19 May 09

The Death of Marcia Powell (by Lifer Renee)

Renee - She was only a teenager when she received a sixty-year sentence from a judge in Pima County. Fourteen years into her sentence, Renee is writing from Perryville prison in Goodyear, Arizona, providing a rare and unique insight into a women's prison.

“Did you hear Marcia died?” Sally asked.
We were perched on a slope because there is no shade on the yard whatsoever.
“No,” I replied, shocked by yet another death. “I heard they took her to the hospital. What happened?”
“Yesterday, Marcia was in the rec cage, and the property clerk was down there, and Marcia asked her, ‘Hey, can you tell Officer A****d I need some water?’ Well, you know it was 107° yesterday.”
“Yeah, I know. I came outside for a minute. I couldn’t take it. It was too hot.”
“The property clerk goes and tells the officer, ‘Hey, Powell is asking for water.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I’m busy right now.’ That was at 11, and no one knows how long she’d already been in the rec cage. So anyways, another girl that was working down there, the same thing happened. Marcia asked her to tell Officer A****d she needs some water. So the girl goes to the control box, and says, ‘Officer A****d, Powell is asking for water.’ He says, ‘Yeah, I’m busy right now. I’ll get to it.’ Anyways, the call came over the radio sometime close to 3pm that she was passed out in the rec enclosure. No one knows how long she was in there because it wasn’t logged. She died of heatstroke.”
I went to say something and heard the click of the intercom. “Lockdown! We’re under ICS!”

I’ve been doing time with Marcia now for 15 years. She had no one. No home, family, that I know of. On the streets, she was always homeless. She was mentally challenged, but she was always nice, always smiling.
When she would see me: “Hi, Renee! Hi, Renee! Renee, hi! How’re you doing?”
“Great, Marcia, how’re you?”
“You’re so pretty, Renee. Can I get a cup of coffee?”
“If you’ll comb your hair for me today.”
“OK. OK. I will sing for you. Do you want me to sing for you?”
Sometimes she would sing to me just because, but it was always the same song. “Rappers Delight” by the Sugar Hill Gang. She knew every word and never missed a beat. It is sad.

There was chatter that our deputy warden was escorted off the property today.
I hear the helicopters flying over right now. I wonder if it is the news. Looking out of my window, I see the women who live in Building 23 gathered outside, waving towards the sky.
Hold on, I just looked at the TV and our prison is on the news. Will they spew lies or tell the truth? It turned out to be a little bit of both.
Our deputy warden, captain, and shift commander are on administrative leave. I don’t know why them and not the officers who were working the yard. CO2 M**a, CO2 A****d, and CO2 M****s.
The news said the temperatures that day were between 105° to 110°. The director, Charles Ryan, stated there may have been negligence and they are investigating. Marcia was in the cage waiting to be transported to CDU [Complex Detention Unit]. She was in the cage for more than two hours longer than the maximum amount of time the Arizona Department of Corrections’ policy allows for an outside enclosure. They also said they are investigating how an inmate died in his cell at the Lewis prison, Buckeye.

It’s crazy. But it is life, at least the one I know.

Click here for Renee’s previous blog about a woman prisoner with AIDS biting another prisoner.

Click here for the news story on the death of Marcia Powell.

Our friends inside appreciate your comments.

Email comments for Renee to writeinside@hotmail.com or post them below. To post a comment if you do not have a Google/Blogger account, just select anonymous for your identity.

Shaun P. Attwood


Anonymous said...

"negligence"?! How about Negligent Homicide! Or more like just plain murder. Only in DOC can you cold-bloodedly kill a mentally challenged person by leaving them locked in a cage in the sun, and get a PAID VACATION ON THE TAXPAYER DIME! If she had been a dog or a cat, they would be screaming for blood at the state capitol! Somebody please find some family for this woman and get them seeing dollar signs so someone will have to answer for something. Pathetic and disgusting, GITMO treats people better.

Anonymous said...

That is really fucked up, and typical. When will the people responsible for these crimes against humanity be held accountable? That's what I want to know.

Anonymous said...

but for a cup of water she would be alive


Anonymous said...

dag gum. That's scarly.

Bert Evans

Anonymous said...

that is messed up a cup of water was all this poor girl needed and what will happen to them they are on paid leave we all know that and this young girl is dead i dont care if she was locked up or not they deserve worse take them out and tie them to a cactus and pour honey on them and let the arizona desert ants or worse get them thats what they deserve.

Donna Kramer

Briandi said...

This enrages me! I would love to start a class action law suit agains the DOC for this type of treatment. My husband (who is currently still in prison) was put in a rec cage exactly like this at the END of AUG beginning of SEPT in 2008 for OVER 24 HOURS!! He was waiting to go to the detention unit (he was NOT in trouble) he was put there and the same thing happened. He repeatedly asked for water yet to no avail no water! Not until much later in the evening a sympathetic CO brought him water in a USED Pepsi bottle! In these rec cages there are no toilets, no running water, and NO SHADE just a drain! He's lucky he didn't pass out or worse die from heat stroke. Marcia was not that lucky. Bastards! I wonder just how many inmates have suffered in the heat in these rec cages and treated this way?? What do you suppose we can do? At least they stopped using them, but why did it take the death of a woman to get them to stop? They should have had shade over them when they were built.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for your courage and your insight. Please let the other women know there are people out here who care, who are trying to do something, and not to do anything else that will seriously compromise themselves.


Victoria Law said...

Thanks for posting this. I do a zine of art and writings by incarcerated women called "Tenacious: Art and Writings by Women in Prison." Can I reprint this in the next issue? It won't be out until August or September, so there's time to make updates if there are any.

I can also send you a copy if you want to e-mail me a snail mail address.

Vikki Law
author of Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women
editor of Tenacious: Art and WRitings by Women in Prison

Vanessa said...

Anyone who read about Marcia's fate ought to tell five people and ask them to tell five people. These things happen because they continue to be buried by mainstream media, so let's take some of our own power back and BE the media!

Marcia may not have had family, but I am certain that there are people whose lives she touched in some way who will remember her. To them, I am sorry! It shouldn't have happened and it should never happen again.

Prison Blog said...

Unbelievably tragic.

Anonymous said...

How does one of reasonable knowledge determine that an inmate or anyone for that matter is I quote "The kind of inmate who would not drink water" as an anonymous officer said on a tv report about Marcia Powell.That is the most pathetic thing I have ever heard.He/she should be fired for that appalling statement alone!How is it that an assumedly educated,trained officer could possibly come up with such an insulting ludicrous statement? I am just blown away right now after reading this. I have unfortuantly due to my own wrong choices, I won't deny that,I spent 2.5 years at Arizona Department of CORRECTIONS and I use the word CORRECTIONS loosley for lack of an appropriate word. THERE IS NOTHING CORRECTIONAL ABOUT PERRYVILLE PRISON. Marcia was a human being someones daughter, sister, mother etc. who obviosly by her file had and always had mental instability as well as addictions. This alone should have been taken into consideration not only at her court proceedings (27 months for the oldest profession) PROSTITUTION.. Come on now and the state is complaining about over crowding. My god couldn't she have been sentenced to time in the Mission or to a SAFE in house treatment facility.She got the same amount of time that some get for burgelry,fraud,theft of means.I would bet if statistics were done atleast 85% of people and the majority of women are incarcerated due to crimes commited because of mental instability or addiction PERIOD!! In these facility's the state likes to call "CORRECTIONAL FACILITY"S" there is absolutly not one program available to an inmate mandatory or voluntary to attempt to "CORRECT" there cognitive thinking! Not one,oh let them tell you that it's mandatory in order to advance through the new Phase system that an inmate take cognitive restructuring and cultural diversity classes that the co3's on the yard are offering and not because they care or want to..they have too! And openly complain about having to do so. My classes were mandatory for my release under the SB1291. There were 4 classes to each subject and I think I went to 2 not because I didn't go but either the CO3 was unavailable or we were told to just sign in wait for count to clear and then we could go,now I have two beautiful certificates saying I completed the classes and am to be recognized for that.what a joke! ....

Anonymous said...

If Marcia was indeed waiting at medical she was in a cage but not a rec cage as they keep referring to.Oh they have REC CAGES there located on 30yard,CDU,SMU and on some yards and are used only for closed custody imates who are in PC, discipline in the hole, or the mental unit. what Marcia was in was a Metal Cage outside of the medical unit connected to the unit and visible to the staff in the unit through a window. I was on four yards doing my time,Lumley R&A (risk and assesment)26yard MAX YARD (yes as a MINIMUM inmate do to over crowding we were housed in a KITCHEN on the yard)then Santa Maria and finally Santa Rosa the old mens yard. 3 of the 4 YARDS HAD THESE CAGES AND THEY WERE ALL AS I DESCRIBED. And an OFFICER always had to be present period! So how is it that Marcia the "kind of inmate who won't drink water" was FORGOTTEN about somewhere between the hours of 11:00am and 4:00pm? How did they clear FORMAL COUNT if they forgot Marcia in the cage? Count is at 11:00am and 4:00pm did someone not do there job and physically look at each inmate which is required to clear count? Did someone just mark her accounted for?? ooowee now that would be a BIG problem now wouldn't it. This isn't about Marcia's supposed refusal to drink water that caused her death as these Morons continue to try to defend thier neglect,it's a clear & indisputable fact that ADOC was in fact grossly negligent in their supervision,care and procedure's when it came to Marcia Powell, PERIOD! If they hadn't "FORGOTTEN" Marcia she wouldn't be dead. She could refuse water all day and be thirsty but not DEAD. The fact that ADOC won't even acknowledge this is a travesty in itself. Noone and I mean Noone in ANY weather should be in a cage for any reason. It's not right.

Anonymous said...

Here's what were going to do. Jodi Arias is scheduled to be sent to Perryville most likely. Regardless of how you think of her is irrelevant the matter at hand is using her obvious fame to better the entire facility. How we are going to use Jodi's fame is simple. Jodi is know around the world because of her trial. Her friends, family and supporters will want to talk to her to she how she is doing. Most can't wait for a letter to be returned because in this day and age Internet access is where its at. Perryville doesn't have video visitation but it should because not all of the residents are there for serious crimes. I suggest that a campaign to have video visitation systems installed at Perryville so the inmates are able to leave their confinement only if for a short time. The video visitation system would create jobs for the area installing the new system as well as generating revenue for the facility as those residents wanting to use the system would have to pay $2.00 from their commissary every two weeks for the priveledge where they could have up to ten contacts on the outside that they visit with where additional contacts would cost a one time charge of .25 cents to be added to their contact list. When calling out the residents would have a certain hour of calling based on the block they are on. Each resident would get two ten minute outgoing calls per their time allotted to call at least two people or attempt to call as many that they are able to try and contact within 20 minutes. People on the outside calling in would pay $5.00 for a twenty minute visitation will the resident and would not have to be on the residents primary contact list. Open enrollment for residents would allow them to have their name and background available to someone calling the facility just to talk to a resident to brighten their day and show them that people do in fact care. This would also be a good time create the Perryville Resident Story Book where residents could pay from their commissary in the amount of $5.00 a month to have their life stories before during and after Perryville written in book form and then sold in E-book format on Amazon. With all of the worldwide attention Jodi has received she will definitely receive a lot more attention as will her fellow residents at Perryville the world around.