Does every crime warrant the death penalty? If so, you have no problem with the
way inmates are treated in Arizona's prisons.
If not, then there is terrible, unacceptable truth to the lawsuit filed this
week by the American Civil Liberties Union claiming that Arizona's prisons
systematically violate inmates' protection from "cruel and unusual" punishment
under the Eighth Amendment.
The day the lawsuit was filed, I wrote about it for azcentral.com. I didn't
expect public reaction to be all that positive. It wasn't. Not based on some of
the responses I received from readers.
Daniel Pochoda, legal director of the ACLU of Arizona told me, "If someone in
prison loses a leg because of symptoms that were ignored, as has happened, or
someone goes blind, or other things that leave them incapacitated, for the most
part, these individuals will get out of prison.
"And because of their inability to work, they will wind up on the public dole,
and we will pay for them in the long term. But that isn't the most important
part. The most important part is doing what is right. Allowing people to die so
horribly, that can't be OK."
Or can it?
Here are a few examples cited in the lawsuit, followed by examples of responses
I received from readers.
Lawsuit: "For two years, Mr. (Ferdinand) Dix ... exhibited many symptoms
consistent with lung cancer, including a chronic cough and persistent shortness
of breath, and he tested positive for tuberculosis. Due to the metastasized
cancer, Mr. Dix's liver was infested with tumors and grossly enlarged to four
times normal size, pressing on other internal organs and impeding his ability
to eat, but no medical staff even performed a simple palpation of his abdomen.
Instead, medical staff told him to drink energy shakes. When Mr. Dix was
finally taken to an outside hospital in a non-responsive state in February
2011, his abdomen was distended to the size of that of a full-term pregnant
woman. ... Mr. Dix died from the untreated cancer a few days after ADC (Arizona
Department of Corrections) finally sent him to the hospital."
Reader: "I didn't realize prison was supposed to be a 5-star resort."
Lawsuit: "In July 2010 ... Tony Lester, (an inmate) who had paranoid
schizophrenia, multiple- personality disorder and auditory hallucinations, had
been taken off suicide watch, taken off his medications and housed in the
general population, where he was given a hygiene kit that included a razor. He
used the razor blade to slit his throat, groin and wrists, and he wrote the
word "voices" in his blood on an envelope. An ADC internal investigation found
that the four responding officers stood by and did not administer any basic
Reader: "I'm sorry, take care of our veterans first, criminals are just that,
Lawsuit: "In another example, in May 2011, a prisoner who was 4-months pregnant
began experiencing painful contractions and spotting blood and went to
Perryville's medical unit. The staff person on duty told her it was nothing
serious, that her problems were 'all in your head.' ... She was sent back to
her living unit, and she continued to experience great pain and cramping for an
hour and a half until she miscarried."
Reader: "If I got cancer right, now I would die, too, as I have no way to pay
for any treatment. Is that fair? I work every single day, pay my bills ... but
because we have to spend millions on anchor babies and prisoners' care, there
is nothing left for anyone else."
The sister of Ferdinand Dix told me that her brother, who died of untreated
cancer, had been sentenced to 5 or 6 years in prison for drug-related offenses.
"Yes, my brother battled with addiction and was incarcerated for it," she said.
"But he was also my mother's son, my brother and a friend when you needed one.
Above all else, however, he was a human being who did not deserve to suffer as
he had been suffering while an inmate."
Unless every crime warrants a death sentence.
(source: E.J. Montini, Columnist, Arizona Republic)