The 'Friends of Marcia Powell' are autonomous groups and individuals engaging in prisoner outreach, informal advocacy, and organized protest and direct actions in a sustained campaign to: promote prisoner rights and welfare in America; engage the Arizona public in a creative and thoughtful critique of our system of "justice;” deconstruct the prison industrial complex; and dismantle this racist, classist patriarchy...

Retiring "Free Marcia Powell"

As of December 2, 2010 (with occasional exceptions) I'm retiring this blog to direct more of my time and energy into prisoner rights and my other blogs; I just can't do anyone justice when spread so thin. I'll keep the site open so folks can search the archives and use the links, but won't be updating it with new posts. If you're looking for the latest, try Arizona Prison Watch. Most of the pieces posted here were cross-posted to one or both of those sites already.

Thanks for visiting. Peace out - Peg.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Marcia Powell: September 2009

From the Baltimore Chronicle


Dog Days Turn Deadly in America’s Prisons

by James Ridgeway

First published in his blog Unsilent Generation on 1 September 2009

The U.S. government made a point of building new air-conditioned facilities for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. However, many of our equally hot southern states do not share that concern for human decency, and many deaths have and are occurring as the result.

The summer of 2009 had barely begun when Marcia Powell, a 48-year old inmate at Arizona’s Perryville Prison, was baked to death. Powell, whom court records show had a history of schizophrenia, substance abuse, and mild mental retardation, was serving a 27-month sentence for prostitution. At about 11 a.m. on May 19, a day when the Arizona sun had driven the temperature to 108 degrees, she was parked outdoors in an unroofed, wire-fenced holding cell while awaiting transfer to another part of the prison. A deputy warden and two guards had been stationed in a control center 20 yards away, but nearly four hours had passed when she was found collapsed on the floor of the human cage. Doctors at a local hospital pronounced Powell comatose from heat stroke, and she died later that night after being taken off life support. Two local churches stepped in to provide a proper funeral and burial.

Arizona Department of Corrections director Charles Ryan said the guards had been suspended pending a criminal investigation, and expressed “condolences to Ms. Powell’s family and loved ones”–a strange statement, considering Ryan had made the decision to quickly pull the plug on his comatose prisoner because, he said, no next of kin could be found. In fact, as Stephen Lemons of the Phoenix New Times has reported, Powell was judged an “incapacitated adult” and placed under public guardianship–but her guardians were not consulted before the ADC elected to let her die. Lemons also noted some unsavory chapters in Ryan’s recent career:

Ryan’s own bio on the ADC Web site touts that he was “assistant program manager for the Department of Justice overseeing the Iraqi Prison System for almost four years.” Ryan was contracted by the DOJ to help rebuild Iraqi prisons, one of those being the notorious Abu Ghraib.

Following Powell’s death, Ryan banned most uses of unshaded outdoor holding cells in Arizona, except in “extraordinary circumstances.” Most Southern states already restrict their use. But baking in the sun is only one of many ways to die in America’s prisons in the summertime. Recent years have seen scattered reports of heat-related prison deaths in California and Texas, among others. The prevalence of mental illness among the victims may be linked to anti-psychotic drugs, which raise the body temperature and cause dehydration, and at the same time have a tranquilizing effect that may mask thirst.

In 2006, 21-year-old Timothy Souders, another mentally ill prisoner, died of heat exhaustion and dehydration at a Jackson, Michigan prison during an August heat wave. For the four days prior to his death, Souders had been shackled to a cement slab in solitary confinement because he had been acting up. That entire period was captured on surveillance videotapes, which according to news reports clearly showed his mental and physical deterioration.

The vast majority of U.S. civilian prisons and jails are not air conditioned. (In contrast, the U.S. made a point of building new air-conditioned facilities for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and phasing out the older structures.) In Texas, only 19 of 112 prisons have air-conditioning. Earlier this summer, the chair of Texas State Senate’s Judiciary Committee, John Whitmire (D-Houston), told the Houston Chronicle that enduring the heat is “part of the reality of going to prison. There are a lot of inconveniences to serving time. There’s no question it’s hot.” He said he thought few Texans would be sympathetic to the prisoners’ suffering.

Apparently anticipating a similar lack of sympathy, the Florida Department of Corrections proudly advertises the absence of air-conditioning in most of its prisons. On a web page that debunks a host of “misconceptions” that might indicate soft treatment of Florida’s prisoners, it assures readers that the majority of inmates live without air-conditioning or cable television.

In a 2002 report on the risks of heat-related illness at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, compiled for the ACLU, a physician who reviewed conditions on Death Row wrote the following:

An individual free to respond to the stress created by a hot environment would normally take steps to cool his body. If no air conditioning were available, he would at least respond by seeking a cooler location, blocking out radiant heat from the sun by positioning himself in the shade or screening himself from the sun, maximizing evaporation by wetting his body and clothes with water and using fans to create cross-ventilation, and moving away from physical structures which absorb and radiate heat.

None of these natural survival responses to excessive heat are available to the Death Row prisoners. The prisoners’ cells, especially Willie Russell’s Plexiglas covered cell, are stifling hot yet prisoners have to close their windows and cover their bodies at night despite intense heat in order to protect themselves from mosquitoes and other insects. Many of the prisoners have no access to fans, either because they are too poor to buy fans or because their fans have been confiscated as punishment. They have infrequent access to cooling showers, and sometimes, even access to water is extremely limited. The prisoners are not allowed to shade their windows from direct sunlight. They have extremely limited access to the outdoor exercise-pens and in any event those pens provide no relief from the heat because they are not shaded....

It is my opinion, based on my observations during my visit to Unit 32-C, Death Row and on my training, experience, and familiarity with the extensive body of medical literature on the subject of thermoregulation, that all of the inmates on Death Row are at high risk of heat stroke and heat-related illness.

A first-hand account of enduring the summer heat at the nation’s largest maximum-security prison, the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, was provided by Kenny “Zulu” Whitmore. Whitmore, who has served more than 30 years of a life sentence, much of it in solitary confinement, kept a journal during a 2007 August heat wave:

August: It was so hot in here last night...I looked for the open flame in the cell. During the day you expect it to be 100 degrees, but not at night. More is yet to come.

9 August: The fire inspector came on the tier today doing the same fake B/S, but he was soaking wet b/c it is so hot in here. He was RED RED in the face like he was going to pass out. He was looking at us like Lord, give me their endurance.

12 August: I could not sleep last night. It had to be at least 98 degrees in here. I passed out around 2.20 am and got up at 5.14...I have not stopped sweating since yesterday....

31 August: The last day of hell month. This had to be the hottest for August in 200 years.

More recently, in letters to a friend, Whitmore described this past summer at “the Gola”:

June 11, 2009: Heat is on in the Gola, 93 degrees. I would have replied yesterday, but man it was so hot in here and I sweated all day. So I am writing before it gets too hot. And it’s just June. It was 76 degrees that morning at 5.30 am and 94 degrees after twelve noon. It should get that hot today too...

June 27, 2009: Hot n Humid Gola 99 degrees. If you heard that it’s getting hot in Angola, you heard wrong, because it have been steaming hot in Angola for the whole month of June but I know H will be alright, even at his age he can stand the heat. Plus: he knows what to do to cool down some: put some water on the floor and lay in it or put a wet sweat shirt on to stay cool....

July 12, 2009: The sweatbox Louisiana. With temperature 98 degrees everybody is on the floor.

All you need is to wet it or your clothes. It’s all about survival in this man made hell....

August 10, 2009: I ran like a wild horse in that 96 degree heat today. I sweated all my body liquids so I had to replace it by drinking water the whole of the day. Only the strong survive.

Born in 1936, James Ridgeway has been reporting on politics for more than 45 years. He is currently Senior Washington Correspondent for Mother Jones, and recently wrote a blog on the 2008 presidential election for the Guardian online. He previously served as Washington Correspondent for the Village Voice; wrote for Ramparts and The New Republic; and founded and edited two independent newsletters, Hard Times and The Elements.

Ridgeway is the author of 16 books, including The Five Unanswered Questions About 9/11, It’s All for Sale: The Control of Global Resources, and Blood in the Face: The Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads, and the Rise of a New White Culture. He co-directed a companion film to Blood in the Face and a second documentary film, Feed, and has co-produced web videos for GuardianFilms.

Additional information and samples of James Ridgeway’s work can be found on his web site,


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Marcia Powell: Sixteen ADC employees disciplined

I agree with Director Ryan on the seriousness of the abuse - and I'm glad he actually used that word: some administrators might try to avoid it. But I'm not sure how we ever get transparency out of the ADC, since employee discipline is legitimately protected. I think given the potential consequences, though, prisoners' rights should be given deference.

This wasn't entirely a failure of policy, either: it all began with implementing policy. So, I have more questions than anything. Like: how far up the chain does responsibility go? Who disciplines the policy-makers when they're careless?

And who deals with that judge that gave her 27 months for prostitution in the first place? She was so incompetent as a result of her mental illness that she had to have a guardian.

From KPHO's website, where you can find previous articles and videos on Marica's death. :
16 Prison Workers Disciplined In Inmate's Death
POSTED: 5:24 pm MST September 22, 2009
UPDATED: 5:51 pm MST September 22, 2009

PHOENIX -- Sixteen Arizona prison workers have been disciplined or fired for the death of an inmate left in an outdoor cage.

Three of those disciplined were fired, two stepped down in place of being fired, 10 received suspensions ranging from 40 to 80 hours, and one was demoted. Two others will be disciplined after they return from medical leave.

Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan announced the moves Tuesday, calling the death "the most significant example of abuse" of an inmate that he's aware of within the department.

"That is an absolute failure," Ryan said Tuesday. "The inmate should not have been left in the enclosure that length of time.

Ryan declined to provide the names of the corrections employees who were disciplined, saying it would be inappropriate considering they have the right to appeal their punishments.

Marcia Powell, 48, died last May, about 10 hours after she collapsed in an outdoor, unshaded holding cell at the Perryville prison in Goodyear.Her body's core temperature had risen to 108 degrees, according to the autopsy report.

The autopsy revealed Powell had first and second-degree burns on her face, chest and arms.The report also turned up traces of medication in Powell’s blood for treating Parkinson’s disease and depression.Ryan said at the time Powell was left in the cell nearly twice as long as she should have under department policy. He placed three officers on administrative leave pending a criminal investigation.

Ryan said Powell's cell was 20 yards from a staffed control room from where corrections officers should have been watching her.

Powell arrived at the Perryville prison in August 2008.

Powell was placed alone in the cell while being moved to an on-site detention unit after seeing a prison psychologist. Ryan said a disturbance at the detention unit prompted Powell's placement in the holding cell.

He would not elaborate on the nature of the disturbance.

Ryan said officers gave Powell bottled water, as required under prison policy. Investigators will try to determine how much water she was given and whether she drank it.

Officers did not remove her after two hours as they should have done under department policy, according to Ryan."It is intended to be temporary," Ryan said. "It is not intended to be a place where they are held for an inordinate amount of time."Powell had been in and out of state prisons and had a long history of mental illness, Ryan said.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Should Director Ryan Resign?

This would be the coverage to follow, and posits some of the questions I'd ask:

Marcia Powell Cage Death: Charles Ryan Fires Three, Disciplines Others, but When Will He Resign?

Less than a month after the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office ruled Arizona Department of Corrections inmate Marcia Powell's May 20 human cage death an "accident," ADC honcho Charles Ryan has fired three employees, forced the resignations of two others, and disciplined 11 more. This according to an ADC news release issued today.

Specifically, the release states that Ryan "dismissed five employees, two of whom resigned in lieu of dismissal, demoted a captain to an officer and suspended another 10 employees" because of Powell's death from being left in a shadeless, waterless outdoor cage at Goodyear's Perryville Prison. Powell collapsed May 19 after at least four hours in the blazing Arizona sun. Ryan later made the decision to suspend her life support, even though Powell, 48, had been assigned a guardian by the court -- Maricopa County's Public Fiduciary.

None of the names of those fired and disciplined have been released. In addition to news of the firings, ADC also announced that it had "completed a criminal investigation into the matter," which had been reviewed by the Department of Public Safety, then submitted to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office on August 20.

Ryan's quoted in the release as saying of those disciplined, "These supervisors and officers to varying degrees failed to properly perform their duties." Left unsaid is any mention of the fact that Ryan ordered Powell's plug pulled before consultation with her guardian. Ryan has stated that he did not know Powell had a guardian at the time.

Should Ryan fall on his sword in this matter? After all, couldn't it be argued that Ryan failed to do his duty by not ensuring that Marcia Powell was treated safely and humanely during her 27-month stint in prison for prostitution?

Donna Hamm of the advocacy group Middle Ground Prison Reform said she wasn't ready to demand Ryan's resignation. Hamm said she first wanted to see the results of ADC's internal investigation, which is not yet public.

"The critical thing for us is whether there are going to be criminal charges brought," Hamm told me this evening. "Everything we know about this incident seems to point to the elements for negligent homicide. It's very hard to imagine how Michael Jackson's death is ruled a homicide and this one is ruled an accident. I don't really understand the difference, except in politics and coroners."

Powell's cremains were eventually turned over to Middle Ground after an investigation by the fidiciary's office could not locate next-of-kin willing to take custody of them. (Powell's adoptive mother is alive, but she told the fiduciary's office she did not wish to get involved.) Powell's cremains were committed June 28 at Shadow Rock United Church of Christ in Phoenix.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Powell tortured to death in AZ prison.

I'm glad this is finally out there.

Needless to say, Director Ryan, given the news, the cease-fire is off. Sorry it was so short-lasted. I now have a better idea why you no longer wanted to speak to me. You don’t really care what I say – you just need to be careful not to incriminate yourselves. Even if I did hit a few nerves, I think I gave you a break, all things considered. I hope you’re all under a federal civil rights investigation, and can expect Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch at your door.

This may be about as far as I can go as an abolitionist. Set free the check-bouncers, shop-lifters, drug addicts, and other petty criminals. I even want to set free a few old "terrorists" and Black Panthers. But these people I want to put in prison for a good long time. In Arizona, where we can be fairly sure their lives will be made as difficult as possible, and that they will be neglected, abused, and brutalized for their crimes - whatever their degree of complicity or criminality.

But it's not just about them. These ADC employees were bred by the Arizona Department of Corrections' culture. They aren't aberrations we can dismiss; they're a troubling but pervasive and natural manifestation of an institution that systematically dehumanizes people in order to justify the circumstances and conditions of their confinement. What we do to prisoners day in and day out all across this country is inhumane.

As for Ryan - the ultimate responsibility is his. He has precious little time to bring about substantial institutional change. His saving grace is that he's not the one who's been running this show for so long. Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano has a huge chunk of responsibility for this, too, as does her sidekick, Dora Schriro. All she ultimately did to reform state prisons during her stint appears to have been cosmetic surgery.

But Ryan hasn't exactly been a minor player all this time. Nor is he new to the scene. For this to come as such a shock to him - if it does - suggests that perhaps he needs to listen a little more attentively to what former employees and prisoners have to say about his institutions, because I've heard a lot of it before, myself, and I don't have anything like the kind of access he does to his people.

This could have been prevented.

Abuse. Neglect. Cruelty. Punishment cages.


No one wanted to believe it could happen here.

Too bad there weren't any investigative journalists really on top of this from the beginning. They were all over it for a few days, then before Marcia’s ashes were even put away, the story, as it were, was dead.

For those who missed it, in the wake of Marcia's homicide last spring, an officer killed himself out at the complex, and 3 women in maximum security set their mattresses on fire (from prison, that's usually an SOS). Every sign of disturbance at Perryville was quickly repressed; the investigation was all the more reason to restrict access to information.

Women living there had no reason to believe they were safe in the hands of their keepers. Families who could get news to the outside were afraid their loved ones might be identified and retaliated against. The department knows of these concerns. I'd like to know how they intend to go about addressing them.

The institutional culture at the ADC that allowed this to happen - and far more occasions of neglect and abuse we'll never hear about (it’s damn near impossible for prisoners to get rights protections in court anymore) won't be changed by tweaking the policies, putting shade on the cages, and hanging the bad apples out to dry. I'm not sure it can be changed at all - that's why I'd vote to smash the state apparatus and start over, myself, without prisons and a system entrenched in retributive justice.

Except, perhaps, for people like those responsible for Marcia's death. Them I would condemn to a long, slow death by incarceration and slavery.

Call me a hypocrite, but this is a barrier I can't seem to get around just now. I just don’t know what restorative justice would look like for people like them.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Prison Abuse Remedies Act

Here's something people can address if they want to do something on behalf of prisoners’ rights; it really is critical legislation:

Prisoner's Rights

Editorial – New York Times

Published: September 23, 2009

In 1996, Congress passed a law that made it much harder for inmates to challenge abusive treatment. It has contributed significantly to the bad conditions — including the desperate overcrowding — that prevail today.

The law must be fixed.

In the name of clamping down on frivolous lawsuits, the Prison Reform Litigation Act barred prisoners from suing prisons and jails unless they could show that they had suffered a physical injury. Prison officials have used this requirement to block lawsuits challenging all sorts of horrific conditions, including sexual abuse.

The law also requires inmates to present their claims to prison officials before filing a suit. The prisons set the rules for those grievance procedures, notes Stephen Bright, the president of the Southern Center for Human Rights, and they have an incentive to make the rules as complicated as possible, so prisoners will not be able to sue. “That has become the main purpose of many grievance systems,” Mr. Bright told Congress last year.

In the last Congress, Representative Robert Scott, Democrat of Virginia, sponsored the Prison Abuse Remedies Act. It would have eliminated the physical injury requirement and made it harder for prison officials to get suits dismissed for failure to exhaust grievance procedures. It would have exempted juveniles, who are especially vulnerable to abuse, from the law’s restrictions.

The bill’s supporters need to try again this year. Conditions in the nation’s overcrowded prisons are becoming increasingly dangerous; recently, there have been major riots in California and Kentucky. Prisoner lawsuits are a way of reining in the worst abuses, which contribute to prison riots and other violence.

The main reason to pass the new law, though, is human decency. The only way to ensure that inmates are not mistreated is to guarantee them a fair opportunity to bring their legitimate complaints to court.

A version of this article appeared in print on September 24, 2009, on page A40 of the New York edition.


Details emerge in inmate's heat-related death

Report describes mis-communications, policy violations

Disturbing new details emerged Wednesday in the death of Marcia Powell, an Arizona state prison inmate who died of heat-related causes after being left in an outdoor cage for hours.

The Arizona Department of Corrections' internal investigation of Powell's death on May 20 runs about 3,000 pages. The department announced this week that it has disciplined 16 people in connection with the incident, with five employees fired or forced to resign. A criminal investigation is ongoing.

Interviews with prison staff members, inmates and medical personnel illustrate how a series of policy violations and miscommunications led to Powell's collapse at Arizona State Prison Complex-Perryville in Good- year. She later died at West Valley Hospital.

Among the report's findings:

• Powell passed out in her cell on the morning of May 19. A few minutes before, she had announced she was suicidal. She was taken to an outdoor cage to await transfer to a psychiatric unit. But the sergeant who saw Powell lose consciousness never reported the incident to supervisors, despite the fact that Powell said she was having trouble breathing.

• At least 20 inmates told investigators that Powell was denied water for most or all of the time she was in her cage, despite regular requests. Corrections officers said Powell was given water.

• Powell was taking psychotropic medications that made her particularly sensitive to the heat, but medical personnel did not convey that fact to corrections officers.

• After more than two hours in the sun, Powell requested to be taken back to her indoor cell. Her request was denied.

• Powell was apparently denied a request to use the restroom and defecated in the cage. A corrections officer discovered that Powell had soiled herself but left her where she was. Medical personnel would later discover feces underneath her fingernails and all over her back.

• The psychiatric unit to which Powell was awaiting transport should have accepted her hours before she died, the report found, but a series of miscommunications prevented her from being taken in.

Powell, who was serving a sentence for prostitution, said she felt suicidal at 11 a.m. on May 19 and was escorted to the outdoor cage to await transportation for psychiatric care at the prison complex detention unit.

Officers seeking to move Powell to the unit were first told that it did not have available beds. Later, another inmate in the unit refused to put handcuffs on to be taken back to her cell, causing the staff to trigger its incident command system. The incident took more than 90 minutes to resolve, during which time no other inmates were brought into the unit.

Officers monitoring Powell were wary of asking psychiatric-unit staffers to accept another inmate during the standoff, even though three beds had become available. But investigators said it would have been possible to transfer Powell, since the uncooperative inmate was locked in a secure cell.

Prison policy calls for inmates to be kept in outdoor cells for a maximum of two hours. The cells had no shade, and on the day Powell died, temperatures hit 107.5 degrees.

Officers did not properly log Powell's time in the outdoor cell or when they checked on her. When she collapsed, no one could say for certain how long she had been there.

Doctors on the scene said Powell's body temperature was at least 108 degrees but may have been higher, since their thermometers topped out at 108.

Charles Ryan, corrections department director, called Powell's death "unconscionable" and "an absolute failure."

The most bitterly disputed aspect of the case concerns whether Powell was denied water.
Nearly all of the inmates interviewed by investigators reported that Powell screamed out for water regularly but was repeatedly denied. Others said she was granted water only once or twice in nearly four hours.

"I need some water - just a drop," one inmate overheard Powell tell a corrections officer, who reportedly ignored her.

Another inmate reported that a corrections officer mockingly repeated Powell's requests for water back to her, without giving her any.

All of the corrections officers interviewed for the report said Powell had been given water throughout her outdoor confinement.

Both inmates and staff members said Powell's history of mental illness and frequent erratic behavior meant that some of her requests were not taken seriously. She did not get the staff's undivided attention until she collapsed at 2:40 p.m.

Timothy Johnson, a physician's assistant who attempted to revive Powell, swore repeatedly at investigators when asked about Powell's death.

"This should not have happened," he said.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

New Times: Ryan Resign

Marcia Powell Cage Death: Gov. Jan Brewer Backs Charles Ryan at ADC, Despite Ryan's Ordering Plug Pulled on Powell

Charles Ryan, known to detractors as "Darth Ryan," has the full confidence of Arizona's lame -- if not yet lame-duck -- Governor Jan Brewer

Charles Ryan may have pulled the plug on Macia Powell too soon. He may have overseen an ADC staff that denied her water for hours in a shadeless wire cage, a staff that allowed the severely mentally ill Powell to defecate on herself in captivity, that allowed her to perish in 107-plus degree heat while under the influence of psychiatric drugs, making her even more vulnerable to the heat. But he still has the support of Arizona's Governor-for-the-moment Jan Brewer.

According to Brewer's top flack, Ryan -- who is currently ADC's Interim Director, despite describing himself as ADC's official "Director" on ADC's Web site -- remains Brewer's pick to be ADC's top administrator. Never mind him stepping over a dead inmate to grab the brass ring.

"He was not submitted or confirmed in the last session," wrote Brewer flack Paul Senseman in e-mail Wednesday. "It is expected that he will be submitted to the legislature and likely confirmed in the next legislative session."

(How Ryan's current bureaucratric supremacy will play with the possible sale/leaseback of the state's prisons is unknown.)

Asked whether Ryan should resign his interim position because of the way he's mishandled Powell's grotesque demise in state custody, Senseman was positively blithe.

"I'm not aware of any independent person or organization who is suggesting otherwise," tut-tutted Senseman.

Senseman did not reply to follow up questions inquiring if the Governor was in any way remorseful over Powell's death, why she remained confident in Ryan's abilities in spite of his obvious bungling, and if she supported Ryan ending Powell's life support without consulting with Powell's court-appointed guardian, Maricopa County's Public Fiduciary.

An extensive search by the fiduciary's office after Powell's death found a living relative -- Powell's adoptive mother, and the possibility of other relatives yet to be located. Though Powell's adoptive mom did not wish to take custody of Powell's remains, one wonders what her response would have been if she had known earlier that her estranged daughter was on life support.

The Arizona Republic has apparently snagged a copy of the 3,000 page ADC report on Powell, describing the morbid details of Powell's last hours on this earth. The persistent neglect of some ADC employees for Powell's welfare is evident. But are those fired and disciplined by Ryan simply the fall-guys?

According to what the Rep is reporting, there's plenty of blame to go around. An ADC sergeant failed to report the fact that Powell had collapsed. Powell's fellow inmates said she was denied water while in the human cage. Powell's request to be taken back to her indoor cell was ignored. And so on.

One person definitely not taking responsibility for Powell's death is Ryan.

Here's a novel idea for the former Bush administration flunky, used to overseeing Iraqi prisons for the U.S. State Department: Do the honorable thing and resign.

Otherwise, may the ghost of Marcia Powell forever haunt you...


Friday, September 25, 2009

Standard Operating Procedure: Cage Them

Outdoor confinements common

Inquiry: Officers regularly left unruly inmates in sun-exposed cages beyond 2-hour limit

Before Marcia Powell, there was Vanessa Griego.

Powell died from heat-related causes on May 20, a day after she spent nearly four hours exposed to the sun in an outdoor cage at Arizona State Prison Complex-Perryville prison in Goodyear.

Just three days earlier, Griego was confined to a similar cage at Perryville for 20 hours, an incident that alarmed staff members and fellow inmates but was not investigated until after Powell's death.

Griego, 24, endured her stay in the outdoor cage without needing medical attention.

But a Department of Corrections investigation showed that lengthy confinements in outdoor cages had become a common practice over the past two years as officers tried to "wait out" prisoners who, like Griego, were agitated or refusing to return to their cells.

"Waiting out" prisoners meant corrections officers did not have to use force to return inmates to their cells. But it also meant inmates were regularly left outdoors for longer than the two-hour maximum dictated by prison policy.

The practice has since been discontinued as part of a raft of reforms initiated in the wake of Powell's death. (Unlike Griego, Powell was awaiting transfer to a psychiatric unit when she collapsed; earlier, she had actually asked to be returned to her cell.)

A criminal investigation by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office is ongoing in the Powell case.

But friends and family members of Perryville inmates say they continue to worry about the safety of their loved ones, particularly in the wake of charges that corrections officers there have denied food, water and bathroom privileges to inmates confined outdoors.

"The bottom line is, they just don't care," said Michael Beam, whose fiancee is an inmate at Perryville.

"They're supposed to be professionals, but they're not."

Beam said the death of Powell - who would have turned 49 today - devastated many of the inmates at the prison.

"There but for the grace of God, one of them could been in that situation," he said.

Angelina Goodman regularly visits a close friend at Perryville. Some corrections officers there are very cordial and professional, she said. But others act like bullies and brag about how tough they are, she said.

"It's very unnerving to leave my loved one there, knowing that these are the people who are supposed to keep control, when their mentality is such a perverse type of bullying," she said. "We just pray a lot.

Griego was placed in an outdoor cell May 16 after blocking her window with a mattress. After searching her cell, corrections officers told Griego they wanted to return her to the cellblock, but she refused.

After initial attempts to get her to return, corrections officers appeared to give up. She was granted one bathroom break at 2 a.m. There is no record of officers asking Griego to return to her cell between sunrise and 8 p.m., when she was finally returned to her cell.

She had not been able to use the restroom for 18 hours.

The office of Gov. Jan Brewer did not respond to a request for comment on revelations in the Department of Corrections' investigations into the Powell and Griego incidents.

Middle Ground, a prison-reform group based in Tempe, called for an end to the use of outdoor cages nearly two years ago after inmates said they had been left in the cages for 12 hours at a time at Arizona State Prison Complex-Lewis.

Donna Leone Hamm, the group's director, said prison officials should take greater action to ensure that department policies are followed.

"Staff and administrators don't have any compunction to follow the rules," Hamm said. "They're completely absent any sense of responsibility. That has to be resolved."

Prison officials said policy changes instituted after Powell's death would ensure that inmates are no longer left outdoors for long periods of time.

Reach the reporter at casey


Sunday, September 27, 2009

ADC: Safety is Job One.

This is what I found so disturbing: it's all about paying the guards to protect the public - only passing reference to inmate safety, despite this 3000-page report detailing how systematically, carelessly prisoners get neglected and abused.And all Ryan and Brewer are talking about is how brave and hard-working they are, and how they're keeping us "safe".

Yes, short-staffing is a problem. But the prisoners are dying at a much faster rate than the guards. Who protects the prisoners from the conditions of their confinement?

And does the governor herself have nothing to say about the horrendous details on the death of Marcia Powell? No reassurances to the families of 40,000 prisoners that their loved ones are safe tonight, and will survive their prison sentences? No word to the women in that pit themselves that none of them will be next, left dying in their own feces begging for help as guards just mock them, passing them by? No acknowledgment to the officers that their ability to do their jobs has long been compromised by over-crowding, short-staffing, excess overtime, and burn-out? Look at the employee suicides out there.

Finally, Ryan et al: you need to be more concerned with protecting your prisoners than the "public" right now; the police are heavily militarized out here and seem quite capable of arresting whomever they want; all you need to do to keep the public safe is to not leave the keys lying around. Your bigger duty - especially now - is to keep your prisoners safe from each other, despair, and their guards.

Here's the Governor's happy announcement that the ADC can keep on keeping us all safe (as long as we aren't in their care). Good idea to hold off on releasing that report, Ryan, until after this news cycle passed.


State of Arizona
Janice K. Brewer Office of the Governor

Main Phone: 602-542-4331
Governor 1700 West Washington Street

Phoenix, AZ 85007 Facsimile: 602-542-7601

September 18, 2009
(602) 542-3464

Governor Brewer Announces first distribution of Government Services Funds

$50 million awarded to Department of Corrections for salary expenses of 1,305 officers

PHOENIX – Governor Jan Brewer today announced the first distribution of the State Fiscal Stabilization Funds (SFSF) Government Services Fund (GSF) monies to the Arizona Department of Corrections through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). A total of $50 million will be given to the Department to pay officer’s salary expenses incurred during the first five (5) pay periods of FY2010 in order to support officers needed to staff required security posts throughout the state’s prison system to ensure the safety of the public, staff and inmates.

“I have long emphasized that I will do everything in my power to see that public safety in the State of Arizona is not compromised,” said Governor Jan Brewer. “By choosing to award the Arizona Department of Corrections $50 million from the Government Services Fund, I have made good on my commitment to mitigate funding cuts to such vital services as public safety and support our dedicated correctional officers.”

The $50 million will go to ensure our Department operates with a full complement of officers to protect Arizonans," said ADC Director Charles L. Ryan. "The money released by Governor Brewer pays the salaries of our brave and hard-working correctional officers in this difficult economic time."

“I am extremely pleased, and so will my officers be, to know that Governor Brewer and the Arizona Office of Economic Recovery care enough about our safety and well being to fund such an important public safety agency,” said Michael Duran, State Executive President of the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association. “This stretches further than just safety for my officers - this helps us do our first and foremost job of protecting the public everyday.”

The Government Services Funds are one portion of the SFSF, aimed at helping states to provide maximum flexibility in addressing budget shortfalls. Funds are to be allocated at the Governor’s discretion as designed by federal law.

For more information, please visit the State of Arizona’s Recovery Act website at

September 30, 2009

Accidental State-Assisted Suicide in AZ

Thanks again to Stephen Lemons for digging a lttile deeper than the AZ Republic is ever willing to go (unless they're kissing someone's ass, in which case they have no limits). This is the first part of the article - you'll have to hit their site to continue. I guess I would have read the statute they refer to as giving the director the authority to CONTINUE medical care - since there was a minimal chance of recovery - not DISCONTINUE medical care.

The indication that Marcia was put in the cage as a sort of suicide watch is disturbing, since that's not policy, and clearly no one was watching. Since she was begging for water and relief from the sun, I can only assume she had changed her mind about wanting to die.

There have been so many cases of abuse, neglect and sexual exploitation throughout the department - the more I hear the more certain I am that we can't be satisfied that the Arizona Department of Corrections will suddenly transform themselves into a gentler, kinder institution. We must get transparency and close citizen oversight there, a strong prisoner rights presence, some kind of support for corrections officers and prisoners who go public, and legislative reforms.


Arizona’s Shameless About the Cage Death of Marcia Powell

Phoenix New Times
September 29, 2009

"Many of Powell's guards say she was given water, though inmates observing Powell in the cage say she was not and that her cries for water were mocked. Why she remained in the cage for so long is not adequately explained. Nor are the actions of a prison psychologist who supposedly ordered Powell "placed in a recreation enclosure" because Powell had threatened suicide if she remained in her cell."


After wading through the Arizona Department of Corrections' recently released doorstop report on the cage death of Marcia Powell, I'm not sure whom I'd rather see get a taste of Powell's open-air sunbake: acting ADC director Charles Ryan, his pathetic excuse for a boss, Governor Jan Brewer, or the simpering keyboard-tapper at the Arizona Republic who just penned an anonymous bravo for Ryan titled, "Corrections boss' candor laudable."

Powell, of course, is the 48-year-old who was locked in a shadeless human cage at Goodyear's Perryville Prison on May 19 and endured 107-degree heat for four or more hours (depending on what part of the report you want to believe), was forced to defecate in her cage and on herself like a dog, and was denied adequate, or any, water (more likely the latter) until she collapsed, apparently of heatstroke.

She did not die at Perryville. Rather, Ryan ordered the plug pulled on her at West Valley Medical Center when doctors there found her case to be hopeless.

Ryan, known to his detractors as "Darth Ryan," told doctors, according to the report, that he would be acting as Marcia Powell's guardian, in lieu of family members. Thing is, Powell already had a court-appointed guardian, Maricopa County's Office of the Public Fiduciary, which labored after Powell's death to find a family member who could take custody of her remains. An adoptive mom wanted nothing to do with the disposition of Powell's body, a representative of the Fiduciary's Office later told a judge looking into the matter.

The ADC's report states that "information regarding the guardianship of [inmate] Powell was not available," but, in fact, there was a record of Powell's guardianship; it's just that Ryan did not have the information. Indeed, the report states that a representative from the Fiduciary's Office had visited Powell in ADC custody in March — less than two months before her death. So ADC should have been aware of Powell's guardian.

The report suggests that Ryan acted within the parameters of the law, citing Arizona Revised Statute 41-1604.01, which states that when any person "under the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections, other than employees," needs emergency medical care, and there's no next of kin or legal guardian available, the ADC director "may authorize the performance of such necessary medical, surgical, or dental service."

However, when an ADC investigator questioned Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Gary Strickland, counsel for the Fiduciary's Office, about the statute, Strickland had a very different interpretation of it.

"Mr. Strickland stated Title 41 did not entitle the director of the Department of Corrections to make the decision to discontinue life-saving measures on Powell," reads the report, "and that his office, the guardian of Marcia Powell, should have been contacted."

Just a niggling detail — all this stuff about a guardian, right? After all, West Valley Medical Center's Dr. Mae Dumlao told an ADC investigator that Powell was "clinically dead" and there was only "an extremely minimal chance" that Powell could have somehow survived her heat-related injuries. Powell was actually having a heart attack as she entered the hospital, which was in "direct relation to heatstroke and hypobulemic [sic] shock."

Particularly chilling is the description by Dr. Kevin Hiselhorse, who treated Powell upon her arrival to the hospital. Hiselhorse confirmed that "Powell's eyes were dilated and fixed, which indicated brain damage due to her body temperature exceeding 108 degrees." Hiselhorse explained that he could only get a temp of 108 degrees "because thermometers in healthcare only go as high as 108."

Hiselhorse also informed the ADC investigator that he had never seen a patient recover from a 108-degree temperature and that "at that temperature, the body's organs began to melt and the brain begins to coagulate."

(finish article at the New Times' site)

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