Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Lumley Vampire

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A few days ago I wrote a post about the people of Hardin, Montana, who own a brand new prison, a state-of-the-art prison that has never held a convict. The community passed a $20 million bond issue to build the facility with what they felt was a tacit agreement from the state of Montana that if the prison was built, the state would use it. The intent was to spur local job growth (at least 100 new jobs) and ignite the local economy. It should have worked because incarceration is a huge business in America. But when the prison was completed, the convicts never came. The town's citizens began to lobby to have the prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, brought to the prison at Hardin, but the Montana Congressional delegation quickly scuttled that plan declaring that captured al-Qaeda terrorists would never be brought to Big Sky country.

In the piece I suggested that private prisons, while not ideal, seemed to work well in Arizona, so perhaps Montana should lighten up on the entrepreneurs of Hardin. That was a dumb statement, and I knew that as I typed it. Anytime government turns some public function over to a private company (like the evil Blackwater running the war in Iraq), the pooch inevitably gets screwed.

The next morning Anonymous had replied to the post with a stinging rebuke:

Private prisons aren't "working" in Arizona or anywhere else unless you count frequent escapes and murders as "working." They have all sorts of problems. In Eloy's CCA-owned La Palma, there's hardly a day goes by without an assault on staff.

Hardin Montana has a vastly overpriced minimum security facility that should never have been built. Texas hucksters made off with millions in investor money.

Anonymous appears to be somebody who works with the Arizona Department of Corrections and has intimate knowledge of what is happening in the prison system. (Eloy is a community outside of Phoenix that is home to a giant private prison. CCA is Corrections Corporation of America, a monster company that owns numerous private prisons.)

Having been righteously chastised, I determined to expend some effort in learning more about the penal system of Arizona. And although I haven't found much regarding escapes, there is enough in the press to strongly indicate that the prisons in Arizona are festering pits of abuse, abuse directed at prisoners as well as staff.

An example of prisoner abuse occurred this past week at the Perryville Women's Prison in Goodyear, AZ. Arizona is bitchin' hot in the summer - and two-thirds of the days this month have been over 100 degrees. Last Wednesday, 48-year-old Marcia Powell, who was serving a 27-month sentence for the victimless crime of prostitution, was placed in an outdoor holding cell and essentially forgotten. When guards got around to checking on her four hours later, she was unconscious from the heat. Ten or so hours after that when it became apparent that she was in a vegetative state and would not survive, Department of Corrections Director, Charles Ryan, ordered Ms. Powell removed from life support.

It was over 100 degrees last Wednesday. Outdoor holding cells at Perryville have no water or shade, and prison policy calls for prisoner's to be held in those cells no longer than two hours. Changes are being made to ensure that this tragedy is not repeated, but Marcia Powell is still dead.

The abuse of staff appears to also be quite too common in Arizona prisons. Private prisons are notorious for low pay and under-staffing. It was under-staffing that led to the death of of Correctional Officer Brent Lumley at the Perryville facility in 1997. Lumley was overpowered by prisoners and killed as he struggled to open the door to a control room.

Officer Lumley was memorialized by his co-workers in a most unique manner. Shortly after his death, a newsletter entitled The Lumley Vampire began circulating among prison staff and showing up on the windshields of employees. (The name "Vampire" comes from the fact that it originated with the prison's graveyard shift.) Prison officials, not being overtly enamored of the First Amendment, quickly got the ink-on-paper effort shut down - but the Vampire went underground and surfaced in cyberspace where it flourishes to this day.

The Lumley Vampire is the source for hard news on what is occurring in the prisons of Arizona as well as those nationwide. The site may be accessed at:

Officer Brent Lumley was killed because there was not sufficient staff on duty to come to his defense. Under-staffing puts money in the pockets of the prison owners, and so does low pay for employees and deliberate over-crowding of prisoners. Capitalism works fine some places, but prisons run for profit are scary propositions.

It's past time for the states to take back their responsibility to society and to prisoners. Prisons should be run by people who can be held accountable to the voters. Wars should, too.


Anonymous said...

Apology accepted, "Pa Rock." It takes a courageous man to admit he might have been wrong.

The Hardin prison bonds were for $27 million, and less than $20 million was spent for overpriced construction. But millions disappeared before a brick was laid.

I don't work for the AZ Department of Corrections, though I was in Eloy for hours on Saturday. The for-profits have nearly 10,000 prisoners in that tiny town, imported from Alaska, California, Washington and Hawai'i. Others are from ICE and from Arizona itself.

The death of Powell was indeed tragic. She was left in a cage when the temperature was 100. There was no shade nor water in the cage.

Ryan indeed pulled the plug shortly after Powell arrived at the hospital. He did so without bothering to notify the next of kin so as to save money for the costs of her care.

He is doing a horrendous job of running the DOC after his predecessor did a very good job. She is now a special assistant at Homeland Security.

Ryan comes directly from the for-profit prison industry, installed by Arizona's new governor with the departure of Janet Napolitano for Homeland Security. Ryan was one of the three civilians most responsible for the horrors of Abu Ghraib.He wants to turn three state prisons, including the death row, over to his buddies in the for-profit industry and the heavily Republican legislature seems determined to allow him to do it.

This corrupt industry has bribed its way to positions of influence and power, just as did Halliburton and Blackwater as Pa correctly inferred in his comments.

The same bunch of scam artists that saddled the hoosiers and rubes in Hardin with their worthless pen (techically owned by the investors, with the bonds 13 months in default) are trying to dump a larger one in the northeast corner of the San Javier District of the Tohono O'odham reservation southwest of Tucson. I was there on Wednesday. After residents on the other side of the reservation's district erupted in protest and threatened to picket a casino last week, the district moved the proposed prison site away from Rancho Sahuarito to a new site. Nearby residents have again been kept in the dark as to the district director's plans.

Also this past week, CCA, the largest for-profit operator, settled a negligent death suit for a large six figurs.

Anonymous said...

Oops. I should have written that the new site for the CEC/CiviGenics pen is in the northwest corner of the rez.

Ahma Daeus said...

The NPSCTAPP philosophy has always been “justice” should not be for sale at any price. It is our belief that the inherent and most fundamental responsibility of the criminal justice system should not be shirked, or “jobbed-out.” This is not the same as privatizing the post office or some trash pick up service in the community. There has to be a loss of meaning and purpose when an inmate looks at a guard’s uniform and instead of seeing an emblem that reads State Department of Corrections or Federal Bureau of Prisons, he sees one that says: “Atlas Prison Corporation.”

Let’s assume that the real danger of privatization is not some innate inhumanity on the part of its practitioners but rather the added financial incentives that reward inhumanity. The same logic that motivates companies to operate prisons more efficiently also encourages them to cut corners at the expense of workers, prisoners and the public. Every penny they do not spend on food, medical care or training for guards is a dime they can pocket. What happens when the pennies pocketed are not enough for the shareholders? Who will bailout the private prison industry when they hold the government and the American people hostage with the threat of financial failure…“bankruptcy?” What was unimaginable a month ago merits serious consideration today. State and Federal prison programs originate from government design, and therefore, need to be maintained by the government. It’s time to restore the principles and the vacated promise of our judicial system.

John F. Kennedy said, “The time to repair the roof is while the sun is shinning”. Well the sun may not be shinning but, it’s not a bad time to begin repair on a dangerous roof that is certain to fall…. because, “Incarcerating people for profit is, in a word WRONG”

There is an urgent need for the good people of this country to emerge from the shadows of cynicism, indifference, apathy and those other dark places that we migrate to when we are overwhelmed by frustration and the loss of hope.

The SINGLE VOICE PETITION and the effort to abolish private “for profit” prisons is the sole intent of NPSCTAPP. Our project does not contain any additional agendas. We have no solutions or suggestions regarding prison reform. However, we are unyielding in our belief that the answers to the many problems which currently plague this nation’s criminal justice system and its penal system in particular, cannot and will not be found within or assisted by the private “for profit” prison business. The private “for profit” prison business has a stranglehold on our criminal justice system. Its vice-like grip continues to choke the possibility of justice, fairness, and responsibility from both state and federal systems.
These new slave plantations are not the answer!

For more information please visit:
To sign the petition please visit:


Read LumleyVamp and Jennifer Waite's site for inside AZ prison info said...

I work within AZ state prisons....The state does a poor enough job handling their responsibilities, I don't kow that I trust a for-profit corporation to do any better. While thinking of other contracted correctional services, I forsee undertrained, underqualified people being allowed prolonged inmate contact. This is an unsafe situation for inmates, staff and the public at large.
We need massive overhaul in all arenas of AZ corrections. The public just seems to have no idea what's really going on. The Lumley Vampire online is a great source of info of course...also check out Jennifer Waite's site, she's a contributor for used to work at ASPC-Tucson and frequently writes news briefs on prison news in AZ....she gets info that DOC doesn't want out there, and she puts it out anyway.

This is a piece Waite wrote on problems facing the Wilmot prison in Tucson after several escape attempts.

This was one of the escapes Waite covered that resulted in the above:

Most of what goes on inside, the public can only imagine.

sweber7868 said...

I was incarcerated in the Perryville Woman's Prison on the Santa Cruz unit for 2.5 years. Because of overcrowding ,they put beds in laundry rooms, classrooms, side rooms & 2 condemned kitchens! I was one of many minimum custody inmate's that were housed with
high mediums' (murder's, rapist's, Child molesters) because they had no where else to put them. In AZ the summers reach 115 - 118+ degrees and the only source of cooling is swamp coolers. During the summer monsoons, the power goes out and we are locked in our rooms with no air, no windows for hours! My whole pod (48 of us) did not have working toilets so we had to use an outhouse (after we finally banged on the doors loud enough for the CO's to pay attention and unlock our doors. My first Bunky was 4 mo's pregnant with twins and she started to cramp, finally they took her to the hospital where she lost one, 6 hrs later she was back in in our room. The same night she started cramping again and was told to lay down it "was normal" she started to bleed and after 3 hrs of banging for help the come in just as she caught her second baby in the toilet. All that I could do was wrap her up in a towel and hold onto her until medical took my screaming/sobbing bunky and her still-born daughter out of our room, she was back by morning. I'm home now but those 2.5 years will take a liftime of therapy to make the nightmares go away. I wish that I could be a voice for the ones who will never leave there....