By AFSC-AZ Staff |
At last week’s Arizona State Prison Town Hall, organized by American Friends Service Committee-Arizona (AFSC-AZ) and LUCHA, hundreds gathered to tell story after story of neglect, suffering, abuse, and preventable deaths inside the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC). As Phoenix New Times reported, as well as KJZZ’s Jimmy Jenkins, we heard from families, loved ones, and formerly incarcerated people about the lack of medical and mental health care; dangerous living conditions; cruel and inhumane treatment by prison guards; and systemic failures by ADC administration.
Based on those testimonies, AFSC-AZ has compiled a list of recommendations and requests for Gov. Doug Ducey to achieve the systemic change that town hall participants and thousands of families across our state want and need now:
- Remove Charles “Chuck” Ryan as ADC Director. The hiring process for a new Director should include input and feedback from an advisory committee made up of key stakeholders and experts, including those directly impacted by incarceration. For just some of the reasons why this must happen now, visit FireChuckRyan.org.
- Create an independent oversight committee over the Department of Corrections that is accessible, transparent, and has authority to impact ADC policies and procedures. One model is the Joint Select Committee on Corrections, which previously existed in Arizona until it was allowed to sunset in 2007.
- Contract with an independent, third party to conduct a comprehensive audit of the entire prison system, from facilities management to contracting, health care, programs and services, nutrition, and budgets.
- Direct the Arizona Department of Health to conduct an emergency review of serious health and safety issues in ADC facilities, including lack of air conditioning and evaporative cooling, black mold and rodent infestations, power outages, and lack of potable water.
- Halt all contracts with for-profit medical and mental health care providers.
- Require immediate compliance with Parsons v. Ryan class-action lawsuit.
- Direct the Arizona Department of Health to conduct an emergency review of all requests for compassionate release.
- Request investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice into the deaths of Tony Lester, Dana Seawright, Neil Early, Christina Pino, Jeff Jensen, Mariam Abdullah, and others.
- Phase out all private prison contracts within the next five years.
- Collect emergency contact information during processing, and allow all incarcerated people to sign a release of information and power of attorney in case of a medical or other emergencies.
For those who attended last week’s town hall, the event was not a “one-off”. They expect their elected leaders and public servants to use the information gathered and work toward systemic change. They, and AFSC-AZ, will continue to hold leadership accountable and press them to act accordingly.