Comply & Release is Puente’s campaign to end medical neglect in Arizona’s prisons, jails, and detention centers. The Arizona Department of Corrections has a long record of medical negligence and medical abuse of people who are incarcerated. Puente’s Comply & Release campaign is working to bring these ongoing human rights abuses to the public eye, reminding the people of Arizona that our loved ones who are detained are human and are deserving of their human rights and dignity. We are fighting ADOCRR’s medical negligence and abuse on the local, state, and national stage, and demanding that ADOCRR comply with their duties to care for people who are incarcerated, and release our loved ones en masse.
With over a billion dollars allocated to ADOCRR, we ask public officials, where is the money going? Our loved ones trapped inside Arizona’s cages are held in subhuman conditions while you profit from their suffering. We demand transparency, compliance with health and human rights regulations, and the release of our loved ones!
Arizona’s Incarceration Obsession & History of Medical Neglect
The state of Arizona has an obsession with incarcerating and caging its people instead of providing social care, medical assistance, and rehabilitating our loved ones who are in need. Currently there are over 37,000 people incarcerated in Arizona’s public and private prisons with a total of over 62,000 people incarcerated in Arizona’s jails, prisons, and detention centers; our state now has the 4th highest incarceration rate in the nation.
Arizona jails, prisons, and detention centers have a dark history of medical neglect, unknown causes of death, and human rights abuses. The ADOCRR’s current budget is set at $1.2 billion with no oversight from the public or transparency on how this money is spent; but we know that it isn’t being used to secure adequate healthcare or humane conditions of confinement. For more than five decades, the ADOCRR has operated under a culture of intense neglect, constant litigation over inadequate health care, and irregularities in spending that have resulted in the loss of multiple lives each year.
In 2015, a federal lawsuit known as Parsons v. Ryan reached a settlement requiring ADOCRR to meet the most basic standards of care, such as providing medical care to people with a history of chronic conditions, limiting the use of force and pepper spray against incarcerated people, and limiting the use of solitary confinement for people experiencing mental health conditions. However, as of 2018 ADOCRR has been held in contempt of court due to the department’s failure to comply with the Parsons settlement.
Arizona’s Failure in the Face of COVID
Puente’s COVID-19 hotline received over 400 calls during the first 8 months of the pandemic from incarcerated people and their families who shared information about the horrific conditions of confinement. Many callers shared that they had no access to running water, soap, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, nor Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). We received reports of prison officials moving people who tested positive for COVID-19 into shared cells without providing medical treatment, while some prisons created entire units to segregate all populations who tested positive for the virus together.
We witnessed the COVID rates continue to rise inside these cages: as of January 25, 2021, 30 people have died in ADOCRR care and 9,108 people have been tested positive with COVID-19, while state and county responses ignore their needs. Out of the tested population, over 20% have tested positive. The numbers are staggering. Many people who are trapped in Arizona’s cages are fearful of seeking medical attention out of fear of retaliation from officers, or out of fear of being sent into solitary confinement for extended periods without treatment.
Who is Trapped in Arizona’s COVID Hotspots?
People of color are the primary victims of Arizona’s obsession with incarceration, and due to Arizona’s sentencing policies, our people are held for longer and for lesser offenses than in other states. Arizona has the highest rate of incarcerated Latinos out of every state in the country. Those struggling with mental health are also targeted; over half of the incarcerated population in Arizona were found to have mental health needs, while 91% of incarcerated individuals had demonstrated a need for substance abuse education and/or treatment.
Corrupt Arizona officials choose to make profit off of caging people who are first-time and non-violent offenders. In fact, 80% of prison admissions in Arizona are for non-violent offenses, while nearly 50% of admissions are drug or alcohol-related. Arizona’s sentencing enhancement laws are some of the harshest in the country; drug possession and minor property offenses are classified as felonies rather than misdemeanors. Arizona law also allows a “repetitive offender” enhancement known as “stacking charges” where courts may lengthen prison sentences for people with multiple or prior felony offenses. Stacking charges most often occurs against people convicted of nonviolent offenses; the use of this notorious practice has been growing since 2000.
We know too well that the abuses that occur inside Arizona’s jails, prisons, and detention centers do not end when someone finishes their sentence -- once you finish your sentence, your sentence isn’t finished with you. In addition to endless hurdles for formerly incarcerated people in terms of finding employment, housing, and getting their civil rights restored, incarceration has shown to have long term negative health impacts on people due to conditions of confinement that create chronic and acute stress and exposure to infectious disease, among other issues.
What Rights do People Have?
According to international human rights law, the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners includes clean, sanitary conditions of confinement, access to timely and adequate medical care, and access to clean water and nutritious food. These Standard Minimum Rules make it clear that the provision of healthcare is a state responsibility; once a person is charged and imprisoned, they become a ward of the state/facility, which has a duty of care to uphold. Find a few of the standards as related to medical services set by the United Nations below, or view the full standards here.
Despite 9 months of tireless campaigning for Governor Ducey, ADOCRR Director Shinn, former ICE Field Director Jesse Williams, and Sheriff Penzone to #FreeThemAll, demanding that our loved ones in cages are provided with proper care and treated humanely, those in power refuse to take meaningful action. Our Arizona officials failed to comply with meeting the basic human rights of our loved ones who are trapped inside! That’s why we’re taking the fight to the federal level now, calling on the Biden administration to help our people by investigating ADOCRR’s abuse and ensuring the following demands are met:
- Ensure ADOCRR’s full compliance with CDC guidelines in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Parsons settlement agreements for care, and the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.
- Release all prisoners and immigrant detainees who have been harmed, abused, or suffered neglect in the hands of ADOCRR, ICE, and local jail facilities.
- Release all prisoners who are awaiting trial, who are held due to unpaid fines/fees, those who are imprisoned on drug possession and minor property crimes, and those who are due for release in the next 24 months.
- Release all prisoners who have preexisting conditions that put them at greater risk of death from COVID-19.
- End the use of solitary confinement as a method to quarantine COVID-positive people.
- Ensure all COVID-positive people have access to safe, adequate medical care by healthcare professionals, and that people with serious cases are transferred to outside hospitals.
- Ensure that ADOCRR provides three meals daily of healthy, nutritious, fresh fruit and vegetables to people in all jails, prisons, and detention centers.
- Provide humane, adequate, and hygienic medical care to all people who are incarcerated.
- Open a thorough federal investigation on conditions of confinement and oversight in ADOCRR & ICE detention centers, centering the experiences of people who have been impacted by ADOCRR and ICE abuses.
- End all ICE detention contracts with private prisons and detention centers that have a history of abuse, medical neglect, and poor standards.
- Fire ADOCRR Director David Shinn for his ongoing negligence and failure to act to protect people in cages in the face of COVID-19.
- Investigate Governor Doug Ducey and his investments collaboration and partnerships with prison investors & companies.
- Demand transparency in budget spending for state and private prisons.