9/24/09

DEATH BY HEAT FOR A MENTALLY ILL LEGAL OFFENDER

The story below is in the county where Joe Arpaio treats prisoners like garbage, but he is not responsible for this attrosity. I knew this sort of thing was going on and I have been screaming about it. People are angry about the torture of foreign nationals, but in our country we are also torturing our own citizens in prisons, where is the outrage over that? I already knew about it in Alaska because I experienced it and observed it myself while wrongfully imprisoned. I am very outraged. It does not matter that this happened in Arizona because they all do the same sadistic type of things to inmates all over the country.  After my friend bailed me out because she knew I was innocent I did some research and learned about the prison-industrial complex and how our legislators have been lobbied(paid off) to increase the number of people in prisons for profit. The story is very similar to the insurance company and drug company controls on our services in this country. A huge number of the prisoners are people of color. One in seven is innocent and a large portion are mentally ill. Keep in mind the mentally ill in this country have been just turned out on their own years ago with Reagan’s policies and we have not found ourselves civilized enough to turn those policies around. They end up homeless or in the prison systems. They often get no mental health care which is the usual situation in Alaska including in the prisons. When it comes to prisoners in this country the constitution has been thrown in the garbage completely. Keep in mind some of Alaska’s prisoners are in Arizona.


Marcia Powell Cage Death: Charles Ryan Fires Three, Disciplines Others, but When Will He Resign?
By Stephen Lemons in Feathered Bastard
Tuesday, Sep. 22 2009 

The picture below on the left was the picture of the subject of this story on her online page. Her page went down after she died and then reappeared later with the picture on the right.  It appears the bad picture was taken when she first arrived at Perryville Prison in Goodyear AZ as she has street clothes on(unless they wear denim which some prisons do)  and drugs could certainly cause her appearance. The records say she weighed #125 but inmates said she looked like she weighed about #100 at the time of her death. Her autopsy said she weighed #152.


ADC honcho Charles Ryan (I found the nickname Lyin’ Ryan on a few blogs) has fired three employees, forced the resignations of two others, and disciplined 11 more. This according to an ADC news release issued today. 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,"

An accident? I would say it is more like an execution. She was put in an outside cage with no shade in 107-108’ weather.(Being placed in this kind of situation for punishment is a violation of the 8th amendment). But, they will say she was there waiting for a psychiatric observation room. It is common practice in prisons to put people in these situations for punishment and lie about the reason.  I certainly call the police if I find a dog locked in a car during hot weather. The prison officials said she had water, but some inmates have gotten information out of the prison that she either was not given water or very little. They say their normal practice is to only leave people in these cages for two hours. That is barbaric. People go to jail for doing this to dogs(unless you live in Alaska). They actually have done it to a dog at this prison, he was named Rik and the outcry for the dog was larger than for this woman. I can’t imagine someone tolerating such conditions for more than a few minutes. Surely it would cause severe sunburns, especially in a person on psychotropic medications. It would certainly cause a heat stroke very soon in a person on those kinds of medications and it did. She was taken to the hospital in a coma.

Corrections officers get only a few weeks of training. They are not licensed medical or nursing professionals, they do not have a clue about healthy conditions. They are making medical decisions on inmates and they certainly do this in Alaska as well. In Alaska I saw a woman whose seizure medication was withheld from her and she had several seizures. The CO told those concerned that if he thought she was going to die he would call for help. I heard him and others say that about several inmates, including me.(Below is one of the cages after they covered it)

This is at least manslaughter, it is certainly not an accident as the coroner has ruled. This is a blatant violation of the eighth and fourteenth amendments. The supreme court has ruled that if a lay person would know if conditions or a medical condition are dangerous and medical intervention is needed it is a violation of the eighth amendment. The numbers and layers of hierarchy involved in the disciplinary action proves what they did was common practice. If it was unusual they would have just fired the Corrections Officers who were on at the time. This was a common practice of torture that has been used for years and I might ad just one of the many forms of torture used in the prison systems of this country. She was being transferred to detention and they were holding her in the dog run type cage. It probably had something to do with her mental illness and behavior issues. This was clearly punitive and some of the inmates and human rights organizations had complained about it being done in the past(eighth amendment).

To think of this being done to the mentally ill population that is being housed in this country’s prisons disturbed me to the point that I could not stop crying while I was researching this story. These people knew exactly what they were doing. By the way, the County Attorney, Mr. Thomas was former chief legal counsel for Arizona Department of Corrections. I guess we know where this is going.

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.

A lot of people wish they could get fired from their job and just go on with their lives when they kill someone. Why is the Arizona Department of Corrections allowed to suspend the life support of a woman they basicly tortured until she was close to death, especially when she had a court appointed guardian? It was done in the ER right after she was taken to the hospital. Also, why is one man making the decision? Where is the ethics committee? Oh, I forgot it's a prison ethics aren't allowed.

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(Arizona's Department of Law), then submitted to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office on August 20.

The people who killed the woman have investigated themselves and their names have not been revealed. I guess they suddenly believe that the accused are innocent until proven guilty a right many prisoners are not afforded. That is even worse than Sarah Palin’s personnel board investigating her. Yea,(sarcastic) I bet it was a complete criminal investigation. They called it an “accident“. They “accidently” cooked a woman to death. Where was the medical and nursing staff?

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? YES. 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? YES.

(The picture below was taken by a photographer who just saw Marcia and found her interesting. He paid her $5 for the photo. He said she was high on Meth. I hope he doesn't mind my using it. I think it is a perfect picture of a tortured soul.)

They pulled the plug knowing full well she had a guardian, they are probably the agency that got the guardian assignment. They would know it is common practice for the mentally ill to have a guardian. Ryan tries to make it sound like putting this woman in the cage in the hot sun was unusual when a couple days previously a woman had been put in one for twenty hours. She must not have been on psychotropics and perhaps was healthier or got more water. They get these lost souls in the prisons who have no one and they know if something happens questions will not be asked. This time the Middle Ground Prison Reform was there to ask questions. How many have died and no one noticed?

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.

I am ready because he was in charge and these practices were going on without regard for the lives of the inmates. Kind of like Joe Schmidt in Alaska knowing full well what goes on in the prison system here. If they are anything like the Corrections Officers in Alaska they probably laughed at her when she begged for help.

"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."

This is unbelievable, they are trying to cover up the crime. 

Powell's cremains were eventually turned over to Middle Ground after an investigation by the fiduciary’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.

http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/bastard/2009/09/marcia_powell_cage_death_charl.php

One reason this story is so disturbing is it is not a new problem. There was a famous case in California about nineteen years ago when they were testing a new antipsychotic on some mentally ill inmates and paid little attention to their safety. The problems of psychotropic medications and heat stroke are well documented, well known and precedents have been set long ago in the prison systems that precautions need to be taken with them.

During the July 4, 1991, weekend three mentally ill prisoners at the California Medical Facility at Vacaville died within one 24-hour period. The cause of death was the same for all three prisoners - heatstroke. The heatstroke was caused by a combination of extreme temperatures in the cell blocks (the thermometer stopped working at 108 degrees) and psychotropic medication that inhibited the body from dissipating heat. The risk of heatstroke from these particular medications was well documented in the scientific literature and known to prison officials. A few years earlier another prisoner on the same medications suffered extensive brain damage at Vacaville during a heat wave.

Here is the problem in these situations. Inmates may say to the staff they are too hot. The staff will just tell them it is too bad and keep walking. Unsafe conditions do not register with them. They think an inmate who complains or asks for something is a pain. They think inmates who complain of being sick are faking it or are manipulating. Sometimes inmates are. They do not have the medical expertise to know. The lack of medical and nursing staff in the prisons is almost as bad as the low quality of the staff.

The triple tragedy at Vacaville was an inevitable outcome of almost a decade of deliberate official neglect of the mental health care system. During the unprecedented rise in the California prison population during the 1980s,(1) prison officials conceded that they were more concerned about building prisons quickly than about providing basic medical and mental health services. The result has been a catastrophic amount of suffering by thousands of prisoners.

This has not changed.

Some prisoners languish in their cells, quietly slipping in and out of psychosis for weeks, months, and, in some cases, years. Others who because of their illness cannot control their behavior are perceived by prison officials strictly as management problems and are punished for their misbehavior through longer prison terms and are often put in the "hole" for months, where psychiatric services are even more scarce.

The hole makes people mentally ill and makes the mentally ill deteriorate. It is another barbaric practice.

http://www.questia.com/googleScholar.qst;jsessionid=K7JL3zY5GR3xGsJRLQTxTvDCyt4qNZQnvrTpf8Ch5zhyvmqJ6PQv!-1166003761!-1951582640?docId=5000301626

Powell was a troubled, mentally ill woman who lived on the streets of Phoenix from the age of fifteen when she left home. She was homeless and had a history of legal convictions for prostitution, drugs, and assault. She only managed to get a ninth grade education. This was probably due to being bipolar and more, she was also on an antipsychotic medication. Imagine being mentally ill and unable to get a job. She ended up on drugs (one source I found said methamphetamines) probably in part as self medication and then ended up prostituting to pay for it.

The director of the National Prison Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, Elizabeth Alexander has reported there have been other inmate deaths related to heat in this country recently. Funny I have not heard about them. There have been cases of prison guards contacting authorities in the past about inmates being put in these cages for up to ten days. They knew about it at the top levels.

The only reason this does not happen in Alaska is we don’t have the heat. Instead they withhold medical care while telling the public they are giving it. They charge inmates $20 to see a health practitioner which is a lot of money when the inmates get paid .30 to .80 an hour. They do everything they can to deter inmates from medical care including making paperwork disappear. They stop almost all medications upon arrival. They put me in a cell with a combative psychotic woman hoping she would hurt me. They disappeared all of the grievances I wrote(a rather copious amount). I observed mentally ill women chained to the floor and a wooden cover they would put over cell doors to isolate inmates. They make mentally ill people beg for toilet paper. There is also prejudice against people of color. When I was in the orientation unit the room I was in was sweltering hot and they would not give us the proper device to open the window. Both myself and my room mate got sick from the heat, fortunately we were in Alaska and not Arizona.

The psychological abuse from the prison guards is the worst part. The maturity level of a lot of them is about junior high level. The worst thing I saw was a woman in a cell next to me who coded. This was an observation cell with a camera. The guards ran around yelling that she was not breathing. I yelled for them to let me out because I was a critical care nurse and they did not. They did not start CPR either and when the nurse arrived she just yelled, breathe, breathe over and over. Finally the paramedics showed up and intubated her. I have no idea what kind of condition she ended up in. If the staff had not been busy psychologically torturing me and were doing their job she would have been found right away. The next day I heard one guard joking with another by accusing him of trying to kill the woman. At least he did not think it was funny. There are some corrections officers who are professional and care about the prisoners, they need to weed out the bad ones. Some of them are worse than the inmates and a superintendant in a prison I worked at for a short time in Washington told me it is the corrections officers who bring most of the drugs into the prisons and the unions prevent them from searching them before work.

When I was wrongfully imprisoned in August of 2007 they withheld a high dose of an antidepressant and a seizure medication I was on. This is very unsafe with just one, let alone two. I went through hell, especially since I was taking them for chronic pain and the PTSD I had from some other events in Alaska. I can assure you there are cover ups that go on in the prisons here. I worry everyday about the inmates in Alaska and all over the country because I know what is really going on. The ACLU is writing a report about the conditions of the Alaska prisons. They tell me they probably will not sue because the people here do not care about inmates and do not donate money to the ACLU. I have been told by legislators the reason for the poor conditions in the prisons and the lack of rehabilitation is people don’t care about inmates here so not much money is spent on prisons. What kind of society treats the mentally ill this way? I use to work with prostitutes through a human rights project. They are almost all from horrible backgrounds and usually victims of sexual abuse as children. When the home is so bad a child would rather live on the street there should be a place for them to go.

This is what was said by someone  about this story on a Deutsche message board, translated from German:
(They have a different sentence structure)

 These cages are used in Arizona since the 60s, it certainly has much earlier. But what it does badly, no less - is reprehensible to me only that Guantanamo is constantly mentioned and condemned (and rightly so), but these would have for decades imposed cage stays for inmates not a word of mention in the media - to only one woman had die (and no one knows how many have come before in these cages to harm or death to be).
It is terrible to see what people can do to people. What makes us the reality of today offers a conspiracy against democracy, is sufficient.

Just to give you an idea of how this looks to countries who consider our prisons a system of barbaric gulags and what they think of our system of government.



Link to her Eulogy:

http://www.middlegroundprisonreform.org/main/documents/Powell.Marcia.eulogy.final.pdf

http://www.middlegroundprisonreform.org/main/default.asp

2 comments:

Prison Abolitionist said...

Thank you for noticing what happened to Marcia Powell. Prisoner neglect and abuse is all too common.

http:arizonaprisonwatch.blogspot.com
http://prisonabolitionist.blogspot.com

luckyjean22 said...

I've only been in jail for a couple weeks once, no real prison...and I heard lots of stories. One woman I was housed with had seizures and all they'd do is put her in solitary for it. I have one friend who's husband was murdered by his cellmate about an hour after he was put in there; of course, she can't sue the system or anything, but she knows they killed him.
Nothing you write here surprises me. It just sucks that it has to be written.
Thank you.