Guards Disciplined for the Death of Marcia Powell

Earlier this year, Renee, writing for Jon’s Jail Journal, revealed that her friend, Marcia Powell had died from heat exposure after being locked in an outdoor cage by the guards. Here’s today’s news story on what happened to the guards responsible.

PHOENIX (AP) - Sixteen Arizona corrections employees have been fired, suspended or otherwise disciplined for their roles in the death of an inmate left in an outdoor holding cell for four hours in triple-digit heat and for a "wait-them-out" practice at the prison where she died.

Three of those disciplined were fired, two stepped down in place of being fired, 10 received suspensions ranging from 40 to 80 hours, and one was demoted. Two others will be disciplined after they return from medical leave.

Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan announced the moves Tuesday, calling the death the "most significant example of abuse" of an inmate that he's aware of within the department.

Marcia Powell, who was serving a 27-month sentence for prostitution, died from heat-related complications hours after she collapsed May 19 in an uncovered outdoor cell at the Perryville prison in the west Phoenix suburb of Goodyear. She had been in the cell for nearly four hours, despite a policy that set a two-hour limit.

Powell, 48, was being held in the outdoor cell while being transferred from one section of the prison to an observation ward after seeing a psychologist. An autopsy report showed she had first- and second-degree burns on her face and body and a core body temperature of 108 degrees.

"That is an absolute failure," Ryan said Tuesday. "The inmate should not have been left in the enclosure that length of time."

The autopsy also found that Powell's death was an accident and that she had anti-psychotic drugs in her system. Such drugs are known to make people more susceptible to heat-related illnesses.

Ryan declined to provide the names of the corrections employees who were disciplined, saying it would be inappropriate considering they have the right to appeal their punishments. Those disciplined included a deputy warden, a prison psychologist, a chief of security and various officers.

A call to the union that represents Arizona corrections workers was not immediately returned Tuesday evening.

During the administrative investigation of Powell's death, Ryan said investigators with the Office of the Inspector General uncovered a so-called "wait-them-out" practice at the Perryville prison that went on for about a year. Inmates were placed in outdoor and indoor holdings cells for hours at a time as an alternative to using force, he said.

While Powell was not in a holding cell under that practice, Ryan said, an inmate was left in an outdoor cell for 20 hours three days before Powell's death; she did not require medical treatment. He said no one died under the "wait-them-out" practice.

The state prisons system ended its use of outdoor prison cells weeks after Powell's death. Arizona's 10 prisons had 233 outdoor cells for temporarily holding inmates awaiting transfer to punishment wards, medical units, other prisons or work assignments.

Ryan said the cells at Perryville are now used as exercise or short-term waiting areas. They are now shaded, and have misters and benches.

The criminal investigation into Powell's death is finished and at the Maricopa County attorney's office, which will decide if any corrections employees will be charged.

Donna Hamm, director of Tempe-based Middle Ground Prison Reform, said the employees' punishment helps show other prison workers that they will be held accountable for their actions.

"There was an established policy, and had it been followed, Marcia Powell would be alive today," Hamm said.

She said County Attorney Andrew Thomas should charge the employees involved in Powell's death.

"If that happens, the message is crystal clear to department employees about their responsibilities and the consequences of not following their own policy," Hamm said.

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Shaun P. Attwood


leigh said...

i wonder if the investigation by the D.A.'s office means that the officers' names will become public record. more transparency is needed in the corrections departments of the U.S. so that policies, practices and covering up of issues can be addressed.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
from Misty:

They ALWAYS expect inmates to follow policy, but no one holds DOC accountable for not following THEIR policies. It's still happening...I don't see a change yet as a result of this. As far as what I hear from inmates they are still using outdoor rec cages that are not shadded for long periods of time. Someone needs to have criminal charges for neglect handed down to THE DIRECTOR!

Anonymous said...

from Dvorak Haynes Sandy:

While my son was doing some county time, one of his friends was murdered by the police right here in pasco county. Nothing on the news, no apparent investigation, nothing! My son was wisked away to some north Florida prison before he even went to trial. It was part of their coverup to send anyone (5 inmates)who knew him or had witnessed the murder was sent away from here. Nothing ever said or done about a MURDER!!! Unbelievable! Not sure what I can do but would love to help his mother find some sort of justice! There is a video I would like to post called "The Largest Street Gang" It's not for the faint at heart, but should be viewed by all for awareness. I hope I did this right!

Anonymous said...

Misty, now those are words i thought the outside world forgot how to utter. And remember, Misty, if you call them "cages" and you can convince the prisoners that are just that, then there's a certain behavior expected from those in cages, right.

We are always held to policy but the Staff are never held to the standards which they're suppose to be held to.

Listen, a major documentary about American Prisons should be out soon; I hope you and other concerened ones will support it.


Robert Molley

Anonymous said...

This is so sad, i am so sorry, my god they should be put in that cage! I am just sick over this, how can one human being treat another in this matter, I wouldnt wish this on a wild animal, WTF

Linda Lee Simon

Anonymous said...

Murder, plain and simple. I would like to thank you for the regular updates on this case, and I have been citing this blog and new reports regularly about this murder,in my Masters program, and it is now being followed by Grad students on an international level. Only by bringing attention to the abuses that are taking place under our very noses, can we put a stop to the perpetuation of a system that is doing nothing but breeding more cruelty and depravity. I hope to see charges of a criminal nature for those who committed this act, and perhaps professional standards for DOC, such as mandates that include higher minimum educational standards, so perhaps we get people who understand terms such as ,"humanity",and"compassion".

Anonymous said...

No one seems concerned as to why this poor woman was in prison in the first place. She was doing 27 months for the horrific crime of prostitution. Actually, though she did not know it at time she was sentenced, she had been, for all intents and purposes, given a death sentence. I love this counry but this makes me sick to my stomach. Also, none of the comments posted so far even refer to this child of God by her name. I did not know you Masrcia Powell but I trust you are in a far better place now. Rest in peace my dear.
Allan Mac Donald

Anonymous said...

Wow have I been waiting for this moment a long time. I had the unpleasant fortune of spending 2.5 yrs at Perryville Zoo!! I use the word ZOO for lack of an appropriate word allowed to be wriiten here. Yes I know I did the crime so I should do my time, I agree totally but no where in my court transcripts does it say that the Judge ordered me to be imprisoned in inhumane conditions,to be verbally abused by staff, to be belittled and berated at any time,to be neglected medically to such a degree ( I dislocated my shoulder in county put in a kite and 2 months went by w/o being seen and as I arrived at Perryville intake was told to put a kite in and I would be seen eventually)so my new roomies helped me get it back into place. Which was a good way to start our 3 MONTH long stay in R&A which is Risk and Assesmnet(average stay usually 2-3 weeks) but the prison was so over crowded we were held 3 inmates to a cell as opposed to the normal 2. In R&A you are treated as if you have the plague. You are locked down 24/7 three to a cell and if we were lucky we got the hour a day rec to try and shower in the 10 out of maybe 30 showers that were working all 300 or so of us.Not classified yet so violent criminals were housed with non violent etc..If you haven't had the pleasure of seeing Perryville let me give you a tiny glimpse of what it's like. Picture an abandoned no no thats to kind..a CONDEMED Motel 6 it truley looks exactly like one except that the showers are located at the end of each "RUN" and if your lucky to get hot water and stay clean while showering you've had a good day.Oh lets not forget thier exclusive Medical procedure when some one needs to call foe help the following is how it goes if you are in A-POD and need help you begin by banging on ur door and hope that the other girls will help so that B-Pod can pick it up and on to c etc etc and then if your lucky someone in C-Pod will get the attention of the Officer in the bubble who then casually strolls over after lighting his/her cigarette and shouts at us all to quit banging..OMG I was appalled the first time I witnessed this and I found out later that some poor girl had gone into labor and almost bled to death before the parametics arrived.I could go on and on but let me say in a nutshell Perryville should not be called a "correctional Facility" there's nothing correctional about it they offer few if any self help classes or groups,their required classes "recognative structuring and Cultural Diversity courses were an absolute joke..I think they were 4 classes to each one and we actually did maybe 2 of the 4 and all it was was a bitch session about silly S**T.I hope some who read this realize what a mess our Prisons really are and as statistics show the recitivism rate is off the charts...hmmmm why? I will be back again to enlighten you all as the things I try to forget surface with frustration and the need to be heard grips me like nothing ever all the ladies at Perryville hand in there it really does get greater later...DO YOU..thats what is most important while ur stuck there...DO YOU and you'll find the YOU that got lost and now wants to go home!! PEACE

Anonymous said...

Hi it's me again...I would like to know how is it that formal count cleared which is done at 11:00am, 4:00pm and 8:30 pm every day like clock work if Marcia was mistakenly "forgotten about".If ever an inmate could not be accounted for during these counts those of us who had C clearance Jobs were brought back toi the yard until everyone was accounted for. Did someone not do their job by physically seeing and counting each inmate?? That would almost imply that she was marked as being accounted for but not seen?? that in itself would account for this horrific case of neglect and abuse which contributed if not caused poor Marcia's death...I'm disgusted at the guards responses to this blatent disregard for a humen being. And the so called Rec enclosures they keep referring to is not what Marcia was being caged in. The REC ENCLOSURES are found on 30 yard and if my memory serves me right just outside of R&A and also outside of there so called Mental unit..each inmate is schakeled and hand cuffed to be transported to this so called REC cage for an hour of rec...Marcia on the other hand was being held in whats called the MEDICAL CAGE where your brought to wait to recieve medical care. I have been squeezed in with atleast 20 othet inmates at one time not only to recieve but also to wait after being seen hoping you can persuade an officer (2.5)to escort you back to the yard.There was never any water in those lovely ORANGE igloo cooler.If you were lucky enough one of the inmates would fill it if they were allowed.

Hackney Hive said...

Marcia Powell had a sad life and ending and it's a shame nobody is being prosecuted for at least manslaughter.

Some of these prison officers are not the brightest tools, so it's no surprise it never occurred to the numb nuts that leaving her out in a cage would be detrimental, but they don't care.

As someone commented Marcia should have never have been in prison, since prostitution should not be a crime. Not only was she inside for a non crime, the poor woman was mentally ill and addicts, all apparently are crimes in the eyes of the law.

I think people should not only remember Marcia, but the hundreds of thousands of people just like her, forgotten and on their own in the justice system. No family, no friends nobody to fight their battles, no visits nobody to claim their bodies from the morgue.

Even worse no support when they are released, only to return over and over again.