselves, yet many guys still refuse. 

Do not go to Tom Horne's office  (AZ Attorney General) for info about civil rights in the prisons, or for help if you love a prisoner and want DOC investigated - they are the bad guys, too. The AZ Attorney General's office has no regard for civil rights; they defend the DOC against wrongful death, deliberate indifference and brutality suits, and are thus compromised. 

Report civil rights violations in the prisons to the ACLU of Arizona, the US Department of Justice (Civil Rights Division) and to me at  All reports of prison violence that folks are aware could be useful as I put this thing together, so please pass them on.

Corizon's deliberate indifference: Fighting Back.

 The Ghosts of Jan Brewer, from Arizona's Other Death Row...
Firehouse Gallery Sidewalk, Phoenix (July 2012)

Hey friends and families of AZ DOC prisoners:

I received this piece of correspondence aboout Corizon's recent performance at the AZ DOC from someone on Donna Hamm's (of Middle Ground Prison Reform) email list. Corizon has the contract to provide health care to prisoners now. 

I encourage friends and family members of prisoners to contact your legislators with alarm about this information, as well as the persistently high rate of prisoner suicides and homicides under this administration (both are twice the rate as under the previous director), the gangs dominating the yards and the high level of violence, the class action suit over prisoners' shoddy medical and mental health care, and the deliberate indifference that DOC Director Charles Ryan's staff have shown to prisoners who are suffering terribly (like marcia powell, tony lester, ferdinand dix, anthony brown). They are just some of the Ghosts of Jan Brewer...

If you have a loved one at ASPC-Eyman, legislators for their prison (as well as for ASPC-Florence) get all sorts of bonuses for having so many prisoners in district #8, so put them to work protecting their constituents' rights. Send them an email as well as a personal, hand-written note asking for their intervention - which you will probably have to folllow up with a phone call to their office. Don't wait for them to call you, in any case. They are: Senator Barbara McGuire  and Representatives Frank Pratt and TJ Shope. Their snail mail addy is:

AZ State Legislature
 1700 W. Washington St
Phoenix, AZ 85007
(602) 926-3559
(602) 926-4221 

Please also print and send this post to your loved one, and send them copies of the AZ DOC health care access policy (DO 1101)  and the grievance process (DO 802). That's the language they'll have to fight in if they are to survive their sentences. There's a pretty good prisoner's guide for handling grievances here, and my February newsletter touched on the issue of grieving problems accessing health care as well. 

Here is the Jailhouse Lawyer's Manual that I send parts of to prisoners: download and print chapter 23 if your loved one is struggling to get adequate (or any) medical care. Send them chapters 14 and 16, too, if they plan to sue the DOC themselves.

Here's a list of attorneys I know are capable of suing the DOC as well. If your loved one in prison has suffered actual harm,  has done the grievance process properly, and can make a compelling argument of deliberate indifference (which is a higher standard than simple negligence), you may find a lawyer willing to take it on contingency.

Here is the actual complaint which forms the basis of the current class action suit agaisnt the DOC, "Parsons v Ryan". It's a good read for understanding what the ACLU does and doesn't think is unconstitutional in re: medical and mental health care in prison, in case you're trying to figure out how to gauge and respond to what your oved one is experiencing. Contact the ACLU-AZ, too, to report human rights abuses and deliberate indifference to prisoner physical and mental health - they're in on the class action.

The people who are being prosecuted via  Parsons v Ryan  are AZ DOC Director Charles Ryan and DOC Health Services Division Director Richard Pratt. Their email addys are: and rpratt@azcorrections.govThose are the guys whose desks the buck is supposed to stop at, anyway. The AZ DOC street address, for registered, return-receipt mail (better than certified, I'm told), is 1601 W. Jefferson St. PHX, AZ 85007. Make sure the prisoner you care about is following the grievance policy to the letter, but nothing stops you from hitting up those guys for help if corizon isn't doing their job - it will take less time to pressure them with your legislators in tow than it will to sue them into compliance.

You may also want to hit Corizon's compliance office if their help-line people at 1-855-276-5416, or don't respond in a timely or approprite manner (preferably use email so you have a written record of all future exchanges with them). The Corizon compliance office email is

 I can usually be reached at or 480-580-6807 if you nee dmore help than this - just keep in mind that I'm just a civilian - I'm certainly no lawyer.  I just believe in mutual aid and have figured out some ways to help prisoners and their families help themselves, so I'm willing to share. Please also feel free to contact me with your own stories and tips for survival for me to share with others, as well.

Good luck and take care.

---------------from Middle Ground Prison Reform-------------

Middle Ground Prison Reform
139 East Encanto Drive
Tempe, Arizona 85281
480 966-8116

Donna Leone Hamm
Executive Director
James J. Hamm
Director of Program and Advocacy Services

May 22, 2013

Mr. Charles Ryan, Director
Arizona Department of Corrections
1601 West Jefferson
Phoenix, Arizona 85007

In re: Serious Concerns/Contract Violations Corizon Healthcare

Dear Mr. Ryan:

As you know, I have many contacts within the Dept. of Corrections, both among the staff and the inmate population. It has recently come to my attention that there are serious concerns about the delivery of healthcare to inmates throughout the entire prison system as contracted with Corizon. In particular, there are special concerns about the treatment being afforded to mental health patients.

While my specific comments below are focused on conditions and practices at the Eyman Complex (which consists of SMU I and II, Meadows, Rynning, and Cook units), I strongly suspect that the same problems exist system-wide. Therefore, this letter is intended to address problems on a system-wide basis that are similar to the specific ones that I will mention in this letter regarding the Eyman Complex. It will not be acceptable to conduct an investigation into what is happening at the Eyman Complex; it is necessary to learn if the same problems and issues are taking place throughout all facilities under contract with Corizon.

As reported to me by reliable sources who have requested to remain anonymous, there is presently only one psychiatric nurse in the entire Eyman complex. As of April 30, 2013, the Eyman Complex housed over 5,100 prisoners. Prior to when Wexford took over the medical care for inmates, there were 4 to 5 such nurse positions at Eyman. The Wexford contract mandated that all inmates with Mental Health classification scores of Level 3 or above were required to be seen at least once/month by a Mental Health provider. Such provider could be an RN, a Psych Associate, a Psychologist or a Psychiatrist. Psychiatrist appointments were scheduled every 3 months or sooner if deemed necessary through referral or via an inmate’s own HNR request.

This deliverable, under the present contract with Corizon, has been deleted and services are now set at the level of what the Department mandated of itself prior to Wexford, which is a Psychiatrist visit once every 6 months, and a Psych RN visit every 3 months. Notwithstanding the obvious implication that this deliverable was reduced in contract negotiations with Corizon simply to save money, it will be impossible for one Psychiatric Nurse to accomplish even every three months. Who will screen the HNR’s that refer to medications or negative side effects?

Apparently, Corizon functions in other states with no psychiatric nurses at all; instead, they allow regular medical nurses to assume those duties even though psychiatric nurses have special training to deal with psychiatric patients. RN’s without psychiatric training or experience cannot assess psychiatric symptoms.

At the Meadows Unit, and very likely at other units as well, nurse positions (medical nurses) are being slashed by Corizon. The staff at Meadows have been advised that they will have 2 nurses with 1 supervisor. The unit has, as of April 30, 2013, about 1,200 men, including an 80-bed CDU. On Meadows Unit, there are approximately 330 inmates who have MH scores of at least Level 3.

A supervisor, Nicole Bradfield, resigned about a week ago because she was working 60 hours/week at a salaried position (no overtime) and saw no reprieve to this schedule. There are apparently several LPN’s on the unit, but they are not qualified nor licensed to make assessments and must function under the supervision (on site) of an RN. As noted above, they cannot assess psychiatric symptoms due to lack of training and experience, not to mention not being qualified by licensing to do so.

The Meadows Unit has about 60 insulin dependent diabetics. Glucose tabs are now non-formulary and a paste has been substituted (to save money?) With the paste, it is much more difficult for the nurse to know how much to use to augment the sugar levels. Also, the unused paste is discarded after the package is opened. This would seem to be an expensive, waste.

Medical nurses are unable to complete their tasks and this directly and negatively affects patient care. Supervisors have been getting prescription renewals with verbal orders without readbacks.

A readback is essential to insure that the specific information communicated has been accurately understood. Noting orders are not being completed. Once orders are written, they have to be implemented. They have to be noted, sent to the pharmacy, etc. My sources advise that on one day recently there were three stacks of charts (total number unknown) that had been sitting on the desk for two days. The nurses have to make a decision about whether to do the nurse line or note the orders. On some days, there can be as many as 5 ICS’s. These emergency incidents obviously halt all other duties the nurses are doing in the health unit.

The Meadows Unit has a psychologist who does watches every morning at Browning Unit. This severely dilutes the time she is available for direct patient care or consultation.

It has been reported to me that the Meadows yard has many elderly patients who are medically compromised. New policies are issued by word-of-mouth. Outside consultations with specialist are not being scheduled. Suicides at the Eyman Complex seem to be increasing in frequency (1). The list goes on.

It is my understanding that there is an assigned Contract Monitor who is employed by ADOC whose job is to insure contract compliance. What is this person doing? Clearly, the Department must avoid similar problems to the ones you had with the Contract Monitor who utterly failed to do his job at the Kingman private prison facility, which ended in tragedy and enormous liability for the State of Arizona.

We are calling for a full-scale investigation/audit of the contract with Corizon. Audits need to be conducted of contract compliance in each unit of every prison where Corizon provides medical care. All prisoners have a well established constitutional right to the community standard of care for their serious medical needs. The Department has both a legal and ethical duty to provide mandated medical care.

I hope to hear from you that an investigation/audit will be ordered, and please consider this as a public records request, pursuant to A.R.S. 31-121 et seq., for any/all records you may have (written, electronic, audio, video, telephonic) or which you produce within the next 90 days which deal with Corizon’s contract compliance.

Your immediate attention will be appreciated.


Donna Leone Hamm


1. Within the last month, there have been three suicides at Eyman Complex (Joaquin Tamayo # 106163; Paul Henderson # 247636 and Milo Stanley # 064794) which lend credibility to the fact that mental health care is wholly inadequate.