Inmate Newsletter Gives Unfiltered View Of Arizona Prison Life
The Meadows Morning Star is a newsletter created by inmates at the Eyman state prison in Florence.
Only two pages of the Morning Star were shared with KJZZ, but the publication gives readers a rarely seen, unfiltered description of life in an Arizona prison from the viewpoint of an incarcerated person.
The July 3, 2019, edition begins with a brief history of the upcoming Fourth of July: “America’s biggest birthday party!”
In a Town Hall News section, the author discusses topics that were brought up during a recent open meeting of inmates and employees of the prison.
The author writes about the success of fundraisers, an upcoming tablet pilot program and a summer BBQ.
Lingering Health Care Issues
However, the news about health care was less positive. Remarking on the changeover from Corizon Health to Centurion, the author writes “Most staff will remain the same at health unit.”
“Many insulin guys have problems getting insulin on time, being told to eat first due to delays by staff,” the author notes.
Prison Law Office attorney Corene Kendrick says lack of access to insulin in Arizona prisons has been a long-standing problem at Eyman.
“Similarly, when we visited Lewis prison in early August 2019, there were multiple yards where the shortage of nursing staff is resulting in insulin being administered not as prescribed,” Kendrick said. “For example, at 10 a.m., after the person has eaten, and then again at 2:30 or 3 in the afternoon, which means the person then goes 18 to 19 hours without insulin.”
The author also writes of delays for eyeglasses: “up to 6 month time for optometrist.”
The complaint of lack of access to specialty health care providers and services, and even access to insulin has been repeated by other prisoners held in the Arizona Department of Corrections for years.
“Med lines being shut down at 3:30 pm even if guys waiting on long line,” the Morning Star author continues. He also laments that nicotine patches for inmates have not been approved by the Department of Corrections.
In the visitation area, the author claims tables are “being balanced by Bibles and AA books” but assures his audience maintenance workers would be informed of the issue.
Under “Yard Topics,” the author says the deputy warden reminded inmates to drink “lots of water” to avoid dehydration during the summer months.
Water outages have plagued state prisons in recent months. In one case, the water was out at the state prison in Douglas for several days. Inmates and their family members have reported sporadic outages at other prisons this summer to KJZZ.
The Morning Star reporter says power outages were likely at the prison “due to monsoons.”
Another Yard Topic regarded the challenges of practicing religion in prison. “Senior Chaplain Henry has not found a resolution for Multifaith gathering area.”
Some inmates complained at the town hall that correctional officers were cutting off washers and dryers with clothes in them at certain times of the day.
Snakes And Critters
Another anecdote reveals an unexpected danger of prison life in Arizona.
“Cpt. Simpson asks guys to avoid snakes and critters on the yard. Anyone who gets bitten will get a ticket and be charged restitution for medical costs.”
Kendrick says charging inmates for snake bite treatment is a violation of inmates’ rights to proper medical care while they are incarcerated.
“Obviously if someone is doing manual labor working outside, or just walking on the yard minding his own business, and he is bit by a snake, it is gratuitously unfair and unreasonable to write a disciplinary ticket against him,” Kendrick said.
Department of Corrections spokesman Andrew Wilder said inmates are instructed to not approach or handle wildlife at the prison.
“Such as rattlesnakes, squirrels, etc.,” Wilder said. “If an inmate sustains an injury from such an animal, it is evaluated to determine if the incident was accidental or if there was any intentional disregard of prison rules by the inmate. If the injury was not accidental, disciplinary action may be taken and the inmate could be responsible for medical treatment costs.”
Kendrick called the policy unacceptable.
“The threat that any persons who are bit by a ‘snake or critter’ would have to pay for their medical care for treatment of the bite ignores that ADC is responsible under the U.S. Constitution and Arizona state law to provide medical care to the people in state prisons,” she said.
“The logical extension of that would be that incarcerated people would be charged for acts of self-harm,” Kendrick said, “which would be a cruel and counterproductive policy.”
The final note of Yard Topics references recent media coverage of security issues at the Lewis prison.
The author says Deputy Warden “advises inmates not to pop locks or tamper with security devices (escape charges likely!).”
Wilder said the Department of Corrections “does not comment on or endorse the validity of the content within an inmate publication.”