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Feedback from the Issue of Thursday, September 15th, 2011

PRISON BLUES

Prison not fit for the mentally ill: Mental illness and our Arizona state prisons are not a good mix ("Hell Hole," Paul Rubin, September 1). We need healthcare reform with accessible mental-health care for those who are seriously mentally ill.

We also need to repopulate our state hospitals with those who are too sick to care for themselves. Our nonprofit organization, David's Hope (davidshopeaz.org), is dedicated to securing mental-health care, not incarceration, for those with mental illness whose lives have intersected with our criminal-justice system.

Thank you for bringing attention to this very serious healthcare issue that affects public safety.
Mary Lou Brncik, Phoenix

Steering clear of moralism: I cannot recall the last time I read such a deep piece of journalism in New Times. I was especially impressed with the author's managing to tell such a distressing and extremely instructive story [without] being moralistic.
Valeriy Dzutsev, Tempe

Rubin nailed it again: This goes into the Holy Shit Department! Paul Rubin, as usual, nailed it without hitting us over the head.
Robert Glaum, Phoenix

Time to rename the Department of Corrections: This heartbreaking recount is beyond disgusting. The Department of Corrections should be renamed the Department of Criminal Mistreatment of the Vulnerable who fall victim to a prosecutor!

This travesty shines a very bright light on the Arizona Department of Corrections and the criminals in charge there.

That the lieutenant who valiantly fought to save Shannon Palmer was given punishment is an additional crime.
Teo Bueno, Tucson

Too many have died behind bars: It's devastating and heartbreaking what we do to our mentally ill citizens these days, especially in Arizona.

Please, folks, ask the Department of Justice, the state Legislature, and the Maricopa County judiciary to investigate what's happening in the state's prisons, where suicide and homicide rates have doubled since Governor Jan Brewer took office.

Shannon Palmer, Marcia Powell, Susan Lopez, Tony Lester, James Jennings, Lasasha Cherry, Duron Cunningham, Jerry Kulp, Dana Seawright all are mentally ill prisoners who [fell victim to] neglect, homicide, or suicide in the care of Director [Charles] Ryan's ADOC since January 2009 — and this isn't a complete list.
Peggy Plews, Phoenix

Andy Thomas should feel ashamed: It isn't until you have a loved one in the same position as Shannon Palmer that you can see how extremely broken the prison system is, beginning with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.

Under the reign of Andrew Thomas, the prison population exploded. [His office] prosecuted countless mentally ill, such as Shannon Palmer. [Thomas] should feel ashamed for sending [people] so severely ill off to prison, [throwing] them to the wolves — especially mentally ill with no criminal history.
Patti Jones, Phoenix

ADOC didn't follow own policy: Among all the important information contained in this article, [something] shouldn't be missed: The Department of Corrections failed to follow its own policy.

Look on the ADOC's website and you will see a plethora of internal management policies that govern nearly every action an inmate or staff member can possibly take. Procedures for handling scenarios and circumstances are spelled out in minute detail. Problem is, rarely are these policies followed.

In some cases, staff — who're required to sign a document affirming that they have read and are familiar with their own policies — don't even know about them or admit they haven't read them. Some staff [say they] simply don't care what the policy says, [that] they will do it the "old school" way.

How a guard who's assigned to classify offenders by age, size, length of sentence, and comparable crime could "match up" these two inmates is beyond imagination. If the truth were admitted, it was [done out of] pure institutional convenience.
Donna Leone Hamm, Tempe

Put this story before lawmakers: Paul Rubin worked hard to create a factual story, and we must repeat it to those who will listen. That's how we get change. Support the story and share it with every lawmaker you know. [Tell them to] change the way mentally ill persons are incarcerated. If [such people] do go to jail or prison, treat them. Don't ignore them.
Carl ToersBijns, retired deputy warden


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