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

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

CORIZON at ASPC-Perryville: Deliberate indifference to our elders.

I received the following letter from a woman at ASPC-Perryville who is deeply concerned for a friend’s welfare, and hopes that publishing her story will help improve the quality of care she gets from Corizon staff and the AZ DOC. She’s one of few women I’m in touch with who really knows how to fight back through the grievance process and civil rights suits. Thank you, Laura Medley. You rock!

 prisoner Dominique Keys

“In 2006, Dominique Keys developed osteomyleitis. This is an infection of bone marrow and/or bone structures usually caused by a bacteria. For months she had a fever up to 104 degrees, and AZ Department of Corrections (DOC) medical told her nothing was wrong with her.

Without her knowledge, this infection ate through the spinal vertebrae causing two cervical fractures. For months medical left Dominique in her cell partially paralyzed in her own urine and feces telling staff that there was nothing wrong with her.

By January 2007, (medical) sent Dominique to the hospital where the fractures were discovered. After which Dr. Naftaly Attias performed a corpeltomy fusion at C 5-6, C4-7 with a steel cage. The doctor did not bother to tell Dominique that he had accidentally drilled a hole through her spinal cord. In fact, she didn’t find this out until 2012.

By 2013, after Corizon assumed the control I wrote a letter to Corizon’s legal department. Dominique was examined by a physician at St. Luke’s Hospital who stated that the damage to her cervical spine was irrepairable and re-affirmed that she still required a second surgery(A spinal rod). The surgical consult was approved in December 2013, however, nothing has been done.

I filed a medical malpractice case against Dr. Attias in Maricopa County Superior Court (CV 2012-017403) I waived all of the motions and oral arguments for Dominique. Even with a court order, it has taken months just to get a copy of her medical records. Just short of a contempt ruling.

ADOC did not want the release of these medical records not only because of the spinal issues, but because of several issues. In 2011, Dominique fell transferring from the toilet to her wheelchair. You could clearly see a dislocation of her left shoulder and medical refused to address the issue.

So, once again I wrote a letter to Corizon’s legal department. Last November, St. Luke’s hospital performed an MRI. All of the muscles tore, arthritis, and healed improperly, rotator cuff blown out and she requires complete joint replacement. Even with surgery, Dominique will never have full use of her left arm and shoulder. 3 months later, medical claims that they’re trying to find a doctor to perform the procedure.

Dominique had cardiac issues. Specifically aneurysm on the carotid artery with high blood pressure and several blocked arteries. After DOC was notified that Dominique required cardiac surgery, it’s been several YEARS since she has been seen by a cardiologist.

Dominique is a 70-year old woman. With respect to her spine, intermittent paralysis and extreme pain. These assholes wouldn’t even approve her with a wheelchair. Her daughter bought her a wheelchair. She’s in agony with her shoulder. With the cardiac, the pain has her blood pressure at stroke levels.

Nothing is being done and essentially ADOC wants her to remain in a cell, shut up and die! At this point, in considering adding Arizona as a party to the Attias lawsuit just to obtain orders for medical treatments…”

Dominique apparently just returned to Perryville from the hospital on 5/11/14 - I dont know what procedure she may have had there, but expect to hear back from her friend soon.

Please, readers, contact Governor Brewer’s office and urge her to appoint an executive team to investigate the privatization of the DOC’s health services - the performance of these private companies has been criminal, for which they are making a profit off of the tax dollars stolen from our schools to care for prisoners - in fact, Corizon is being paid over $300,000 a day to deny prisoners the essential care they need.

Governor's Office
Executive Tower
1700 West Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85007

(602) 542-4331


 You can also complain directly to Corizon about Dominique’s care at 1-855-276-5416
 or by E-MAIL:

For those of you who are also fighting for a loved one’s medical care at the AZ DOC, please refer to these posts below, and call or email me if you need help. Your loved ones MUST be filing grievances, not just more HNRs, if they aren’t getting the care they need. Reach me, Peggy Plews at 480-580-6807 or

photo by PJ Starr / Chalk art by Margaret J Plews
Phoenix, AZ (Thanksgiving 2011)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

AZ PRISON ALERT! Tell Brewer to order DOC to prevent prison rape/implement PREA!

 "Justice for Victims of Prison Violence"
Crime Victims' Rights Week (APRIL 2013) 

Governor Brewer has apparently informed the federal government that Arizona has no intentions of protecting its prisoners from rape by abiding by the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), which is now supposed to be going into effect across the country. Given the current conditions in Arizona's state prisons, this should be no surprise. This is just one more piece of evidence that AZ Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan has no regard whatsoever for the health, safety, or welfare of his prisoners: his actions consistently speaks louder than his words. And we can't let it go this way without a fight. The Department of Corrections (DOC) sucks up over 10% of the state budget, but NO ONE wants to hold them accountable for how that money is being spent, for some reason.

Rejecting the PREA standards means the state actually loses federal funding for the prison system, so there must be some serious problems preventing the DOC from thinking they could comply. As folks may recall, the NAACP sent the AZ DOC Director, Charles Ryan, a letter last fall expressing concern for the safety of gay and transgender prisoners in his custody, as we had received numerous complaints that they were being targeted with violence and the DOC was routinely, repeatedly, refusing to place those who needed it into protective custody (PC), leaving them to be brutalized in general population (GP) or giving them disciplinary tickets and punishment for refusing to house in GP. Ryan responded with his assurances that he cares about each and every one of his prisoners, of course, and wouldn't dream of letting them get hurt, if he can help it.

I've also received reports of DOC staff responding to rape victims with abusive language, harsh housing assignments, loss of privileges, accusations of lying, and hate speech and violence in response to a gay prisoner who was raped. Most often the victim is put in the hole during a brief "investigation" ("Hey, did you rape Joe? He says you did. NO? Oh, sorry to bother you then...."). Once the DOC investigates and fails to substantiate anything, the victim is then moved to another GP yard to be further traumatized and violated, while the accused (often a prisoner in a position of power on the yards) is left in place to brutalize others - this teaches rape victims at the AZ DOC not to speak up at all, which means there are likely far more prison rapes in our state than are reported. 

The AZ DOC is so incapable of adequately investigating rapes that occur in their facilities, in fact, that in 2013, out of more than 80 allegations of inmate-on-inmate "non-consensual sexual acts" (they wont even call it rape) or "abusive sexual contact" they weren't able to substantiate a single one - not a single rapist in their custody was found to have done a thing as of the time their 2013 PREA report was due. I find that astonishing - I'd fire the whole DOC Criminal Investigations Unit over that. Maybe that's why they don't want to comply with federal standards protecting prisoners from rape - Director Ryan clearly must not think there really is such a thing as rape in his prisons.

I hope all you families out there bombard the Governor's office this week with complaints about her decision to allow the DOC to refuse to comply with PREA guidelines, and demand that she take responsibility for investigating the escalating violence against gay and trans prisoners, the brown on black race war, the flourishing heroin trade, the control of most general population yards by gangs, and the horrendous disaster that the privatization of health care at the DOC has been. Please cc your correspondence to the Governor's office to the local media, too. Contact info is below.

One thing which makes it easier for Arizona to get away with rejecting PREA standards, I'm sure, is the fact that the state's "Victims Bill of Rights", as enshrined in the AZ Constitution, deprives one class of people of the same rights everyone else in this state gets when they become crime victims: individuals "in custody for an offense". Even Walmart has more legal standing in court as a crime victim than actual human beings in state custody have. That means that if your child is murdered in custody - even by agents of the state - you also have no "victims rights" guaranteed to you as a survivor (no wonder the DOC leaves so many homicides unsolved...).

The Victims' Bill of Rights for the AZ Constitution was engineered by the state' prosecutors who campaigned hard with crime victims groups to have voters approve the constitutional amendment in 1990. The primary author of the bill, ASU professor Steve Twist, also thinks everything is fine in the most poorly run state prison system in the country, and clearly has no compassion for crime victims in custody - not even those prisoners still considered innocent until proven guilty. 

Thanks to a big push among legislators from Bill Montgomery, Steve Twist's non-profit organization serving crime victims will get a huge boost in funding in coming years. I just don't know how an organization which self-identifies as the "ARIZONA VOICE FOR CRIME VICTIMS" can refuse to acknowledge as a crime victim a woman whose life was destroyed when her son was murdered in prison, or a mentally impaired juvenile in detention being sexually abused by an adult predator in uniform. 

It seems to me that if he really cared about ending the violence and evil humans perpetrate on eachother in this world, Steve Twist would be urging Governor Brewer to reconsider her position on prison rape and implementing the PREA standards across the AZ DOC. The failure to implement PREA standards will place kids in the juvenile and adult criminal justice system at greater risk of sexual abuse, too - and Steve Twist is on Brewer's Children's Protective Services Task force, so it's not like he wouldn't have her ear on this issue. Please especially write to him if you are a survivor of prison violence. He needs to hear from you, now, not me.

P.O. Box 12722
Scottsdale, Arizona 85267
(480) 600-2661

If you folks who care about prisoners don't contact the Governor and media on this, your loved ones will be at even greater risk in custody in this state than they are already, so please, everyone, call or write both the Governor and Gannett News and protest her decisoon on PREA.

Here is the contact info you need:

The Honorable Janice K. Brewer
Arizona Governor
Executive Tower
1700 West Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85007
(602) 542-4331

Producers and Editors
AZ Republic/ KPNX CH 12 News
200 E. Van Buren
Phoenix, AZ 850o4
(602) 444-8000


Some States Opting out of Federal Prison Rape Law

May 24, 2014 (AP)
By REBECCA BOONE Associated Press

Several states are refusing to comply with a federal law designed to reduce sexual assaults in prison, with governors criticizing the decade-old law as counterproductive and too expensive to implement.

The governors of Idaho, Texas, Indiana, Utah and Arizona have informed U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that they won't try to meet the standards required under the Prison Rape Elimination Act. Governors were required to certify by May 15 that their states either met the standards designed to curb widespread sexual abuse behind bars, or to promise that they were actively working toward that goal.

"Idaho supports the spirit and intention of PREA and the National PREA Standards, but a law with good intent has evolved into a law with too much red tape," Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter wrote in a letter to Holder sent five days after the deadline. It would cost the state millions of dollars to meet some of the standards, Otter said, and he believed the cost would have little ultimate benefit. Besides, the governor said, the state has taken substantial steps to reduce sexual victimization in correctional facilities.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry told Holder in April that his state wouldn't comply because the rules were too costly and violated states' rights. Perry's letter also encouraged other states to reject the federal law, and said that instead, his state would continue the programs it already has to reduce prison rapes. Perry's spokesman Rich Parsons said Friday that Perry sent a subsequent letter last week to Holder, contending that some PREA standards are in conflict with Texas state laws.

Brenda Smith, a former commissioner on the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission which helped create the PREA standards, said the decision by some states to opt out is shameful.

"These are not some high falutin', unreachable standards. These are things that are constitutional, based on best practices that have been determined in the field and in the courts," Smith said. "As a state you can move over to the sidelines, but people in custody don't get to move over to the sidelines. Providing them safety from sexual abuse is the minimum we can do."

At least 10 more states — Alaska, New York, Ohio, California, Washington, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Colorado, Mississippi and Illinois — have said that they can't meet all the requirements yet, but are actively working toward that goal. New Mexico says it's fully compliant with the law.

Leaders of Just Detention International, an organization that works to end sexual abuse in detention facilities, said they were encouraged that most states are working toward PREA compliance.

"We want actual certifications to be meaningful, so states should certify only when they know that they are in full compliance," said the organization's executive director Lovisa Stannow in a prepared statement. "Until then, the Department of Justice must strictly monitor states to ensure that they are using their federal funds appropriately. No state should be meeting its five percent financial commitment by diverting funds away from essential inmate services like rape crisis counseling - doing so would run counter to the intent of PREA."

The Prison Rape Elimination Act was passed unanimously by Congress in 2003. The next several years were spent developing PREA standards, and in 2012 those rules went into effect. The Department of Justice is expected to publish a list of PREA-compliant states by September.

The major provisions of PREA are designed to change the culture of prisons to one that has zero tolerance for sexual victimization; to change prison facilities so that there are fewer opportunities for rape to occur; and to change reporting policies so that inmates have a safe way to report a crime and a safe place to go if they are sexually victimized.

The law's only enforcement mechanism is a partial loss of grant funding. States that don't comply with PREA can lose up to 5 percent of the federal grant money they receive for corrections. States can keep the money if they promise to use it to come into compliance with the law.

The potential human impact is huge: The Department of Justice says that at least 216,000 of U.S. prisoners were raped or sexually abused behind bars in 2011, and cautions that the number is likely low, because prison rapes are seldom reported. The ACLU estimates that about 2 million people have been raped or sexually abused behind bars since PREA was enacted by Congress.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

"DEATH SENTENCE": KPNX's Halloran and whistleblower expose depth of negligence at Corizon/AZ DOC.

SOS to the AZ STATE Legislature (PHX 2013 )

What follows is an interview with a Corizon whistleblower/former employee, Teresa Short, and the results of extensive research by KPNX investigative journalist, Wendy Halloran. Wendy has even posted critical evidence for us from her research below. Teresa worked in the infirmary at ASPC-Tucson/Rincon, and was deeply troubled by much of what she saw while there. If you or a loved one of yours has been mistreated at ASPC-Tucson/Rincon in the past year, please get in touch with me. And to anyone out there who is or will be litigating Corizon: you need to send this article to your attorney. These people are preying on the sick and dying.

AZ DOC prisoners and their families owe both Teresa and Wendy a debt of gratitude for their willingness to risk retaliation by the powerful to bring the truth to light. Even our state's legislators are afraid to call DOC and Corizon out for what they've been up to.  This experiment has not only been a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars that could be used to prevent crime and incarceration, but will be sucking resources out of the state budget long after Corizon has run away with its profits. At great cost to Arizonans - with the blessing of our Republican legislature and governor - Wexford and Corizon have perpetrated additional harm on the very people the DOC is supposed to be "rehabilitating", costing the lives and livelihoods of far too many individuals who do not deserve to be thrown away. 

Rather than whitewashing things like this poor man bleeding out due to negligent care, DOC Director Ryan should be pounding down the Governor's door saying "THIS ISN'T WORKING!!!!", and begging the legislature to reverse their order to privatize state correctional health care. He owes them the truth - he owes that to all of us. 

To all the rest of you at the DOC and Corizon who are trying to do the right thing by the patients you serve: thank you for all your acts of kindness and professionalism, but your silence still makes you complicit with the real bad guys. Please talk to SOMEONE about what you have seen and been ordered to do as well, if it goes against yours or your profession's ethics. Otherwise, they will most surely get away with this fraud, waste and abuse. You might want to start with contacting Wendy Halloran at KPNX. If anyone can put the info you may have to good use, it's her.

Wendy Halloran, KPNX/12News
200 East Van Buren
Phoenix, AZ 85004


Or drop me a line: Peggy Plews 480-580-6807

--------------from AZCENTRAL.COM / KPNX News12----------

Arizona taxpayers are footing a $10.2 million per month bill for healthcare a 12 News investigation has found leaves some patients untreated.


Arizona taxpayers pay $125 million a year to Corizon, a company contracted to provide healthcare to Arizona's inmate population. A 12 News investigation revealed there are questions about whether the company is driving up its profits at the expense of taxpayers.

What's more, billing records show the Department of Corrections is spending millions more to defend itself from a 2012 class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and the Prison Law Office out of Berkeley, Calif.

That filing accuses the department of not providing adequate medical care, mental health care and dental care to prisoners.

The state hired Struck, Wieneke & Love PLC, a private law firm in Chandler, to handle its defense. Legal billing records show taxpayers have already paid the firm $2,988,910.68 as of April, 2014.

In an interview, Dan Pochoda, the legal director for the ACLU of Arizona, says the defense of the lawsuit was given to a private firm too quickly. He questions why the Attorney General's Office is not defending the case.

"The Attorney General's Office, they have a section that does the defense for this specific agency, in this case the prison systems, as they do for other agencies and presumptively it should start off obviously with the AG," he said. "You know it's going to be a significant expense once we go outside. These are profit-making firms just like the health-care provider is a profit-making provider. Their bottom line is making more money."

That's nearly $3 million in public money to a private firm defending the Department of Corrections against allegations its private healthcare provider is doing an inadequate job.

Related documents
Struck Wieneke %26 Love, PLC invoice - March 2014. (PDF, 266 KB)
Struck Wieneke %26 Love, PLC invoices - May 2012 to March 2014. (Zip, 1.16 MB)
Corizon invoices - March through October, 2013. (PDF, 493 KB)
Questions about inmate care
We reviewed records from March through October 2013 and found at least 16,000 medical delays, ranging from not treating an HIV-positive prisoner to inmates not getting antipsychotic medication.

Why should taxpayers care? Every day Corizon is on the job, we pay on average $339,000, whether it does its job or not.
Teresa Short worked as a patient care technician for Corizon at the state prison in Tucson. She resigned in March and has since had trouble dealing with the death of an inmate she cared for.

That inmate was James Copeland. Copeland was serving time for failing to register as a sex offender.
Copeland was diagnosed with dementia and kidney disease. He was a dialysis patient housed in the medical unit where Short worked at the prison. Copeland had a vascular catheter inserted in his chest, which is a port for dialysis.

That device prompted Short to warn her colleagues on several occasions after she caught Copeland disturbing its cap. Short was nervous and believed due to his dementia he needed constant supervision or he might compromise the catheter. She was very skeptical about Corizon's decision to house Copeland there rather than in a hospital.

A Corizon nurse's progress notes on Copeland on November 19, 2013 reveal signs of dementia. The nurse wrote that Copeland became agitated and stated "he wants to go that way, pointing to the other end of the unit," and pulling on the lines attached to medical equipment such as his vascular catheter and blood-pressure monitor.

On November 23, the nurse writes of Copeland's state, "confused and needs frequent directions and orientation."

Related document
Nurses' notes on James Copeland - November, 2013. (PDF, 744 KB)
Red flags ignored

Short says Copeland would pull on oxygen lines during dialysis treatment, would pull on his vascular catheter lines and would stand up all the time when he was supposed to be sitting down receiving treatment.

Reports show Short checked on Copeland at 4 a.m. on November 28, 2013. That was Thanksgiving Day. He was hungry and asked for food.

The security check log shows a corrections officer accounted for all inmates being alive and well in that wing of the prison at 4:46 a.m.. Copeland displayed no unusual behavior.

At 5:25 a.m., Short went to Copeland's cell to give him some food and discovered him lying on his bed in a pool of blood.

"When I walked into the room, I was stepping on blood clots that were the size of livers, I mean they were huge," said Short.

Copeland had done what Short predicted, ripping off the cap which covers the catheter opening.
Short says she could see blood on the walls and even Copeland's shoe print in blood near the door.
"I felt like I failed him," she said.

The Department of Corrections Inmate Death Notification says medical responders performed life-saving techniques on Copeland. Pictures taken by DOC's investigation team show patches from a heart defibrillator on the inmate's chest.

The report shows an AED (automated external defibrillator) was utilized, but did not recommend shock. Medical staff determined not to perform CPR due to the fact that Copeland had bled out and there was not a sufficient amount of blood left to try to resuscitate.

Short says all of his options were gone.

Related documents
Criminal investigative report (PDF, 712 KB)
Administrative investigation report (PDF, 4.23 MB)
Delays after death

According to the DOC's criminal investigative report, Nurse Brenda Hinton and Nurse Robin Sheppard pronounced Copeland deceased at 5:45 a.m. Nurse Hinton was directed by the on-call doctor, a Dr. Barciaga, to call 911.

The report states there was a disagreement among Hinton, Sheppard, and Barciaga. The Tucson Fire Department, which has a station across the highway from the prison, did not arrive on scene until 6:58 a.m. and pronounced Copeland deceased.

The report does not detail what the disagreement was about, but makes it sound like the two nurses were arguing about whether to call 911 or disobey the instructions of the on-call doctor.

On December 30, 2013 the Pima County medical examiner listed the cause of death as exsanguination - fatal blood loss - due to an uncapped vascular dialysis catheter. The manner of death was ruled accidental.

In a statement to 12 News, DOC Director Charles Ryan says, "All inmate deaths are investigated criminally and administratively. This process involves a review conducted by Corizon, a review by ADC, as well as an independent report by the county medical examiner. This investigative process determined conclusively that the death of inmate Copeland was accidental; a fact independently corroborated by the Pima County medical examiner.

"At the time of the incident, the unit was appropriately staffed and inmate Copeland's welfare was documented on a regular basis. He was discovered unresponsive by a certified medical technician who immediately alerted an ADC correctional officer and the on-duty RN and LPN. Each of these investigations determined that the death of inmate Copeland was accidental and none raised any concerns about the medical protocols for inmate Copeland either prior to or following his death."

According to DOC monitor reports, prepared monthly by staff in the Department of Corrections' Department Health Services Contract Monitoring Bureau, a problem with infirmary staffing was identified on October 30. Just weeks later, Copeland died at a time when staffing levels at the infirmary were still inadequate, according to Short.

Related documents
DOC monitor report - Tucson, see page 71 for staffing comments (PDF, 9.91 MB)
DOC monitor reports - All prisons, April-October, 2013 (Zip, 319 MB)
"We're the ones who have to carry the burden when something is preventable and we cannot prevent it because we don't have enough people to supervise the ones that need supervision the most," she said.

Teresa Short says she was compelled to blow the whistle. If not for Copeland, for the people footing the bill.

"The taxpayers need to really see what's happening to people," she said. "I think most people would be disgusted. They care about the bottom line, they care about the dollar."

Copeland's death just the tip of the iceberg 

According to the Department of Correction's own monitors, Corizon failed to deliver timely medical care at least 16,000 times during an eight-month period in 2013.

In fact, some of the documentation shows the provider was not providing any healthcare. These cases include:
  • At the prison in Tucson, an HIV-positive inmate received no treatment.
  • Chemotherapy for two other inmates was delayed.
  • An inmate had to have a craniotomy after falling 33 times because he wasn't supervised in the infirmary.
  • At the Eyman facility, Corizon failed to reorder chronic-care medication for dozens of prisoners.
  • No timely treatment for an inmate with prostate cancer.
  • In Yuma, mentally ill prisoners had not been seen by doctors since December, 2012.
  • Psychotropic medications were not renewed.
  • At Perryville, the women's prison, long delays to see the doctor once prisoners were referred by nurses.
"They're examples of what you see month after month after month," said Corene Kendrick, an attorney for the Prison Law Office in Berkeley, Calif.

"If I were a taxpayer, someone who feels very tough on crime, I would be outraged by this because it's taxpayer money that's going into the pockets of a corporation," she said.

Kendrick is one of the attorneys behind the class-action lawsuit filed by the ACLU and the Prison Law Office against the Arizona Department of Corrections. The suit alleges inadequate medical, mental health, and dental care.

Kendrick contends no effort is being made by the Arizona Department of Corrections to hold Corizon accountable for the violations when the evidence, she says, is overwhelming in the reports being made by DOC's own monitors.

Which brings us to four inmates who've been granted medical parole in the last six months by the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency.

NameMedical parole date
Dean Vocke10/31/13
Glen Huggins12/11/13
Nishma Kanabar 2/28/14
Margaret Van Wormer4/18/14

Huggins and Kanabar have already died.

Dean Vocke was given six months to a year to live. Before he was medically paroled, Vocke had ten months left on his sentence for vehicle theft when he complained about back pain in October, 2012.

Vocke gave 12 News permission to review his medical records for our reporting; we are not publishing them due to the amount of personally identifying information they contain.

His first appointment was cancelled because no provider was available. X-rays taken at the end of February showed bone abnormalities consistent with cancer. The nurse requested an MRI.

"They wouldn't do an MRI, they kept denying an MRI, denying an MRI," Vocke said. "They didn't want to spend the money."

At the end of May, 2013, medical staff ordered CT scans, but Corizon denied it. Finally, at end of July, 2013 a CT scan was performed.

It confirmed Vocke had cancer which now had spread to his hips and his spine.

"And finally [the cancer] ate my pelvis and my hip away," said Vocke.

In September a second CT scan showed the cancer spread to his abdomen and one of his kidneys.

Medical records show there was an eight-month delay in treating Vocke, because of Corizon's actions.

"It was kidney cancer that could have been 95 percent survivable and now they're saying I can't survive it whatsoever," Vocke told us.

Vocke's physician sent a request to the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency for early release due to imminent death.

From that request, the clinical summary and prognosis read:

"Inmate Vocke has been diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma with metastasis to the bone. He underwent a right nephrectomy and will start chemotherapy in a few weeks. This is a very aggressive form of cancer and his oncologist and onsite Medical Director for ASPC-Tucson have both recommended clemency. Since inmate Vocke is wheelchair bound and in the advanced stage of the disease, he is not considered a threat to society.

"Because of the aggressive and advanced nature of his cancer, he is not expected to survive this illness. The oncologist has indicated that for this type of cancer, about 50% of patients may survive up to six (6) months while about 35% may live up to one year."

The physician indicated Vocke has a life expectancy of six months or less.

On October 31, 2013 the Board of Executive Clemency commuted Vocke's sentence. He was granted medical parole, so he can die surrounded by family. His wife Laurie says it's torn them apart.

We tried to seek comment from Corizon on the many issues outlined in our reporting.

Susan Morgenstern, a spokeswoman for Corizon asked us to supply her with the documentation we obtained under Arizona's Public Records Law. We requested the quarterly and monthly monitoring memos and reports referred to above, known as MGAR (short for Monitoring-Green-Amber-Red) reports.

In response to our questions, Corizon provided these answers via email:
  • Mr. Copeland. You asked about the investigation into the tragic death of Mr. Copeland. As I believe you know, it has been investigated and officially determined to be an accident. It's been thoroughly reviewed by several agencies; and the care provided and protocols followed were all appropriate.
  • As you know, HIPPA [sic] prevent health care providers such as Corizon from providing any medical details about specific individuals to you or anyone else. But I can assure you that we are always willing to review individual care plans to be sure appropriate care is provided.
  • As for your very general allegations, we would be happy to check into them and provide information if you could give us enough detail to do so. You referenced delays in care and prescriptions; can you give us the specific instances you are talking about (date/time/location/documentation)?
  • You've also talked about four unnamed inmates who were medically paroled and alleged they did not receive proper care. If you will give us the names of these individuals, we will review their medical records to ensure they received proper care.
  • Finally, you've alleged there are staffing shortages, but that is simply not accurate. When the transition to Corizon occurred in March 2013, we immediately assessed the staffing and began an aggressive recruiting and training program. Today all current staff levels exceed the contract requirements.
  • We believe that Corizon is providing quality care to the patients we treat every day, and we stand behind our medical professionals who work inside the correctional facilities.
Corizon responded with a second statement after we provided more specific information.

Teresa Short: A former Corizon employee alleges lack of care, staffing shortages, and that she was "set up to fail."

  • Corizon is first and foremost a health care provider, whose top priority is the health and safety of patients. To that end, we practice evidence-based medicine as prescribed by licensed medical professionals and focus on providing quality health care.
  • The vast majority of our current staff levels exceed the contract requirements. For example, since the time of the MGARs provided you, the staffing for mental health care at the Yuma facility has increased substantially.
  • We not only empower our employees to succeed in fulfilling our mission, we also require them to meet the highest standards of conduct and professionalism.
MGAR Reports: Various allegations
  • As you know, MGAR reports are monitoring tools meant to raise issues that are then addressed and resolved. By design, they capture issues requiring attention at a specific moment in time, some of which are immediately resolved. The MGARs provided you are now 8-9 months old.
  • In addition, Corizon is prohibited by HIPAA from discussing individual patient cases, just as any other health care provider or hospital is restricted.
  • But it's important to note that Corizon care follows the guidelines of the NCCHC and the ACA, which are the correctional industry standard.
Complaints from patients who were medically paroled
  • Again, HIPAA prevents Corizon from discussing details of individual patient care.
  • As a health care provider focused on quality, we stand behind our dedicated medical professionals and the treatment plans they provide to patients.
  • The process for inmate compassionate discharge is initiated by the inmate or the family and is considered by the Board of Executive Clemency, not Corizon nor the ADC.
Expired Licenses
  • Our staff has all necessary and appropriate licenses, so this allegation is simply not true.
Susan Morgenstern
senior vice president

Suicide at ASPC-Tucson: Why did Victor Romero-Sangria, 30, give up and die?

Condolencias a familia de Victor. Lo siento mucho por su pérdida. Mi español es muy malo, pero póngase en contacto conmigo si puedo ayudarte a descubrir lo que pasó. 
Peggy Plews 480-580-6807
PO Box 20494   Phoenix AZ 85036

30 year old prisoner Victor Romero-Sangria was sentenced out of Pinal County last fall to spend 2.5 years in prison for marijuana violations...I really cant believe we still put people in prison for pot, but we do. He arrived in the custody of the AZ DOC on 10/02/13. He apparently killed himself less than 8 months later. If anyone knows why, please contact me. 

Here's what I suspect, based on what I see in his record on-line, and have heard from hundreds of prisoners. This is just a guess...

I suspect Victor arrived in prison with "bad paperwork" - ie, his police report would show he snitched. Or perhaps he was gay, and someone outed him. Or maybe he just didn't like to play by the racialized political rules. Or maybe he was raped - after you've been raped once in prison, you're an easy target for repeated victimization, if word gets out about it. 

In any case, I think this young prisoner  feared a fate worse than the death he could bring on himself, and that he begged the AZ DOC to be placed in protective custody. They denied his request because he couldn't afford an attorney and - being  a Mexican National - they knew he (or his family, now that he's dead) was hardly likely to ever sue the DOC for an injunction. 

Despite whatever danger this man faced and begged for relief from, the DOC most likely ordered him onto a General Population yard, where he would have to report to the head of his race to be approved to walk the yard or found to be "no good", and targeted for violence and exile. He was terrified, and refused to go out on the yard. That's when they gave him a ticket for an AGGRAVATED REFUSAL Of AN ORDER...(Refusal to House, or RTH ticket for those of you just picking up the jargon). Then they would have taken his property and privileges, adding points to his classification score, and stuck him in the hole for being afraid. That's what it looks like happened on November 14, 2013, anyway. 

Next thing that shows up on Victor's inmate file on the DOC website is an assault on staff on February 7, 2014. My bet is that whatever got him into hot water with the gangs that dominate the lives of Mexican national prisoners was something he was offered a chance to "clear his name" over. The only way to do that is to commit a crime for the gang, usually an assault on another prisoner or an officer. Another possibility is that he thought if he attacked an officer, he would be placed in solitary for the rest of his time in prison, and that it wold keep him safe.  In any case, he assaulted an officer which could have gotten him more time, so he must have been pretty afraid.

He probably sought PC again after that assault in February, and was denied again - perhaps even the day he died. That drives many men to try to kill themselves at the DOC.

Or the Mexican Mafia or Border Brothers actually got a hold of him and just made it look like a suicide. Many homicides in prison are hidden that way and the DOC lets them slide, like in the case of Pete Calleros. HIs mother had a second autopsy done which proved he was strangled by attackers, and the DOC had more than one witness who reported he had been murdered and the suicide was staged....strangely, the DOC never told his mother they knew it wasn't a suicide. I suspect there's less liability involved if a prisoner commits suicide than if they've been murdered in your care. So, if you want to know the truth about your loved one's death in custody, do your own investigation- don't believe everything the people responsible for their safety tells you.

 At least that's how it goes down far too often - I'm just speculating about this kid's life and death right now; I could be way wrong. My condolences to Victor's family - please contact me if there's anything I can do to help you.

Condolencias a familia de Victor. Lo siento mucho por su pérdida. Mi español es muy malo, pero póngase en contacto conmigo si puedo ayudarte a descubrir lo que pasó. 
Peggy Plews 480-580-6807
 PO Box 20494   Phoenix AZ 85036

If anyone else knows what really happened, drop me a line, please, too.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Corizon's, ASPC-Tucson, and the disabling of Michael Levy.

Below is just one more example of Corizon's deliberate indifference to the pain and suffering of patients in the AZ Department of Corrections. They are paid handsomely to perpetrate their neglect on state prisoners at great cost to all of us, thanks to legislators like John Kavanagh who insisted that privatizing medical care in the prisons would save taxpayers money - seems to me that so far all they've done has been to steal from us, instead.

As for this kid doing 5 years for possession - shame on all you judges locking addicts away thinking they will get any treatment or assistance with their addiction whatsoever in prison. As you can see, they can hardly get the basic medical care they need - only 4% a year get any kind of substance abuse treatment, period. Most will just be bringing home Hep C and a new heroin addiction to show for their time away. This kid is lucky to be making it home at all...

Thanks to News 4 Tucson for digging into this. Stay tuned for more exposes in the weeks to come, as more and more of Corizon employees refuse to participate in their profit-driven machine at the expense of their patients, like Michael Levy.

Monday, May 5, 2014

AZ DOC denies any outbreak of scabies at ASPC-Tucson/Rincon.

So, this came into my box on Friday. Given how I raked Mr Pratt over the coals on the issue last week, I owe it to him to post this response he gave to some questions Donna Hamm raised about my previous post on Corizon. Her questions to him are in bold, his answers are in italics.

 My source still stands by her account of what has transpired at ASPC-Tucson/Rincon, however, and will be sharing it with mainstream media. They have the resources to do the fact-checking; I just amplify the voices of those who are otherwise effectively silenced by the system. If anyone out there has additional information about how ASPC-Tucson/ Rincon has been run the past year, please let me know.  My contact info is at the top of the page.


Gmail Arizona Prisonwatch

FOLLOWUP FROM Middle Ground: parasitic infestation of the elderly, sick and dying at Tucson/Rincon ICU...

Arizona Prisonwatch

To: Peggy Plews


Date: Fri, May 2, 2014 at 6:54 PM

Subject: RE: CORIZON's deliberate indifference: parasitic infestation of the elderly, sick and dying at Tucson/Rincon ICU..

To: Middle Ground Prison Reform <>

Cc: "" "", Governor Brewer <>, "" <>, "" <>, Daniel Pochoda , Caroline Isaacs, Peri Jude Radecic  "NICK, DOUG" , "RYAN, CHARLES"  "NORTHUP, DAWN" ,

Ms. Hamm:

In response to your follow up:

1.      What was done to stop the spread of scabies once it was initially discovered?  Did the seven alleged cases result from staff ignoring the first case and letting it spread, or was it not discovered until several people already had it at approximately the same time?  If the first case was ignored and then it spread from that case into several cases, what is being done specifically to insure that serious attention will, in the future, be given to even a single outbreak of such a serious condition?  What safeguards are in place to insure that it is readily diagnosed and treated for an inmate who reports symptoms prior to spreading it to others?

To be clear, let me reiterate, there has been no parasitic outbreak of scabies.

On 03/24/14 a CNA working night shift in the IPC reported that she had a rash for approximately one week that was not resolving.  She was immediately sent to occupational health and treated for scabies.  Her diagnosis was made without confirmation by any skin scrapings.  No inmates or other staff were diagnosed with scabies at that time. The employee subsequently quit her job without notice citing personal reasons.

On 04/23/14 seven IPC staff members reported a rash of varying degrees, after they were comparing symptoms with each other.  They were sent to occupational health and five of them were given a cream to treat scabies.  Again, this diagnosis for those five employees was made solely based on presentation and statements from staff regarding scabies.  The other two staff were diagnosed with contact dermatitis and a napkin rash. All seven have been cleared and have returned to full duty. One staff member also reported having a child with scabies approximately one month prior.

2.     Without violating their HIPPA privacy rights, are there in fact seven Corizon employees who've contracted scabies but were not permitted to take sick leave due to staff shortages, as is implied in Plew's original email?

No. The information implied in Ms. Plew’s original e-mail is not correct. One staff was restricted from coming back to work for six days, four staff returned to work within 24 hours (full duty), and the other two staff (not diagnosed with scabies) returned without any restrictions. All of the Corizon staff were permitted to leave work upon reporting, and the only restrictions were based upon doctor’s orders. Paid time off was granted for anyone undergoing treatment or with work restrictions. No one was denied sick leave for any reason. An alternative staffing plan was put into place in the event all of the employees would have been taken off work for an extended period of time.

3.     Has someone investigated the physician assigned to that unit (Rincon) who is accused of ignoring patients presenting with symptoms of scabies?  As Plews noted, some of the individual prisoners may not have the ability (physical or mental) to file grievances or complain in any effective manner, but that does not relieve the DOC and/or Corizon of the responsibility to investigate.

The doctor overseeing the infirmary has advised that with regard to the inmate population there were no confirmed cases of scabies within the IPC at any time during this period. Please note that these inmates are also seen daily by numerous nursing staff where any complaints can be voiced.

4.         With respect to the allegation that insufficient amounts of food are given or that bedsheets are not being changed in a timely manner, is there any procedure in place for you to make unannounced inspections?  If not, why not?  What can or is being done to insure that this issue, allegedly reported by a former Corizon employee, is not actually happening?

I have received no reports with respect to these allegations. The medical monitoring team has full access to the infirmary 24/7 (without announcement) and inspects all aspects of patient care. Most of the inspections are unannounced, and take place many times each and every month, to include different shifts.

5.     Plews didn't identify the prisoner who allegedly died of "natural causes," but whom the Corizon ex-employee reports as having died due to neglect, so I am not sure how you can check into this, especially since no time frame was given to define "recently."  Can you somehow investigate this allegation to insure that no prisoner has died due to neglect or indifference?  Again, what active "hands on" inspections by you or someone in your office takes place at each health/medical unit -- in particular at the Tucson complex -- and how many of those inspections are unannounced?  How often do you visit the units to see things with your own eyes?

There is a mortality review process for any deaths within the department which involves the monitoring bureau. I attempt to get out to the field personally whenever time permits. I also have administrators who travel regularly in the field supervising the complex monitors.

6.     The allegations regarding tampering/altering records at Tucson/Rincon ICU are especially troubling, and they originate from an ex-employee at Corizon.  What does the DOC intend to do regarding these extremely serious allegations regarding withdrawal/changing of medications,  at "other yards" (which Plews doesn't identify).

Even if the ex-Corizon employee chooses not to come forward to contact you with her allegations or with more specific information, I urge you to investigate these claims on your own.  If all of her allegations are false, it will simply confirm that Corizon is doing the job they are contracted to perform and that your contract monitors are doing their jobs, too.  If any of the allegations are true, then immediate remedial measures need to be taken.  I hope I need not remind you that the bulk of the tragedy at the Kingman Prison a few years ago was a result of the DOC contract monitors not doing their job; I would hope that the Department will not allow such tragedy to repeat itself with the multi-million dollar inmate health care contract.

Record reviews are just one part of the monitoring taking place in the field. It is not uncommon for a monitor to copy certain records at one point in time, and go back to the record at a later date to determine if any improper alterations have been made to the original records.

We do our best to ensure that the inmates are receiving the constitutionally mandated care they deserve. Of course, specific allegations are able to be investigated more appropriately than general claims painted with a broad brush. As I have indicated in the past, I appreciate issues that are brought to my attention relating to the health care of the inmate population.


Richard Pratt


Interim Assistant Director

Arizona Department of Corrections

Health Services Contract Monitoring Bureau

(602) 771-2100