Jail Conditions

As a juvenile in an adult jail, Jessie is in almost complete isolation. She only has one hour a day of phone access, which is frequently cut short by badly scheduled “inspections” of the ward. Push back by contacting the MCSO to demand that Jessica Burlew be taken out of isolation and given access to phones and video visitation.

The Maricopa County Jails have a well-documented history of human rights violations. Sheriff Joe Arpaio is currently under court order to improve the treatment of inmates after a finding by the courts of extreme abuse and neglect. Read about that case here. An excerpt from that ACLU statement:

“More than five years after a federal judge put the Maricopa County jails operated by Sheriff Joe Arpaio under court order for neglect and abuse of detainees, that same judge, Neil Wake, has ruled that the jails remain under the order. Judge Wake found that the jails continue to provide detainees with unconstitutional and dangerously deficient medical and mental health care, neglecting serious medical conditions and mental illnesses. The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Arizona – which have represented the detainees for close to 20 years – showed during a trial that concluded in March that the scarcity and poor quality of the jails’ medical and mental health care caused extreme suffering and death.”

The Arizona ACLU has been working on documenting the conditions of Jessie’s confinement so that they can push for better treatment. Darrell Hill, an ACLU staff attorney who has visited Jessie Burlew several times, released the following statement:

“The conditions of Jessica’s confinement are deplorable for any juvenile, but they are particularly horrible in Jessica’s case because of her extensive history of mental illness. No juvenile pre-trial detainee should be confined to a cell for up to 23 hours a day, denied proper medical and mental health care, or be subjected to contact with convicted adults. Maricopa County must provide better care to juveniles in their custody.”

Contact the Maricopa County Jail to complain about Jessie’s treatment.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio: (602)876-1801

Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan: J_Sheridan@MCSO.Maricopa.gov

Mary Ellen Sheppard, Asst Maricopa County Manager: Sheppardm@mail.maricopa.gov

The national ACLU has also been working to end the solitary confinement of juveniles. Sign their petition here to bring this issue to the attention of the Department of Justice.


The Department of Justice recently investigated a detention center in Maryland, and found that it was illegally holding juveniles for too long in solitary confinement. The longest case they found was a juvenile held in solitary for 143 days. Jessie Burlew has been in solitary confinement for over 400 days. An excerpt from

“This is grossly excessive and violates basic principles of Due Process,” the Justice Department report read. “It is even more troubling for the 24 percent of juveniles in seclusion who are ultimately found not guilty under the disciplinary process.”

Read about the Department of Justice investigation in Maryland here. An excerpt from that news story:

“Solitary confinement — particularly when an inmate is subjected to it for more than a few days — is known to be psychologically damaging, and it is especially problematic to subject teens to this kind of punishment because their brains are still developing. A 2012 report released jointly by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, which interviewed youths subjected to the punishment, found it could be extremely damaging to their mental health and development. One former prisoner said, “It’s like mind torture.” Other former detainees described hair and weight loss, stunted growth, and halted menstruation. The report also found that the decisions behind when and for how long to house inmates in solitary confinement were widely at the discretion of the facility staff. Sometimes staff would place LGBT inmates in solitary confinement to “protect” them from the risk of sexual assault.”


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