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Inmate died after being left in sun - jail staff sacked

Sixteen prison employees were fired, suspended or otherwise disciplined for their roles in the death of an inmate left in an outdoor holding cell for four hours in searing heat and for a "wait-them-out" practice at the US prison where she died.

Three of those disciplined were fired, two stepped down in place of being fired, 10 received suspensions ranging from 40 to 80 hours, and one was demoted.

Two others will be disciplined after they return from medical leave.

Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan announced the moves, calling the death the "most significant example of abuse" of an inmate that he's aware of within the department.

Marcia Powell, who was serving a 27-month sentence for prostitution, died from heat-related complications hours after she collapsed on May 19 in an uncovered outdoor cell at the Perryville prison in the west Phoenix suburb of Goodyear.

She had been in the cell for nearly four hours, despite a policy that set a two-hour limit.

Powell, 48, was being held in the outdoor cell while being transferred from one section of the prison to an observation ward after seeing a psychologist.

A post-mortem report showed she had first- and second-degree burns on her face and body and a core body temperature of 108 degrees Fahrenheit (42 Celsius).

"That is an absolute failure," Mr Ryan said. "The inmate should not have been left in the enclosure that length of time."

The post-mortem also found that Powell's death was an accident and that she had anti-psychotic drugs in her system. Such drugs are known to make people more susceptible to heat-related illnesses.

Mr Ryan declined to provide the names of the corrections employees who were disciplined, saying it would be inappropriate considering they have the right to appeal their punishments. Those disciplined included a deputy warden, a prison psychologist, a chief of security and various officers.

During the administrative investigation of Powell's death, Mr Ryan said investigators with the Office of the Inspector General uncovered a so-called "wait-them-out" practice at the Perryville prison that went on for about a year.

Inmates were placed in outdoor and indoor holdings cells for hours at a time as an alternative to using force, he said.

Belfast Telegraph


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