Wasted Honor -

Carl R. ToersBijns is the author of the Wasted Honor Trilogy [Wasted Honor I,II and Gorilla Justice] and his newest book From the Womb to the Tomb, the Tony Lester Story, which is a reflection of his life and his experiences as a correctional officer and a correctional administrator retiring with the rank of deputy warden in the New Mexico and Arizona correctional systems.

Carl also wrote a book on his combat experience in the Kindle book titled - Combat Medic - Men with destiny - A red cross of Valor -

Carl is considered by many a rogue expert in the field of prison security systems since leaving the profession. Carl has been involved in the design of many pilot programs related to mental health treatment, security threat groups, suicide prevention, and maximum custody operational plans including double bunking max inmates and enhancing security for staff. He invites you to read his books so you can understand and grasp the cultural and political implications and influences of these prisons. He deals with the emotions, the stress and anxiety as well as the realities faced working inside a prison. He deals with the occupational risks while elaborating on the psychological impact of both prison worker and prisoner.

His most recent book, Gorilla Justice, is an un-edited raw fictional version of realistic prison experiences and events through the eyes of an anecdotal translation of the inmate’s plight and suffering while enduring the harsh and toxic prison environment including solitary confinement.

Carl has been interviewed by numerous news stations and newspapers in Phoenix regarding the escape from the Kingman prison and other high profile media cases related to wrongful deaths and suicides inside prisons. His insights have been solicited by the ACLU, Amnesty International, and various other legal firms representing solitary confinement cases in California and Arizona. He is currently working on the STG Step Down program at Pelican Bay and has offered his own experience insights with the Center of Constitutional Rights lawyers and interns to establish a core program at the SHU units. He has personally corresponded and written with SHU prisoners to assess the living conditions and how it impacts their long term placement inside these type of units that are similar to those in Arizona Florence Eyman special management unit where Carl was a unit deputy warden for almost two years before his promotion to Deputy Warden of Operations in Safford and Eyman.

He is a strong advocate for the mentally ill and is a board member of David's Hope Inc. a non-profit advocacy group in Phoenix and also serves as a senior advisor for Law Enforcement Officers Advocates Council in Chino, California As a subject matter expert and corrections consultant, Carl has provided interviews and spoken on national and international radio talk shows e.g. BBC CBC Lou Show & TV shows as well as the Associated Press.

I use sarcasm, satire, parodies and other means to make you think!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

High Profile Child Molesters like Jerry Sandusky have special needs

Jerry Sandusky, Guilty Guilty Guilty - Chomo

How to reveal Prison Abuse hints and suggestions

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

An oath taken by a doctor in solitary confinement

A Doctor’s Challenge – the Hippocratic Oath in Solitary Confinement

It has been said by many that the medical field is an honorable profession that has high standards as well as high expectations. There are many ethical values within the trade and those most common are: the patient has the right to refuse or choose their treatment – a practitioner should act in the best interest of the patient – “first do no harm”  - concerns the distribution of scarce health resources, and the decision who get what treatment (fairness and equality) – the patient and the person treating the patient have the right to be treated with dignity – the concept of informed consent has increased -

Doctors who work in public owned prisons face an ethical difficulty every day. Their biggest challenge is working in a dismal environment that seeks loyalty to employers rather than the patients. The prison rules are strict and cruel for those who break the code.

Confronted with daily challenges, doctors and nurses are increasingly stressed to look the other way and mistreat or delay treatment of prisoners housed in solitary confinement. This quandary is most complex and perplexing and not easy to correct without impacting ethic related situations related to the treatment of these prisoners that are isolated from general population and subject to obvious psychological and physical harm while housed there.

It is not easy to define torture yet when the mentally ill are housed here in these isolation cells, every minute they spent there is torture. The substandard living conditions and obvious barriers between patient and provider create deep chasms that are hard to fill despite individual efforts to bring the problems to the surface occasionally without serious harm or consequences. Professional attention is precious as time doesn’t allow much interactions and thorough examination for those housed in solitary confinement.

Solitary confinement has been deemed to be a combination of stress, anxiety, depression and hopelessness. Some claim no harm is done even during prolonged or long term placements but clinical evidence is pointing to a different direction as prisoners deal with constant psychological and physical torture to withstand these stressors and overcome or survive their existence within these darkened corridors and walls.

Many have been locked away for decades and have already submitted to the ever increasing pressure to remain human beings instead of becoming animals. Their mere existence within these isolation cell areas creates violence and more difficult conditions for staff to handle. This is most difficult for medical providers as their safety is never assured when treating one of these isolation prisoners no matter how heavily shackled they are when they arrive at the infirmary strapped tightly onto a steel gurney with straps for the legs, the hands and the head along with spit masks or other protective gear in place to avoid harm.

Strangely enough, such a trip outside of their cell is a luxury many will brag about as they are locked inside their cells 23 hours a day with perhaps 6 hours out for the week based on good behavior or staffing available.  Living inside these small cells for such duration alone can turn any man insane for wanting to claw out of their concrete box called a cell to be free to move around a little, smell fresh air for a quick breath and feel the sunshine on their face for just momentary satisfaction he is still alive.

The adverse living conditions inside solitary confinement are significant factors to recognize for doctors and psychologists assigned there for the purpose of treating the mentally ill and the behavioral disruptive prisoners. They are exposed psychotic episodes, suicides, and much too frequently self-harm gestures or serious unstable where prisoners decompensate because of this isolation creating crisis care almost 24 / 7 seven days a week. Since the option of sending them to a psychiatric hospital is rarely provided, they must move them to suicide watch cells where correctional staff is assigned to watch them and preserve life if possible. Needless to say, the odds of these prisoners getting better are almost nil to say the least.

Medical and mental health providers rarely have the ability to mitigate fully the impact or harm created by isolation. Mental healthcare is limited and only provided as a means to ensure compliance with psychotropic medication that are “watch and swallow” but time does not allow thorough inspections of the “swallow” thus many may “cheek” their meds and trade them for something else.

Exams are rare [ and usually done off-site] and based on critical status rather than preventive or routine. There are no in-cell programs thus the occasional visit by a nurse or doctor is welcomed with numerous complaints of pains, aches etc. just to get the attention of another human being that is standing close to them without the bars blocking their view or even brief contact as they take their vitals and temp to record the visit as being performed.

The use of isolation cells is not the question here. The use of segregation to confine the mentally ill is also not the main interest in this presentation. The main focus of this article is the lack of care provided due to strict physical plant limitations, the non-existence of sound facilities for both medical and mental health treatment services and the lack of adequate staffing to deal with this huge number of prisoners kept in isolation cell areas in many states.

Because of these limitations, many prisoners do not get the required care as needed and are often at risk for complications or infections due to the delay of treatment and the inability to treat them as often as necessary to meet mandated standards of care established for both medical and psychological professionals hired to do the job to take care of prisoners in solitary confinement. These contributors to more dysfunctional and disabled persons inside the isolation cell areas impact preventive care and intervention methods to adequately do their jobs.

Their jobs are difficult by any standard. They work with persons neglected and out of scope of normality thus acting bizarre, annoying or even potentially dangerous as they reach out for help in their own manner or fashion to be treated.

One must wonder if their oath applies when assigned within one of these isolation cell areas and if their ethics can be compromised because of limitations imposed by their employer and the associated budgeting and staffing associated with the delivery of proper care and meeting minimum medical standards of care as established by those who took the oath.

United States Senate hearing panel on Solitary Confinement

Monday, June 18, 2012

Prisons are changing - new needs must be identified quickly


Organizing for an emerging crisis inside Arizona prisons

Arizona prisons are becoming more complicated and more difficult to operate because of mismanagement styles creating numerous structural flaws, human resource barriers for growth and staff development, internal cultural biases, flawed personnel processes and broken down communication lines that has stretched the agency to a near breaking point in the near future.

Critics have been assailing the agency with publicized management flaws that will eventually strain the current administration and cause a unique conflict between truth and myths as well as friends and foe within the organization as tension builds and operations structures continue to fail those in leadership positions and who serve at will for the state’s governor.

This article is written to help guide the agency back to a logical and rational position of visionary thinking and strategic planning that is lacking today. For evidence, look at today’s dismal level of performance, excessive lawsuits and negative media exposure revealing the fundamental systematic failures occurring around the clock illustrating the difficulties of managing a sinking ship.

These cumulative degrees of complexity consists of overcrowding, heavy influx of mentally ill persons, delayed and extensive medical care burdens that includes an aging prison population with increased disabilities, an increase in gang violence and young violent offenders, a reduction in inmate jobs and dwindling budgets for physical plant upkeep of dilapidated buildings in dire need of remodeling, construction and waste water expansion plans.

Few believe the Arizona Department of Corrections is prepared to handle such a crisis and no emergency legislative plans have been implemented to ask for more funding to maintain a staffing level and operational standard designed to keep the public safe from incarcerated offenders throughout the state. Today, no one inside the agency does not believe in the need for changing the scale of operation and redesigning their scope of business orders in order to address these challenging issues as well as costs, adequately trained people and risks associated with the mixture of control and support for operating the prisons sound and according to established national correctional standards statewide.

However, since no one is working on a blueprint to preserve the agency’s effectiveness and operational level, there must be an influx of new or fresh ideas coming into the organization soon in order to find and retain productive and sound structures within as the populations become more diverse and more complex to handle on a daily basis.

This hesitation to address upcoming issues has delayed the deployment of skilled and knowledgeable people within the organization into those areas needing critical support for sustained performance expectations and management accountability.

The administration needs to rethink their boundaries and centralize activities that are similar to other systems nationwide. Shifting resources to handle upcoming problems will eliminate crisis intervention and allow sound growth of better practices through pre-planning and anticipating agency needs.

These new boundaries should include: adult prison and physical plant operations, medical and mental healthcare, contractual oversight with focus on creating teams that will work on content and delivery of the appropriate resources required to handle these challenges that lay ahead. Much emphasis should be the inclusion of local managers to allow climatic and cultural influences to be included in the resolution or problem-solving techniques. Multiple teams should be formed with permission to adapt any geographical needs identified through a legitimate assessment process.

A team should be designed to handle those services, and tasks of every different prison complex throughout the state and assign a team leader to handle each functional areas: operations, supply, legal, communications, human resource management, prison bed population management,  and allow these team members to identify and create a list of tasks to consolidate and refine current operations to support these new challenges coming up within a short period of time as the clock keeps ticking away at the inevitable crisis. In addition, these team leaders should focus on redundant or potentially redundant duplication of elements that can save money in the long run through efficient management of our fiscal resources.

These team leader assessments should create a new model that has evolved around anticipated needs and problems. Instead of having people in Central Office work on this task, you should take the work where the team leader is located and work from that location with the eventual integration of all team leaders coming together with their plans and models to resolve the crisis ahead. From these assessments there should be a globally integrated model that would evolve into a new structural way of thinking inside the agency.

Such a concept would re-design the current culture and formulate a new cultural transformation that accurately reflects on real needs and real resolutions with ownership to the change and a new way employees can adapt to the ways of working out a crisis as a team rather than a few individuals.

Team leaders should be provided with new ideas how to perform these assessments and parameters should:

  1. Don’t standardize more than is necessary. Allow geographical adaptations to occur to fit the needs of each complex. Identify areas problematic e.g. inmate risk assessment tools and job classification matrixes that include positions, wages, educational or vocational impacts etc.
  2. Fit the technology to the process, not vice versa – consider technology upgrades to meet the future needs of the agency in full circle fashion.
  3. Prefer standard principles to detailed rules, customs and practices already sanctioned and endorsed by national accreditation institutions.
  4. Listen to all the voices from all areas concerned – allow better team contributions, communication and processes to develop trust and confidence of those processes identified and recommended.
  5. Implement new processes from the top with adequate consultation prior to the change. Allow change to occur if it benefits the new process identified.

Central office should consider downsizing and develop new strategies shed traditional roles and provide local controls to those prison complexes throughout the state.

This leaves the upper echelon to focus on organizational values, strategy development, and managing the business in line with established values, expectations and performance standards.

Dangerous inmates assigned jobs in blind spots and remote work areas..

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Channel 5 News

A response to an opinion written in the Arizona Republic

Steve Twist's article printed in AZCentral

In reply to Mr. Steve Twist’s story on Arizona state prison systems, I am compelled to write to set the record straight from another viewpoint that differs very much with those of Mr. Twist. In order to do this, I will reveal  I have 25 years in corrections with the last 5 years with the Arizona Corrections agency as a deputy warden of operations. I left on good terms but was viewed critical by many because of my viewpoints that were not shared by peers and co-workers inside the prison system. That have said, I am readily identified as a critic of the agency and how it spends its money and how it operates it systems statewide. Being viewed as a “progressive” in this state can cause heartburn by many and conflict as well.

 Yes, Mr. Twist, Arizona prisons do make an easy target for the media but not just the Arizona Republic. There have been numerous critical reports delivered to the community by good investigative reporters who researched their stories for accuracy for they knew they would be challenged by the DOC for accuracy.

 The characterization made for the alleged “gross mischaracterization” of the “unofficial death row” that exists within the prisons statewide is accurate. There cannot be a debate about the deaths that have occurred since Director Ryan took over in the end of January 2009. To set the record straight do your homework and visit the agency’s web page at http://www.azcorrections.gov/Minh_news_gov.asp news releases and do the math. Reporters are reporting exactly what is being provided by the agency in a most non-transparent manner as many deaths are “pending investigation”, natural deaths, suicides and homicides, just as it was reported by all media reporters especially Mr. Bob Ortega, who requested hundreds of freedom information documents to solidify and document his data accurately.

 Truth and sentencing rules of engagement were dominated by political influences of ALEC, PRIDE and many other groups who promised financial support for those who supported their views on his to be tough on crime. This is hardly an admirable position to take for what is suppose to be a task driven for justice and equality for all under our constitutional demands.

You boldly speak of “Maximum-security inmates, those who have committed brutally violent crimes, and those who have demonstrated predatory, unruly and violent behavior by being a danger to other inmates and staff, generally make up the population housed in high-security settings” and say this without one solid contribution to personally observing these conditions or walking the tiers as many of us have for at least 16 hours a day, five days a week.

 You speak of them not being in “dark isolation, deprived of human contact or anything comparable to solitary confinement.” I challenge your knowledge and ask you how re arrived at this conclusion without setting one step inside one of these facilities for no less than 8 hours.

 Again, as a former deputy warden of one of the highest and most restricted security units in the state, Eyman SMU II, Florence Arizona, I never remember you walking the corridors and making this evaluation or observation first hand thus I must assume you either took a 20 minute “dog and pony” tour that was offered to all politicians and attorneys from the AG’s office or you were told this by someone who didn’t work their either.

 Regardless, you information is totally misinformed as I can validate these conditions through spending my time walking, talking and interacting with both staff and inmates inside these dark corridors where direct sunlight only hits them in the outdoor recreation box if the sun is up at high noon.

 In your letter you wrote “Nevertheless, these dangerous inmates are appropriately housed for the safety of the public, themselves, and other inmates and staff” which is a statement we can agree on for sure.

Your perspective in your “discussion of the rate of inmate deaths in the Arizona prison system” is either outdated or unreal. Although you mention valid reasons for death, you purposely omit the long delays of constitutionally mandated healthcare standards that accelerate or impact the risks of recovery and while we are talking about drug overdose, suicide and homicides, these events are never clearly explained or revealed as most investigations are shoddy, incomplete and designed to close the matter as “pending further investigations” with no real follow up to reveal the actual cause of death. You cite traditional and known factors as contributors to death just so you can marginalize these deaths as human beings not provided the proper custodial care and protection under law.

Your reflection of your “housing environment” is positive but lacks the details that might reveal to you problems contributing to the overall efficiency of these housing units especially in a hot state such as Arizona.  The prisons are aging and maintenance or rather preventive maintenance has been severely impacted by budget cuts and personnel cuts that once were available to take care of these physical plants and repair as needed to keep all HVAC systems in compliance and other maintenance tasks timely.

These “variety of housing environments: dormitories, double-person cells, detention areas where inmates are temporarily segregated, and maximum-security single-person cells that are exclusively for problematic, dangerous inmates -- the worst of the worst” is an untrue statement.

They are not the “worst of the worst” as I estimate at least 26 % are mentally ill; 50 % are protective segregation or death row and the rest are gang validated and behavioral problems that need to be kept out of general population because of their supervisory needs.

 For those gang and violent offenders, the state needs to review their policies and see how they can reduce their custody levels through step down programs that will allow them to return back to general population at one time or another instead of indefinitely.

There are too many mentally ill prisoners housed there who don’t belong in max custody but rather a treatment center for stabilization, recovery programming, medication compliance and crisis intervention. Mixing them with non-mentally ill prisoners impacts and upsets these “housing environments” severely and creates more uses of force, more medical injuries, more self-inflicted wounds and more staff getting hurt because of triggers inside there that is best described as chaotic and loud once the others join the rants and anger of those kept there for reasons that warrant another review by both clinical personnel and medical personnel who are violating their ethical oaths and licenses for not treating these prisoners kept there in max custody.

You state “But in all cases, an inmate is able to interact with others. This includes the worst inmates, whose cells are in areas where they can speak with others in cells around them” thus you marginalize their housing conditions as acceptable and humane yet you have no idea what goes on inside these cell areas that turn into “bedlam” or craziness on a moments notice that impacts the sanity and insanity of everyone housed there as the need to use chemical agents is often not reserved for the one individual acting out but the entire pod will be exposed because of the ventilation systems that are joined and linked to each other through their venting systems. It is obvious you have never engaged in making housing assignments for as you had, you would know there is a systematic manner of making housing assignments inside prisons that carries with it many factors too long to mention.

The fact is that I am a critic of the agency. I am a critic in the manner they dispose of human beings in a cultural demeanor that dictates “deliberate indifference” to their civil rights and standards of care as well as custodial responsibilities.  I am a critic in hope of finding change in the manner we do business in Arizona prisons.

Many of these prisoners, both the mentally ill and the others will return back to our neighborhoods without treatment, programming and successful release planning. Their chances of staying out of prison are reduced by the lack of understanding and comprehension of how prisoners do time in Arizona as you have so superbly demonstrated by your letter indicating you are endorsing the manner it is being run and that civil rights and human rights don’t matter as long as you are incarcerated in the state of Arizona.

For the record, we have a prison system that provides “food and shelter, education, work programs, alcohol- and drug-addiction programs, and medical- and mental-health care that meet community standards” and that is most certainly truth to that extent.

However, Bob Ortega wasn’t writing about the open yards where these amenities are so closely monitored and delivered and in compliance to a large degree. He was talking about the max custody units where a fair proportion of Arizona prisoners are now housed under current policies to fill max custody beds so they can justify asking the legislature for more max custody beds. Beds that are the most expensive type to keep and filled but that doesn’t matter to those who pay taxes as they are willing to shell out $ 1.1 billion dollars for a system that has so many problems, they are “money pits” and wasting valuable funds that could be redirected to educational and other social needs for this state instead of prisons.

The only way you can save money on prisons is to reduce the population (what a concept) and find alternative sentencing and give the discretion back to judges to apply justified prison sentences for all persons equally under the law.