Welcome: The above photograph includes the flag of the United States as a means of indicating that Middle Ground Prison Reform seeks to cloak prisoners and their families and supporters in the protections afforded to everyone by the United States Constitution. The photo and the use of the flag is not intended to be disrespectful in any manner and, in fact, the use of our country's flag as a cloak for an advocate of prisoner rights' is firmly protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution, for which we have the deepest regard.
Mission Statement: To protect and define the rights, responsibilities, and privileges of the incarcerated. We support genuine efforts at rehabilitation of criminal offenders, which, in turn, fully restores them to our communities, promotes family stability, authentic long-term public safety, and reduces the numbers of crime victims in our society. We engage in efforts to hold government agencies and their agents accountable for the tax dollars used to support prisons, jails, and other criminal justice activities. We perform this work via public education, legislative advocacy, litigation, and referral to existing social services. We serve as a clearinghouse for relevant information affecting the incarcerated and their supporters.
Note: Middle Ground is NOT a direct social service delivery agency. We do not provide or locate jobs, tools, clothing, educational loans, housing assistance or rentals, financial assistance or any other direct social services. See our referrals to such agencies on the Menu item called "Ex Offender Information" page (left column). We don't provide free attorneys to assist with criminal appeals or civil rights, personal injury or other types of litigation. Consulting services for individual issues are available as a fee-based service; an appoitment inecessary. No walk-ins are permitted to our offices. See our "Individualized Advocacy" category
CONTACT US AT: email@example.com or Call (480) 966-8116.
UPDATED NEWS ON FEES TO BE CHARGED TO INMATES AND/OR TO POTENTIAL VISITORS AS OF JULY 20, 2011:
On Monday, Dec. 19, 2011, the Court ruled in favor of the DOC on the lawsuit challenging the $25 background check "fee." Those of you who are on our email alert list have already been sent a copy of the ruling. We will appeal this decision in a timely manner. This is only Round 1. . .CLICK HERE TO SEE THE COURT'S RULING Here is the content of our News Release. You should send it to prisoners if you send them a copy of the Court's ruling: 2012: CLICK HERE FOR COPY OF OPENING BRIEF ON APPEAL: HAMM V. RYAN.
Beginning July 20, 2011, the Arizona legislature authorized the Arizona DOC to charge a $25 background check "fee" to any adult person applying to visit a prisoner. None of the money collected is allowed to be used to defray the cost of actually conducting background checks on visitors. Instead, 100% of the money is to be deposited into a "Building Renewal Fund" to repair or renew any of the 1,552 buildings that the DOC presently has in its inventory. Of the 1,552 buildings owned by DOC, visitors might use about 30 of them, spread throughout 10 prison complexes in the entire state of Arizona. The Court has ruled that because prison visitors contribute to the "wear and tear" on the visitation buildings, they should have to pay to repair / renew ALL of the 1,552 buildings in the entire prison system.
James and Donna Hamm, principals in Middle Ground Prison Reform, filed a complaint to challenge the "fee," asserting that it was an unconstitutional special tax, not a fee, and was not even being used to defray the cost of performing background checks. After various filings and oral argument, the Court has ruled against Plaintiffs and granted Summary Judgment to the Defendant.
In a 7-page ruling, Hon. Karen Potts, ruled that it is perfectly acceptable to allow visitors to prisoners -- who are often economically disadvantaged persons representing disproportionate numbers of racial and ethnic minority groups -- to pay to repair or renew all 1,552 buildings used by DOC staff, prisoners, administrators, volunteers, law enforcement, etc. because the visitors "use" one or two buildings or a portion of a building at each of 10 complexes; namely, the area designated for visitation.
"The Court has handed a holiday slap-in-the-face to prison visitors, who are now addled with a responsibility that should be borne by all taxpayers who benefit from the public safety afforded to citizens by incarcerating criminal offenders," said Donna Hamm. She added, "We firmly disagree with the Court's interpretation aand application of the governing principles regarding prohibited special laws and unconstitutional taxes. The Court likened the $25 visitor background check fee that is used exclusively for renewal and maintenance of all DOC buildings to a pawn shop transaction fee or a water appropriation fee. We believe neither of these comparisions are at all analogous to the pretextual fee, which has the net effect of raising taxes on prison visitors for the repair and renewal of 1,552 prison buildings -- the vast majority of which visitors never see or step in to.
Our Opening Brief is due at the Arizona Court of Appeals on May 11, 2012. It will be posted on this website once it is filed (See above).
Media coverage: PRISONER ADVOCATES SUE OVER PROVISIONS OF SENATE BILL 1621
Middle Ground has filed lawsuits in the Maricopa County Superior Court challenging the 1% fee to be deducted from each deposit made to a prisoner's spendable account AND the $25 background check fee for visitors over age 18 ( both which became effective July 20th). The fees in both cases are an unconstitutional special tax, and you can see from the information spelled out in both lawsuits that we have spelled out our position and performed our research. A special thanks to David Arner, who is the prisoner who made a generous donation to Middle Ground to fund the filing fees, photocopying, process serving and other fees and costs associated with the litigation on both cases. He is also the Plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging the 1% banking deposit fee. James and Donna Hamm are the listed Plaintiffs in the litigation challenging the $25 so-called "background check" fee for visitors over age 18. Both lawsuits are filed as Declaratory Judgment requests.
The Arner lawsuit is still being considered in the Superior Court. The Judge has been "sitting" on this litigation for many months. Please download a copy of the Complaint or additional documents on the subject matter you are interested in and send it to a prisoner. We suggest sending it via certified mail/return receipt requested. It is allowed by Policy (DO 914 - Inmate Mail) even though both lawsuits mention the name of an inmate because the policy only prohibits something that mentions another inmates' name IF that document would also be a threat to the secure and orderly operation of the prison. A lawsuit which is of interest to nearly every prisoner or every visitor to the Arizona Department of Corrections, which challenges fees imposed on those prisoners or their visitors, is not a threat to the secure and orderly operation of the prison!
SPECIAL ACTION AND DECLARATORY JUDGMENT - ILLEGAL BANKING "FEES"
Complaint /Declaratory Judgment - Illegal Fee for Visitor Background Check
Motion for Summary Judgment - Illegal Background Fee for Visitors
Statement of Facts Supporting Challenge to Illegal Background Check Fee for Visitors
We'd like prisoners in all private and public prison units throughout the state to know about all of this litigation. Again, if you want to insure delivery, send it via certified mail/return receipt requested. It is NOT "legal" mail and will not be treated as such, since it is not being mailed by a lawyer to a prisoner. However, it is permissible mail and if anyone has difficulty mailing a copy of the lawsuit to a prisoner, please send us an email with precise information.
Until the final Court rulings on these cases, including necessary appeals-- hopefully in our favor -- on the lawsuits, the fees will be deducted from inmate banking deposits and visitor applicants will be required to pay the so-called "fee." . The purpose of a declaratory judgment lawsuit is to have the court issue an order that, for the Plaintiff, Mr. Arner (in the banking deduction lawsuit) or for James and Donna Hamm (Plaintiffs in the background check fee lawsuit), the fee is an illegal tax and is not permitted. If the court declares this ruling for Mr. Arner, it will apply to all other prisoners, too. If the court rules in favor of James and Donna Hamm, the ruling will affect all visitor applicants, too.
If you are a new visitor who is required to pay the fee (on or after July 20, 2011) we urge each visitor who pays the fee to (1) Identify on your money order or payment that the fee is for a "background check fee;" (2) demand that a receipt for payment of the fee be provided to you in writing; (3) demand that you be provided a copy of the background check that you are paying for, according to statute. As always, we urge you to send you application, fees and cover letter asking for a copy of the background check and a receipt for payment of the fee via CERTIFIED MAIL/RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED. Keep a copy of all application materials and anything else you submit to DOC.
REMINDER: WHEN FILLING OUT A VISITOR APPLICATION, YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED TO PROVIDE YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER TO PRISON OFFICIALS. WE RECOMMEND THAT YOU DO NOT DO SO UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. THEY MUST PROCESS YOUR APPLICATION WITHOUT IT AND THEY ARE NOT PERMITTED TO DENY YOU OR DELAY PROCESSING THE APPLICATION BECAUSE YOU CHOSE THE OPTION OF NOT PROVIDING YOUR SS#.
The reason that the inmate "banking fee" and the "background check fee" are illegal/unconstitutional special taxes is because NONE of the monies collected from either of these fees will be used to defray the cost of managing inmate bank accounts or conducting background checks. Instead, all monies will go into a "Building Renewal Fund" that is managed by the DOC and is to be used to repair various buildings and facilities owned or operated by DOC. (We are hoping they will repair their dangerously inoperable fire safety systems, for example). However, since the fees are simply a pretext for raising money for a fund that is completely unrelated to the reason the fees are being charged, we feel it can be reasonably challenged in the courts. We believe that ALL taxpayers should pay for building renewal at the prisons.
To the best of our knowledge, Arizona is the only state in the USA to charge the above fees to inmates and/or visitors.
Note: In addition to the above. SB 1621 also provides for taking $500,000/year from the A & R (Activities and Recreation Fund) and $500,000 from the profits from Arizona Correctional Industries. ALL of these deductions from these funds would be placed into the Building Renewal Fund.
UPDATED JANUARY 30, 2013 .
FIRE SAFETY SYSTEMS WITHIN ADOC FACILITIES ARE 'INOPERABLE' AND TERMED A "TIMEBOMB" WAITING TO GO OFF:
See this story from The Arizona Republic, published January 17, 2010: FIRE SAFETY NOT OPERATIVE IN PRISONS IN ARIZONA. See also the sidebar story: STATISTICS ABOUT FIRE SAFETY OPERATION AT EACH ARIZONA ADULT PRISON. WHAT HAS MIDDLE GROUND DONE ABOUT THIS PROBLEM: Click here to read Complaint filed with Arizona Department of Occupational Health and Safety. A response sent to us on April 27, 2010 is inadequate to address the problems. We will be taking follow-up action, including contacting Federal OSHA officials and the U.S. Dept. of Justice.
According to Arizona law, ALL prisons (adult and juvenile) fall into a category of I-3 facilities -- which means that they are supposed to have THE HIGHEST priority for fire safety systems since they house or serve people who are unable to assist themselves in the event of a major fire. Obviously, inmates AND staff who are in electronically - controlled and gated units or runs may be trapped inside a building with no means of escape or evacuation in the event of a fire. As Middle Ground pointed out in the Arizona Republic article listed above, the potential liability for the State in such matters is enormous. EMPLOYEES OF THE DEPARTMENT SHOULD BE VERY CONCERNED ABOUT THIS ISSUE, SINCE THEY, TOO, COULD BE TRAPPED IN A LOCKED BUILDING DURING A MAJOR FIRE. EMPLOYEES HAVE RIGHTS IN OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY MATTERS THAT INMATES DON'T ENJOY.
Inmates desiring to take action on this information may wish to file a grievance (each person individually) advising the DOC that they have information that the fire safety system has been inspected for several years and found to be inoperable, and that the failure to correct this serious safety problem constitutes a violation of the 8th Amendment -- cruel and unusual punishment, for failure to provide a safe means to deal with fires in an enclosed/locked environment. We assume that employees of the Department could do the same. Inmates filing such grievances should be sure to record the date of their grievance; keep a copy of it for themselves; and mail out their copy to a family member or trusted friend. Under the PLRA (Prison Litigation Reform Act), prisoners cannot sue for anticipated harm or potential harm; they literally have to wait until they have suffered actual physical harm (or death). Hence, this problem will only get the attention it deserves if EMPLOYEES of the ADOC decide to take action.
While we understand that the DOC must operate with the monies allocated by the legislature, it is imperative for them to understand that they must prioritize -- over staff salary increases, staff travel, administrative perks, and all other matters -- the personal safety of each prisoner in their care and custody, as well as that of the staff who work inside the prisons each day.
MIDDLE GROUND RELIES SOLELY UPON DONATIONS FOR OPERATING FUNDS. We rely entirely on donations to pay expenses and to keep the organization operating. Please go to our "Support Middle Ground's Work" page and donate generously!
Our policy on answering snail-mail: Presently, there are more than 40,000 people incarcerated in the state's prison system. In addition, about 10,000 people are incarcerated in the Maricopa County Jail at any given time. On average, we receive about 300 letters and/or post cards each month. Many of the letters contain lengthy correspondence outlining facts about a criminal appeal, providing detailed medical records, or requesting review of hundreds of pages of documents, etc. We are sorry to say that we are unable to personally respond to each piece of mail. We simply don't have the staff, volunteers or budget to do so. We do try to read the mail so that we can stay abreast of what is happening that is of concern to prisoners, but it is impossible to answer each individual letter or package sent to us. We regret the inability to do so. In addition, by law we are not responsible for unsolicited mail. No one should send original documents or sole copies of any document. Stamps are welcome and will enhance, but not guarantee, a reply. We do not publish a newsletter. Instead, we encourage visitors to this site to download and send copies of pertinent information to prisoners. Please review mail regulations/policy before doing so and advise us in detail if you have difficulties getting web site materials into the prison units. AGAIN, WE ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR UNSOLICITED MAIL OR LEGAL DOCUMENTS THAT ARE SENT TO US AND WILL NOT BE ABLE TO RETURN THEM. PLEASE DO NOT SEND ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS OR THE ONLY COPY OF AN IMPORTANT DOCUMENT!
THE ABOVE 35-PAGE REPORT FOR INNOVATIVE AND EFFECTIVE IDEAS FOR PRISON
AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM!! (2003) PLEASE CLICK ON
THE ABOVE PURPLE BOX. Several of the suggestions
from our report have been proposed as legislative bills
during subsequent (2004 - 2011) Legislative sessions. The report is as relevant today as it was when it was written. Sadly, our legislature simply has not acted on many cost-saving and public-safety enhancing suggestions. Instead, they are still in the mind set that equates "tough on crime" to mean harsh, debilitating prison sentences and no concern for the true manner in which prisoners are negatively affected by the experiences in the prison setting. In August 2009, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) requested our permission to distribute "Dollars, Sentences and Long-Term Public Safety," at its August annual meeting in Boston, Ma. This demonstrates the relevancy of this well-researched report in today's political and economic climate throughout the USA.
For access to a newly published report of The Commission on Safety and Abuse in American's Prisons, entitled "CONFRONTING CONFINEMENT," CLICK HERE! The full report is over 100 pages in length, but you can download or read only the recommendations if you prefer. The commission study was sponsored by the Vera Institute, New York, NY.
DO YOU NEED ASSISTANCE WITH INTERVIEWING/HIRING AN ATTORNEY ?
LAWYERS ARE SUPPOSED TO HOLD A SPECIAL POSITON OF TRUST IN OUR COURT SYSTEM. FOR ONE EXAMPLE OF HOW POORLY ARIZONA LAWYERS POLICE THEMSELVES: See Arizona Republic article, June 26, 2006
TIPS FOR RETAINING A CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR YOUR CRIMINAL CASE OR FOR AN APPEAL, AND FOR PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM UNETHICAL OR UNPROFESSIONAL LAWYERS:
Prior to your first consultation appointment, visit the State Bar of Arizona web site and click on "Working with an Attorney, " to determine if the attorney you are meeting with has any past serious disciplinary information posted. Depending upon the nature of the discipline, you can use your own judgment about whether you wish to proceed to retain this attorney. Feel free to ask him or her questions about the disciplinary action and what steps the attorney has taken to insure that the infraction or conduct will not occur in the future. If the attorney refuses to discuss these matters with you, especially since the information is posted as a public record, you need to decide if this is someone you want to trust with your own legal problems or needs. See: http://www.azbar.org/legalresources/findlawyer.cfm. Follow the prompts.
The Arizona Bar information, however, will give you only minimal information about a disciplinary action; no details about what the lawyer did to result in the discipline will be revealed. To obtain the full details of any lawyer's behavior which led to disciplinary action, you must visit the Arizona Supreme Court web site or contact the State Bar. Only the Supreme Court can impose discipline; the State Bar can only recommend it.
The State Bar publishes suggested questions for someone to ask when a person is preparing to retain an attorney. Those questions are listed on their web site, also under the tab, "Working With An Attorney." However, the Bar's suggested questions are not very probing, seem rather superficial, and clearly do not provide sufficient, detailed information, especially when one considers that hiring an attorney -- especially for a criminal matter -- often means placing a second mortgage on a house, dipping into retirement accounts or life savings; etc. We suggest, when hiring a criminal defense attorney, that you add to the State Bar's suggested questions by asking:
1. Have you ever been the subject of a state bar or supreme court disciplinary action of any type? In Arizona? In any other state or jurisdiction in which you've
2. If so, what was it and where can I read about it? Will you give me a copy of the final decision?
3. What complaint is most often made about you or your firm from your clients?
4. What have you done (or are you doing) to resolve those concerns?
5. Can I receive a hard copy of all the records on my case each time you file something with the court, or communicate with the state? If not, why not? If so,
will I be charged for those copies? How much per page?
6. Can I give you a direct order that I don't wish to waive my presence at any court appearances, no matter how minor they seem to you, on my case? If not, why not? For what types of hearings would you ordinarily waive an appearance of your client? Or, another way of addressing the same issue is:
7. If I tell you now, before I hire you, that I want to be included in all in camera conferences in the judge's chambers which involve my case, will you agree to insure that I am present for such conferences? If not, why not?
8. If you or your family are told (prior to retaining the attorney) that he/she can get the client out of (jail/prison) within a specific amount of time, ask: Will you put that guarantee in writing with an agreement to refund my fee in full if you do not succeed? If not, why not? Have I misunderstood something you said?
9. If I am convicted of (these) charges, at what point will you file a Notice of Withdrawal as my attorney of record? Before filing the Notice of Appeal/PCR? If so, who will file the Notices which involve time-dated deadlines?
10. If I am convicted of (these) charges (or agree to a plea agreement), will you insure that I have at least 48 hours to review the entire PSR (Pre sentence Investigation Report) prior to the sentencing hearing, so that I can insure that it is complete and accurate? If I find significant errors, will you assure me that these errors will be incorporated into a Revised/Amended PSR which will be attached by court order to the original PSR, so that the Department of Corrections will have both the original and the corrected version for its files?
11. Will you put the above agreements/provisions in your Fee Agreement/Contract? If not, why not?
12. When clients compliment you on your representation, what types of comments do they make?
13. Can I or my family tape record meetings with you to insure that we correctly remember the contents of our conversations? If not, why not? Do you object to my taking notes on our conversations?
14. Are you familiar with A.R.S. 13-603 (L)? Please explain it to me. (Note: This is a statute which allows the defense attorney -- at the time of sentencing only -- to request that the sentencing judge issue an Order which permits the defendant to apply to the Board of Executive Clemency for a sentence reduction IF, AND ONLY IF, THE JUDGE BELIEVES THAT THE SENTENCE TO BE IMPOSED IS 'CLEARLY EXCESSIVE.' This statute would not apply, for example, to someone who is sentenced to the super-mitigated term of imprisonment, etc.) If a criminal defense attorney indicates that he/she is not familiar with ARS 13-603 (L), think carefully about hiring that individual. It would mean that the person really doesn't extend himself for his clients and isn't up-to-date on all factors which affect a client's sentencing hearing.
15. Will you be the person working on my case, or will the case be assigned to an associate attorney who works in your office? How much work can I expect YOU to perform on the case? Who will appear in court on the case -- you or your associate?
* NOTE: A state bar or supreme court disciplinary action is different from a state bar complaint. Anyone can file a complaint, and many do. Many complaints are simply unfounded or are filed by a disgruntled client. An actual disciplinary action (which can result in anything from an informal reprimand all the way up to complete disbarment) means that the original complaint was found to have merit and that action was ultimately taken against the lawyer to impose consequences of some type for that behavior. From start to finish, especially in a claim that has merit, the process of disciplining a licensed attorney is a very long and slow process.
Is it advisable to be wary of or refuse to hire an attorney who has been previously disciplined while serving as an officer of the court in a position of the highest trust? Often, yes. Only you and your family can be the judge. Remember, ask questions and get all agreements in writing -- especially if the attorney promises a particular outcome to your case. As previously stated above, for example, if the attorney says, "I'll get him out in six months. . . " (if you'll just write that check and hire me), ask the attorney to put that promise in writing with a money-back guarantee. Read every word of every document before signing it. A Fee Agreement is a legal contract, just as a Plea Agreement is a legal contract.
If you decide you are not pleased with the services of an attorney you have already hired, you can fire him. Call him by telephone, but ALSO put the information in WRITING and send it by certified mail to the attorney. Tell him on the telephone and in writing to cease working on your case immediately and to submit to you an itemized account of all fees he has expended (against the retainer or fee you have already paid). You should expect to receive such accounting within 30 days. Ask for all records of the case to be returned to you (arrange to pick them up in person, if possible). If you feel that the attorney has charged you far too much money and has not been able to account for it by demonstrating actual work on your case, you can file a complaint with the State Bar "Fee Arbitration" section. Even if the Fee Agreement that you signed with an attorney states that your retainer is for a "flat rate" fee, your fee or a portion of it is still refundable if you take the right steps. READ YOUR FEE AGREEMENT. The process of obtaining a refund from an uncooperative attorney will not move quickly, so don't count on return of any funds from one attorney before you can hire another, but sometimes the Bar does order the attorney to refund portions of fees that are considered to be excessive when compared with the amount of work performed. Contact the State Bar of Arizona for forms that allow the fee arbitration process to commence.
DO YOU KNOW THAT MIDDLE GROUND PRISON REFORM IS THE ONLY ORGANIZATION IN ARIZONA THAT IS LEGALLY AUTHORIZED TO LOBBY THE STATE LEGISLATURE SOLELY FOR PRISON REFORM ISSUES? WE ARE THE OLDEST AND MOST CONSISTENT ORGANIZATION DEALING WITH PRISON REFORM -- WE HAVE EXPERIENCE IN CORRECTIONS AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM SINCE 1983!!
DON'T BE PRESSURED BY THE ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS TO PURCHASE RECORDS THAT YOU DON'T REALLY WANT OR NEED!
Due to medical information/records privacy laws, in order to obtain medical or psychological records for an inmate (whether you are a family member, an attorney, or other), you must first obtain a signed and witnessed "Medical Information Release Authorization Form" from the inmate. The inmate him/herself can obtain the form from the Medical Dept. at the prison, fill it out and send it to you or, for attorneys, you can use your own form which the Department must recognize. A regular "Power of Attorney" form isn't recognized by the Department as adequate to provide access to medical records.
After the inmate signs the original of the form and sends it to you, a COPY of it (keep the original) is forwarded to the Arizona Dept. of Corrections to request the desired records. Their address is: 1110 W. Washington, Suite 310, Phoenix, Arizona 85007. The telephone is: 602) 364-2941. The fax is: (602) 364-2956. At this point, the Department will count ALL the pages in the entire inmate's record and send you an invoice for each page, at $.25/page. Don't pay it unless you want the entire record. If, instead, you wish to examine the files and pick certain pages for a specific time frame or illness, you are permitted to do so even though the Department will not inform you of this! They make you jump through several obstacles to personally examine records, not the least of which is the current requirement that you personally examine the records at the physical location of the prison where the inmate is currently housed (no word on how they would handle such a request for an inmate who is housed out-of-state), so it requires stamina, patience and time.
For inmates who have been incarcerated for years or who have serious medical problems, the medical/psychological files might be extremely voluminous. Therefore, paying for all of the records might run into the hundreds of dollars. You don't have to pay this charge unless you truly desire all of the records. It is a way for the Department to: (1) be lazy, so that they don't have to deal with the inconvenience of a personal visitor who will sit in one of their offices as they examine a file; (2) make money from family, friends or attorneys for inmates (who pass along the cost of the records to their clients).
We have also discovered other problems when obtaining authorized medical/psychological records from the ADOC. Be sure to insist that they collect/obtain records from all of their scattered files -- Institutional, Master Record, Medical/Mental Health, Hospital and all other files. Also, when you examine the files (either in person or after you pay for all of them before seeing any of them), be sure to confirm that the records are up-to-date. Our experience is that even when personally examining medical files, the latest entries are sometimes several months old at the time of examination. What this really means is that the ADOC is maintaining yet another file on this particular inmate's medical record that they have not shared with the requesting party.
Finally, we have become aware of cases where an inmate has duly authorized a family member to examine and/or purchase copies of his medical/psychological file and -- although the paperwork has been filled out completely and properly -- the DOC staff will inform the inmate that "no one can look at your file." This is false and should be challenged.
If anyone has difficulty obtaining or examining medical/psychological files -- after obtaining the required authorization forms -- please let us know. A "Power of Attorney" is NOT the same as a Medical Information Release Authorization Form.
Is The Arizona Department of Corrections Doing It's Mandated Job to Protect The Public (Long-Term Public Safety)? In a word, "no." Public safety can be defined in self-serving ways. This Department is a champion of creating dog-and-pony shows at the legislature which consist of burying already compromised legislators in colorful charts, graphs and nearly indecipherable statistics. Middle Ground has attended many legislative committee hearings where not a single legislator asks a probing question of the Director or questions any of the information presented to them in the Department's colorful/artful graphics demonstrations. For example, we've observed a legislator ask the Department how many criminal aliens are incarcerated. But they don't follow-up to ask how many are eligible and/or qualified to be transferred back to their home country (mostly Mexico) under a provision of law which allows them to serve 50% of their sentence here and then be released to the authorities of the alien's home country. If the numbers of large, this would save millions in costs to our state. We've observed a legislator ask the Director about the statistic regarding assaults by inmates on staff. But they don't follow-up with questions about the DOC's definition of "assault" and if they actually conform their disciplinary write-ups in all cases to their own definition of what is an assault. We've seen legislators who've asked about the security procedures at the private prisons in light of the terrible consequences of the Kingman escapes in July 2010 (two people murdered by the escapees in New Mexico). But there are no follow-up questions to the Director about the DOC's lack of oversight at the private prison which allowed their fence alarms to be inoperable for a period of over two-years. They allow the DOC to place all the blame for the escapes on the private prison, and the DOC deflects blame to itself for the lack of oversight/monitoring of the private prisons, which is a statutory obligation. It is as though legislators only want to hear cheery, positive news from the Department so that they don't have to confront the ugly truths which lie behind many of the inmate deaths, assaults, disciplinary sanctions, escapes and other problems. Out of sight; out of mind.
Some legislators are so ill-informed that they predicate "success" of the DOC on one factor: how many escape attempts are successful each year. Are there only a few escapes each year? True, but when there are escapes, they often end with tragic results (refer to the escapes from the Kingman Private Prison). But we don't think the the number of escapes or the lack of escapes is an indicator of "public safety" per se. Heavy fences and plenty of concertina wire do not make a successful public safety program. Examine the web site for the ADOC: No mention is made of the reasons behind why so many inmates die (by suicide or at the hands of other inmates or of so-called "natural causes") or of inmates who live, but who are seriously medically compromised due to the lack of adequate medical care offered by the Department. No mention is made of how many seriously mentally ill prisoners are given actual therapy and/or treatment (drugging an inmate into a stupor does not count as treatment). The DOC will not disclose (we know; we've asked) what their own investigations into the deaths of prisoners may reveal about the agencies' culpability in providing medical care. The site does not disclose why so few inmates complete educational or treatment programming compared with the population of inmates in the Department. No information is provided with respect to the number of employees disciplined and/or terminated due to staff misconduct. Prison employees -- all of them, right down to the lowest line staff correctional guard -- must serve as role models in terms of professionalism, integrity, ethics, adherence to policy, respect for the public and others, etc. We allow each reader to be the judge:
Associate Deputy Warden arrested for Assault: ADW Carols Rios Manriquez, DOB 10/28/61, was arrested in June 2008 for assault/Intent/Reckless Injury for an incident in Pinal County which involved his ex-spouse. The Case is No. M-1141-CR-20080124 (Pinal County, Arizona). Mr. Manriquez was previously convicted of a DUI offense in 2003 in the same court (Case M-1141-TR-200220526/Pinal County.) Manriquez has not had any administrative action taken pending the outcome of his assault charge; he makes life and death decisions each day over the lives of the more than 1,000 inmates in the Cook Unit/Florence. This is relevant, because most line staff employees when charged with crimes are either placed on administrative leave (with pay) or are at least placed in a position where they have no contact with inmates. This employee remains in his regular position. The Department has not released any information to the public (or the media) about the ADW's arrest. Instead, the information on this matter was presented to Middle Ground via a public records search suggested by a line staff employee of the Department. Why are prison administrators accused of crimes treated differently than line staff accused of crimes?
Arizona Prison Guard Charged With "Green Card" Fraud Scheme
Yuma Prison Captain Caught With Child Porn on Home Computer (Note: Capt. Kangas, 52, was sentenced on 12/22/06 to 100 years in prison -- no doubt to be served in another state. A jury convicted him of possession of multiple counts of child pornography. Kangas was previously known within the Arizona prison system as the lead defendant in the lawsuit, Gluth v. Kangas 951 F.2d 1504 (9th Cir. 1991) which had to do with access to the courts and law libraries in the Central Unit. It is unknown whether Capt. Kangas has changed his opinion about law library/court access or prison reform since his conviction.
Prison Guard Killed Collecting $50 Drug Debt
Prison Guard Corruption
Prison Guard Helps To Conceal Cop Killer Suspects (Sentenced in November 2005)
Article about American Correctional Assn. (ACA) Winter
Conference, Phoenix, 2005
Article in Phoenix New Times, "Dora's Darlings" June
Article in Phoenix New Times, "CLINK", October 23, 2003
Prison guards' corruption occurs in other places besides Arizona: SEE FLORIDA FEDERAL PRISON GUARD SCANDAL
Can't locate a prisoner or need to know his/her address in an Arizona prison?
Until June 2006, family and friends of prisoners could call a toll-free number to obtain an inmate's address and DOC # without much difficulty. However, all of this has recently changed and it is much more inconvenient (sometimes extremely difficult) to obtain this information. Now, unless you are a victim of a crime, you must call Betty Cassiano at the Arizona Department of Corrections at: (602) 364-3945 or, toll-free at 866-333-2039.!
you know who your state legislators are? If not,
go to Vote
Smart Organization and enter your zip code in the
left-hand column. Middle Ground is the only prisoner
rights' organization that is registered to formally
lobby for prisoner-family rights in Arizona.
TO OUR WEBSITE: From Donna
Leone Hamm, Judge (Retired) - Executive Director firstname.lastname@example.org
Our staff also
consists of others who provide legal
research, clerical assistance, financial contributions,
legislative advocacy, donations of computer programming
and training, etc., all of whom wish to remain anonymous due to family members currently in jail or prison.
site design and hosting donated by: Mobile Tech Support
and The Cyberimage,
Arizona, we spend millions of tax dollars on our prison
system and jail system. We must ensure that those dollars
are being spent wisely, effectively and carefully. We
must define long-term public safety in such a way that
it incorporates concern for the treatment received by
offenders while incarcerated and the impact their treatment
will have on their behavior once they are released into
the community. Long-term public safety MUST be the
goal of any authentic correctional system.
Ground recognizes that certain individuals are a danger
to the citizens of Arizona and that vigilant incarceration
is a primary concern for these offenders. We also recognize
the necessity of:
those offenders who sincerely wish to become productive,
contributing citizens, and;
them with vigorous efforts to correct themselves while
serving their sentence.
incarcerated, every effort must be made to appropriately
classify those who wish to correct themselves from those
who refuse to change. Ethical, thoughtful, and professional
programs must be offered, and humane treatment provided
for ALL criminal offenders. It is both reasonable and
prudent (in society's best interest) to foster the integration
of corrected offenders into our community. This can
only be accomplished by providing realistic opportunities
for academic and vocational development, and for personal
renewal in psychological and spiritual realms during
the time of incarceration.
consist of large aggregations of people with serious
social and/or psychological problems. The staff are
often composed of large aggregations of people who are
either indifferent or -- in far too many cases -- opposed
to the idea of positive change. Many so-called "correctional"
staff simply do not believe that people can change.
This leads to lip service and false impressions regarding
alleged programs of "rehabilitation."
are many issues which need to be addressed in the prison
reform arena. Below is a list of some issues, but
clearly is not exhaustive:
the philosophy of prison "for" punishment, rather than
brutality imposed on inmates by other inmates, and by
staff on inmates
the inhumanity of prison rules, policies, regulations,
practices and day-to-day
institutional indifference to an authentic correctional
plan of action
the treatment of the mentally ill and those with serious
medical issues, including
especially the lack of treatment for those with Hep
C, TB and AIDS
sexual harassment of female prisoners and sexual violence
the lack of training in marketable job skills for prisoners
the serious lack of release planning (and follow through by the DOC) and its consequences
the almost insurmountable obstacles faced by released
offenders when they seek
jobs, housing, family reunification, restoration of rights, and general acceptance into the community
issues involving protective segregation of vulnerable
gang violence and management
the lack of commitment to or opportunity for meaningful post-secondary
the use of "super-max" (gulag-type) security units,
and the consequences thereof
Ground Prison Reform is dedicated to public education,
legislative advocacy and litigation, when necessary,
to protect and define the rights and responsibilities
of prison and jail inmates and their loved ones. We
believe in a middle-of-the-road approach to solving
problems and challenges, rather than one which supports
the extreme of any position.
Middle Ground does not perform legal work, nor do we "provide"
attorneys to represent clients or classes of clients
in lawsuits, provide legal advice on any issue or
represent clients before any judicial or administrative
body. We are an activist organization (as in above
paragraph). If you desire referral to an attorney,
expert witness, mitigation specialist, or a person who
prepares alternative pre sentence investigation reports,
please call us at 480 966-8116. Also, see the
section called "Individualized Advocacy" on
this web site.
PRISONERS ARE PERMITTED BY DOC POLICY (AND BY CASE LAW) TO RECEIVE APPROPRIATE
INFORMATION WHICH HAS BEEN DOWNLOADED FROM THE INTERNET.
IF YOU WISH TO SEND A DOWNLOADED COPY OF ANY INFORMATION
FROM MIDDLE GROUND TO A PRISONER, YOU NEED TO SIMPLY
MARK THE OUTSIDE OF YOUR ENVELOPE TO THE PRISONER:
"PERMITTED INTERNET MATERIALS ENCLOSED." ARIZONA
PRISON OFFICIALS MAY NOT PROHIBIT INTERNET MATERIALS
(SUCH AS CASE LAW, NEWSPAPER ARTICLES, OTHER INTERNET
MATERIALS) AS LONG AS THE MATERIAL BEING SENT IS NOT
RACIST, PORNOGRAPHIC, OR WHICH -- IF IT ENTERED THE
INSTITUTION -- WOULD JEOPARDIZE PRISON ORDER OR SECURITY. WE SPECIFICALLY RECOMMEND DOWNLOADING INFORMATION FROM OUR EX-OFFENDER PAGE TO SEND TO INMATES WHO ARE NEARING THEIR RELEASE DATE. ALL MATERIALS ON THIS WEB SITE ARE ALLOWED TO BE MAILED TO PRISONERS.
OF MATERIALS OR INFORMATION FROM THE ACTUAL DEPARTMENT
OF CORRECTIONS WEB SITE ARE PERMITTED, INCLUDING COPIES
OF POLICIES, REPORTS, ETC. WITH THE EXCEPTION
OF INMATE DATABASE INFORMATION LISTING THE INMATE'S
CRIME, DISCIPLINARY, CLASSIFICATION, PAROLE ACTION AND
OTHER CATEGORIES. Questions? Call us (480)
MARCIA POWELL INFORMATION
If you'd like to view the eulogy for Marcia Powell, who was killed at the Perryville Prison on May 19, 2009, when prison guards placed her in an outdoor cage in the hot sun for a minimum of four (4) hours without shade or water, and without checking on her welfare, presented by Middle Ground's Director, Donna Hamm, CLICK HERE. If you would like to view the letter we wrote to Gov. Jan Brewer (which was copied to the FBI and to the U.S. Dept. of Justice), asking for an independent criminal investigation of Marcia Powell's death, CLICK HERE. If you wish to read our May 14, 2010 letter to County Attorney (Acting) Richard Romley, urging prosecution for the prison employees who killed Marcia Powell, CLICK HERE. As of one year from Marcia's death, NO ONE has been prosecuted, nor any criminal charges filed. UPDATE: A decision about prosecution of prison staffers will be made sometime on or after August 9, 2010.
On September 23, 2009, the Department of Corrections released a 3,000+ page report on their investigation into the death of Marcia Powell. It is gruesome reading. Some of the details include:
1. Before Marcia was placed in the outdoor cage, she had passed out in her cell. She told staff she was suicidal. The Sgt. who saw Marcia lose consciousness never reported the incident to supervisors, despite the fact that Marcia said she was having trouble breathing.
2. During the investigation, at least 20 inmates told investigators that Marcia was continuously requesting water, but it was denied. All the guards who were interviewed said she was given water. Staff are obviously willing to lie in a death investigation to "cover" for each other.
3. Marcia was taking psychotropic medications at the time (prescribed) which made her particularly sensitive to the heat, but no medical personnel conveyed that fact to prison guards.
4. After more than 2 hours (which was the maximum time allowed in the outdoor cage per policy), Marcia requested to be taken back to her indoor cell. The request was denied.
5. Marcia requested to use a restroom. The request was denied. She defecated in the cage. Twice. A guard discovered that she had soiled herself and left her right where she was. Medical personnel would later discover feces underneath her fingernails and all over her back.
6. The psych unit to which Marcia was awaiting transport should have accepted her hours before she died, but a series of "miscommunications" prevented her from being taken in. Guards who were near the end of their shift did not want to begin the lengthy paperwork process required for a transfer, so they left the job for the next shift, which meant that Marcia was left in the cage for longer and longer amounts of time.
7. No logs, as required by existing-at-the-time DOC policy, were kept on Marcia's time in the outdoor cage. No one has been able to determine how long she was actually in the cage. The DOC has claimed that is was about 3.5 hours. It could have been much more and, according to some inmates who wrote to Middle Ground, is was much longer than 4 hours.
8. Thermometers recorded Marcia's core body temperature at 108 degrees, but the temp could have been higher; the thermometers topped out at 108.
Our comments: Reading about the "emerging details" contained in the DOC's 3,000 page investigative report on Marcia Powell's death is sickening. Anyone with an iota of compassion for one's fellow man cannot help but be mortified to think about the horror of Marcia's final hours and minutes. The actions of the DOC personnel go beyond cruel; they are barbaric. One expects to read about this sort of thing in a Third-World country. The number of people involved, the types of unprofessional conduct (euphemistically referred to by the DOC as "miscommunications"), and the seriousness of the actions taken or not taken lead inescapably to one conclusion: namely, that Marcia Powell's death at Perryville was the tip of an iceberg that reveals a much larger and more endemic problem at the Perryville Complex (and perhaps throughout the DOC). The 3,000 page report is an indictment of the Perryville corrections personnel on virtually every level, and clearly bespeaks not only a lack of staff training, but an extraordinarily serious problem with supervision. There was obviously no belief whatsoever by numerous personnel that anyone had any duty to follow policy and procedure, or to actually care for the inmates in their care and custody.
The title of the 3,000 page investigative report should be, "BACKYARD BULLIES ON THE ARIZONA STATE PAYROLL."
To read Middle Ground's letter to the Governor, dated and sent September 24, 2009, , CLICK HERE.
STILL TO BE DETERMINED INVESTIGATIONS/ISSUES THAT MUST BE ADDRESSED (Not An All-Inclusive List):
1. Has there been a change in policy which requires any staff member who is aware of an inmate who has become unconscious and/or expressed suicidal thoughts to report such knowledge?
2. Has there been a change in policy which requires the DOC staff to CHECK the medications that an inmate is taking before placing the person in an outdoor enclosure to insure that any prescribed medication does not make the patient more susceptible to heat and/or sun?
3. Has there been a review of policy regarding withdrawing/terminating life support for a prisoner who has no immediate next-of-kin? Should the Director of DOC be allowed to make this decision on his own or should there be an outside review committee, one member of whom is an advocate for inmates, who decides? How extensive and what type of investigation takes place when there is no known or obvious next-of-kin to make a determination on a prisoner's life-support status?
4. What changes have taken place in DOC policy which will correct the poor training, attitudes and behaviors which occurred by numerous staff throughout the entire "Marcia Powell Incident?"
5. When a mentally ill prisoner is placed in an outdoor enclosure, is a psychiatrist or any mental health staff required to monitor the prisoner, in addition to the guards? If not, why not?
6. What provisions for use of a toilet in a timely and appropriate manner have been provided as a result of the "retro-fitting" of the outdoor enclosures?
7. The retro-fitting of the outdoor enclosures is now supposed to include access to water. Whose responsibility is it for the water to be provided? Cups? Fresh water?
8. If an inmate is placed in an enclosure during a time period when a meal will be served, does the inmate receive a meal? Utensils? A beverage?
9. What policy or provisions are in place to provide prescribed medication for an inmate who may need to take medication at a certain time of the day if the inmate happens to be locked in an outdoor enclosure at the time the medication is needed or supposed to be ingested? Diabetics?
The tragic "close" to Marcia Powell's story: (1) The Maricopa County Attorneys office declined to prosecute any prison staff member. (2) No Arizona legislator ever publicly made any statement against the Arizona Dept. of Corrections for their horrific treatment of Marcia Powell. (3) The Department of Corrections did "retro-fit" it's outdoor enclosures by installing shade covers, misting systems, water coolers and/or drinking fountains (bubblers) and a bench. They also changed their policy to require that no one could be kept in an outdoor enclosure for more than one (1) hour. However, in April 2010, a male Tucson prisoner was left in an outdoor cage for more than 19 hours because he had used a profane word toward a prison guard; thankfully, he did not suffer permanent damage. Still, this incident shows that the ADOC still hasn't "gotten it" with respect to exposing inmates to cruel, barbaric conditions as punishment.