June 2, 2012 Source : http://tucsoncitizen.com
Arizona’s prison system has two death rows.
One is made up of the 126 inmates officially sentenced to death — 123 men at the Eyman state prison in Florence and three women at Perryville. Seven convicted killers from that group have been executed over the last two years.
The other death row, the unofficial one, reaches into every prison in Arizona’s sprawling correctional system. No judge or jury condemned anyone in this group to death. They die as victims of prison violence, neglect and mistreatment.
Over the past two years, this death row has claimed the lives of at least 37 inmates, more than five times the number executed from the official death row. Among them are mentally ill prisoners locked in solitary confinement who committed suicide, inmates who overdosed on drugs smuggled into prison, those with untreated medical conditions and inmates murdered by other inmates.
Unlike state executions, these deaths rarely draw much notice. Each receives a terse announcement by the Department of Corrections and then is largely forgotten.
But correctional officers and other staff who work with inmates say many of these deaths are needless and preventable.
Arizona will spend $1.1 billion this year to lock up its 40,000 prisoners.
But there is another cost, one measured not in dollars but in human lives.
Over four days, an Arizona Republic investigation will reveal a prison system that houses inmates under brutal conditions that can foster self-harm, allows deadly drugs to flow in from the outside, leaves inmates to die from treatable medical conditions and fails to protect inmates from prison predators.
Today, The Republic focuses on suicides in the prison system, where there have been at least 19 in the past two years. Arizona’s official prison-suicide rate during that period was 60 percent higher than the national average. But suicides in prison are likely underreported, according to critics.
More than half of the suicides involved inmates in solitary confinement, including some with serious mental illnesses.