Arizona prison system sees high number of deaths

by Bob Ortega
The Republic |

Florence state prison Nick Oza/The Arizona RepublicA correctional officer speaks to an inmate at a state prison in Florence.

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.

slideshow Arizona prison inmate deaths

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.


• Critics: ‘Maximum security’ a factor in suicide rate

• DOC fails to list causes of deaths



2 thoughts on “Arizona prison system sees high number of deaths

  1. Hi Bonne- will add your blog to my blogroll…..I use all the social media tools- such as facebook & twitter…it helps to reach a large audience…this work is grueling and unforgiving with very little progress or satisfaction!! But educate we must- the truth must be told!! Im glad we have connected!!


  2. I hope we can educate the public about the plight of prisoners as you do. It will take more of us in the fight for a more humane and just system. I am the mother of a son who spent over 27 years in several prisons. Through him I have decided to make his work for reform my mission.


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