PO BOX 20494


Established: July 18, 2009
Editor: Peggy Plews

This site is to monitor conditions in Arizona's criminal justice system, as well as offer some critical analysis of the prison industrial complex from a prison abolitionist/anarchist's perspective. If you're unfamiliar with prison abolition, check out Critical Resistance. I'm a freelance writer and human rights activist, and have no legal training, FYI.


AS OF AUGUST 2014 I am dealing with a family emergency out of state, and will likely be gone for the next month. If you need assistance, write to my PO box and my friends with the PHOENIX ANARCHIST BLACK CROSS will try to help you. Or email me at, which I'll try to check at least a couple of times a week.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Prison (HBO)

America's prisons are broken. Just ask John Oliver and several puppets.

THE I-Files: Teens in Solitary Confinement



Petition by the family of Tony Lester, victim of suicide in AZ DOC custody.

Prisoners and Families: Send your SOS to the DOJ!

We really need those of you out there who have been in an AZ prison, have lost a child or other family member in an AZ prison, or have a loved one in an AZ prison now, to write a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder (that one is mine) about the need for a federal intervention here, and send me a copy, with a nice photo, if you have one, of the beloved prisoner - I don't have to post your letters and pictures, but please tell me if I may, with or without names.

If you need some motivation, see what the Governor had to say to him about the swell state things are in here. Don't let her pass that BS off on him unchallenged.

When the truth of prison rape and violence is made public and appeals for relief come directly from those affected, the rest of the community identifies better with prisoners as people, and it puts more pressure on the feds - as well as the governor- to act. And you are the ones with the most at stake here. So, please back me up on this argument I'm making, folks. If the feds listened to me, they'd have been here long ago - I need your support!

And don't just "like" me on Facebook or the Daily KOS - SHARE SHARE SHARE!!!

US Attorney General Eric Holder
US Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington DC 20530

Send word to your loved ones in prison to write the AG as well, and to send me copies if they want me to post their letters, too.

AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:


NOTE AUGUST 12, 2014: I am dealing with a family crisis out of state, and will likely not be available for the next month. Please write to my PO box (above) if you need assistance and my friends will try to help you.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Corizon body count climbs: Suicide of Barry Wilkins, 55.

I know nothing of the circumstances of this suicide, or any of this man's struggles.  I can, however, tell you that from his DOC record it appears as if he was actually at ASPC-PHX/Alhambra, not at Ft. Grant in Safford, when this happened- which is where the DOC has its intake unit, and where they assess prisoners who are seriously mentally ill. That tells me he was in a known psychiatric crisis of some kind already.

Condolences to Barry's loved ones; I can refer you to an attorney if you need one - it may be the only way to get to the bottom of how and why he died. I can also use your help, if you want to fight back.

If anyone out there knows more about this man's life or death, please drop me a line at



(602) 542-3133


For Immediate Release

For more information contact:
Doug Nick
Bill Lamoreaux
Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Inmate Death Notification

SAFFORD (Wednesday, August 27, 2014) – An inmate at the Ft. Grant unit of ASPC-Safford has died in an apparent suicide.

55 year-old inmate Barry Wilkins, ADC #070104 was found unresponsive Wednesday morning by ADC personnel who began lifesaving measures that were continued by paramedics upon their arrival.  Medical personnel later pronounced Wilkins dead.

Wilkins was admitted to ADC custody on September 16, 2002.  He was sentenced out of Maricopa County on multiple charges including burglary, theft, unlawful use of a means of transportation, criminal damage, forgery, fraudulent use of a credit card, criminal damage and resisting arrest.

All inmate deaths are investigated in consultation with the county medical examiner’s office.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

ALABAMA's DOC chief : Corrupt profiteer CORIZON isn't "bad" - they're just misunderstood.

This guy must be buddies with Arizona DOC's director Chuck Ryan: neither of them give a damn about the horrendous neglect of their seriously ill and disabled prisoners by Corizon. Guess this guy is getting sued, too.

Fortunately, Alabama prisoners and their supporters are organized. Here's a good model for folks in AZ to look at. If you love a prisoner, don't wait for me to organize something like this - chat with others at visitation, join prison talk, organize, and put up a blog too. I'm not going to be around here forever, after all...

(also on FACEBOOK)

---------from AL.COM----------

Alabama prison boss gives vote of confidence to embattled inmate health care firm

Brendan Kirby | By Brendan Kirby |

on August 20, 2014 at 6:51 PM, 
updated August 20, 2014 at 6:56 PM
Corrections Commissioner Kim Thomas 
Alabama Corrections Commissioner Kim Thomas supports Corizon Health Inc.
ORANGE BEACH, Alabama – Alabama Corrections Commissioner Kim Thomas on Wednesday gave a vote of confidence to Corizon Health Inc., which has been accused in lawsuits across the country of providing inadequate health care to prisoners.

One of those lawsuits is pending in federal court in Montgomery, where the Southern Poverty Law Center accuses the company of failing to provide adequate health care to prisoners with disabilities.

The company's performance has been an issue in suits filed in Arizona and New York.

Thomas, who appeared at the annual convention of the Alabama Association of County Commissions on Wednesday, said in an interview that lawsuits are common in corrections. He said Corizon's competitors also have been sued.

"This is a litigious business, whether it's on the inmate side or the health care side," he said.

Thomas noted that in the Arizona case, Corizon took over the prison health contract for another company, Wexford, shortly before the lawsuit was filed in March 2013.

"The idea that Corizon is the bad guy in Arizona is just disregarding the facts," he said.

Corizon was the sole bidder to provide health care to Alabama's inmates after other companies dropped out of the competition. It signed a 34-month, $224 million contract with Alabama prison system in 2012.

Thomas said the company has done a good job under difficult circumstances. He said prisoners are a difficult population to treat, for a variety of reasons.

"It's the same standard of care in the prison as in the community," he said. "Inmates are the only subset of our society that have a constitutional right to health care."

Nordstrom v Ryan's prying eyes: 9th Circuit rules "LEGAL MAIL" is protected.

good news! And good coverage from Cronkite News - this seems to be the best article on the case in the mainstream.


Court revives death-row inmate’s complaint that prison read his mail

WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court Monday ordered a new hearing for an Arizona death-row inmate who said prison officials violated his constitutional right to counsel by reading a letter he sent to his attorney.

Arizona Department of Corrections policy allows officers to inspect inmate mail for contraband and for what the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals called “such suspicious features as maps of the prison yard, the times of the guards’ shift changes and the like.”

But death-row inmate Scott Nordstrom said a guard went beyond scanning his letter to his attorney, which was clearly marked “legal mail,” and read the letter. That forced him “to cease conveying critically sensitive information … to his attorney,” violating his Sixth Amendment right to counsel, he said.

A divided three-judge panel of the appeals court agreed. Even though prison is “a tough place” and officials have good reason to inspect prisoners’ mail, they said, “inspecting letters and reading them are two different things.”

“What prison officials don’t have the right to do is read a confidential letter from an inmate to his lawyer,” the court said.

It reversed a U.S. District Court judge’s decision to throw out the case, and ordered the lower court to consider Nordstrom’s complaint.

But in a dissenting opinion that was longer than the majority opinion, Circuit Judge Jay S. Bybee said prison officials are not prohibited from reading legal letters “with an eye toward discovering illegal conduct.” He also said Nordstrom had not shown any injury from the fact that a guard “on one occasion during his 17-year incarceration … read a single letter” to the inmate’s attorney.

“To protect individuals in and outside the prison, prison officials must be allowed to read legal letters to the extent necessary to detect illegal conduct,” Bybee wrote. “By preventing reading in this limited sense, the majority has hamstrung prison officials’ ability to do their job.”

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

But an attorney who was working on Nordstrom’s case welcomed the majority opinion.

“He (Nordstrom) just wants to prevent this from happening again,” said Gregory Sisk, a professor at University of St. Thomas School of Law who supervised two law students who argued on behalf of Nordstrom.

Several organizations submitted friend of the court briefs, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Arizona Capital Representation Project and the Equal Justice Initiative, among others. Sisk said he was “very thankful for that support.”

Nordstrom and Robert Jones were convicted in connection with a string of murder-robberies in the Tucson area in 1996. Nordstrom was convicted in 1997 and sentenced to death.

His co-defendant, Jones, was also convicted and was executed on Oct. 23, 2013.

Sisk said there is a short period during which the state can challenge Monday’s ruling, but once the ruling is finalized the case will be sent back to district court with a mandate to hear it.

He noted that the appeals court only ruled on the lower court’s dismissal and did not address the merits of Nordstrom’s claims.

“He would have to establish that the correctional officers actually did read his letter,” Sisk said, once the case goes back to district court.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Transgender prisoner raped at CCA Eloy Detention Ctr, punished with solitary confinement.

from the transgender law center:


ICE Retaliates Against Marichuy, Places Her in Solitary Confinement #freemarichuy

Transgender Law Center
August 11, 2014

ICE Retaliates Against Transgender Woman Raped in Eloy Detention Center by Placing Her in Solitary Confinement Against Her Will; Family and Supporters Continue to Call for Marichuy’s Immediate Release as Her Mental Health Worsens
Marichuy Leal Gamino, a transgender woman raped in the privately-run Eloy Detention Center in Arizona, was placed in solitary confinement for two days by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. Marichuy (legal name: Jesus Leal Gamino, A# 047-283-870) was placed in segregation against her will and as calls for her release escalated with support from over 60 LGBT and immigrant rights organizations nationwide and solidarity actions in Los Angeles and New York.


According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, using confinement to protect a threatened population is a punitive measure. Solitary confinement is known to cause severe psychological symptoms, including depression, insomnia, racing thoughts, and hallucinations. For Marichuy, these symptoms were compounded by post-traumatic stress due to her recent assault. On August 4, after two weeks of living in the same detention facility where she was assaulted, she reported feeling suicidal.

Karolina Lopez, a transgender woman formerly detained in Eloy, explains, “What’s happening to Marichuy is not so different from what I went through, or what I saw other trans women in Eloy experience. I was harassed by two men, then placed in solitary confinement. Officials said it was for my own security, but they treated me like I had done something wrong. I almost went crazy, I still have fear of small spaces, and of officials. If ICE actually cares about Marichuy’s security, they should let her go.”

Since Marichuy was first detained in Eloy over a year ago, ICE has failed to provide even a minimum level of safety and dignity. Now, in response to the pressure of public attention, ICE has threatened to send Marichuy to yet another detention facility, further from her family and community in Arizona, instead of using its discretion to release her from detention.

Around the nation, LGBTQ and immigrant communities are calling for Marichuy’s immediate release. A petition to the national ICE headquarters has more than 3,500 signatures, calling on Director Andrew Lorenzen-Strait to free Marichuy as ICE has demonstrated they cannot keep her safe. Over 60 organizations around the country, including the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, the Human Rights Campaign, and the Detention Watch Network, have publicly called for Marichuy’s release back to her family and community, where she can begin to heal from the rape that took place under ICE’s watch.


Monday, August 18, 2014

NY TIMES: Brewer's AZ DOC routinely sloppy about executions.

Does nothing embarrass the Governor of this state anymore?

 ------from the NEW YORK TIMES------

Arizona Loose With Its Rules in Executions, Records Show

PHOENIX — In an execution in 2010 in Arizona, the presiding doctor was supposed to connect the intravenous line to the convict’s arm — a procedure written into the state’s lethal injection protocol and considered by many doctors as the easiest and best way to attach a line. Instead he chose to use a vein in an upper thigh, near the groin.

“It’s my preference,” the doctor said later in a deposition, testifying anonymously because of his role as a five-time executioner. For his work, he received $5,000 to $6,000 per day — in cash — with two days for practice before each execution.

That improvisation is not unusual for Arizona, where corrections officials and medical staff members routinely deviate from the state’s written rules for conducting executions, state records and court filings show. Sometimes they improvise even while a convict is strapped to a table in the execution chamber and waiting for the drugs coursing through his veins to take effect.
In 2012, when Arizona was scheduled to execute two convicted murderers, its Corrections Department discovered at the last minute that the expiration dates for the drugs it was planning to use had passed, so it decided to switch drug methods. Last month, Arizona again deviated from its execution protocol, and things did not go as planned: The convicted murderer Joseph R. Wood III took nearly two hours to die, during which he received 13 more doses of lethal drugs than the two doses set out by the state’s rules.

While it is unclear whether the constant changes have led to cruel and unusual punishment, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit became so disturbed in 2012 about the expired drugs that it chastised the state, saying Arizona “has insisted on amending its execution protocol on an ad hoc basis.” While the court permitted the two executions to proceed and they went off without a hitch, the Ninth Circuit nonetheless observed that Arizona had a “rolling protocol that forces us to engage with serious constitutional questions and complicated factual issues in the waning hours before executions.”

Douglas A. Berman, an expert on criminal sentencing at Ohio State University, said corrections officials tended to have a cavalier attitude that might now be backfiring on them. As Mr. Berman archly put it, “What’s the big deal, as long as the guy ends up dead and I’m not literally torturing the guy along the way?” Prison officials and execution teams, he said, “don’t see any adjustment that they are making as likely to cause unnecessary suffering or pain.”

Joseph R. Wood III
Arizona Department of Corrections
There are, however, signs that suggest otherwise. Mr. Wood, 55, gasped — seemingly for air — more than 600 times before he died on July 23; his execution is now the subject of an independent investigation commissioned by the state. In January in Oklahoma, Michael Lee Wilson, 38, said, “I feel my whole body burning” right after the drugs used in his execution — a mix meant to paralyze him, render him unconscious and stop his heart — began flowing through his veins. He died moments later.

Courts are starting to show frustration with the constant changes in the protocols themselves, some of which have been prompted by the increasing difficulty in obtaining execution drugs. On Aug. 8, a federal judge extended a moratorium on lethal injections in Ohio over concerns with a protocol change that the state had made this year.

Legal cases in Arizona, which has been a particular target of death penalty opponents, offer an unusual window on execution protocols and actual practices. There have been 37 executions in Arizona since 1992, of which 14 were overseen by the current director of the Corrections Department, Charles L. Ryan.

Mr. Ryan, who has no medical training, has said in depositions that the state’s protocol gave him virtually unlimited discretion to deviate from the written guidelines, essentially making him the ultimate arbiter in executions. He personally authorized the repeated doses of drugs given to Mr. Wood, who had murdered his estranged girlfriend and her father. Five of the 15 doses of lethal drugs were administered to Mr. Wood while his lawyers pleaded to a federal judge to stop the execution, which by then had dragged on for well over an hour.

“The Department of Corrections was making it up as it went along,” Dale A. Baich, a lawyer for Mr. Wood, said of the execution. Credit Samantha Sais for The New York Times
“There’s the protocol that’s in place and there’s what happens, and those aren’t necessarily the same thing,” said Dale A. Baich, an assistant federal public defender who represented Mr. Wood. “What we’ve learned from this execution is that the Department of Corrections was making it up as it went along.”

Mr. Ryan has affirmed that the length of Mr. Wood’s execution — one hour and 57 minutes — and the amount of drugs Mr. Wood received comply with state law, which calls for the administration of “an intravenous injection of a substance or substances in a lethal quantity sufficient to cause death.” He declined a request for an interview; a spokesman, Doug Nick, said this was because of the continuing search for an independent team to assess Mr. Wood’s execution.

Document: Court Filings From Arizona Prisoners’ Lawsuit

Logs detailing the sequence of events in the execution of Mr. Wood, as well as hundreds of pages of filings and depositions linked to five other executions in Arizona, describe a process whose rules are open to interpretation. And the rules are frequently amended, as the Ninth Circuit noted in its 2012 decision. Mr. Baich of the federal public defender’s office said that as a result of the court’s concerns, the Corrections Department had begun allowing witnesses to see through closed-circuit monitors the intravenous lines being placed on convicts during executions.

In other cases that deviated from state protocol, criminal records for members of execution teams went unchecked and a lack of qualifications was ignored, according to a 2011 filing by the federal public defender’s office. In four executions, a Corrections Department employee got to lead the medical team in charge of setting intravenous lines even though the employee could not recall inserting an IV line since the time he trained as an emergency medical technician for the military years earlier.

In the 2011 execution of Donald Beaty, convicted of killing a 13-year-old newspaper carrier in Tempe, Mr. Ryan, the corrections director, asked the medical team about replacing one of the three drugs with another. The medical team leader did so, concluding that the drugs were “essentially equivalent” based on information he read in their packages and on the Internet, according to a filing in a federal lawsuit brought by another death row inmate.

In a 2010 execution, according to the anonymous deposition by the doctor who led the medical team, Mr. Ryan asked that the extra supplies of the drugs be injected into the inmate’s body. “The director preferred that all the chemicals be given, if possible,” the doctor said. He advised against doing so, because if the patient’s heart had stopped, “the vein might rupture, and then they would just go inside the abdominal cavity,” the doctor testified. But Mr. Ryan “indicated he wanted us to try.” When injecting the drugs proved problematic, the doctor recalled, “I looked at him and I said, ‘I don’t think that this is a good idea.’ And he said, ‘O.K., that’s fine, stop.’ ”

Mr. Berman of Ohio State University said Arizona was not the only state whose loose adherence to lethal injection protocols had led to problems in the courts. After a series of problematic executions in Ohio, Judge Gregory L. Frost of United States District Court stayed the execution of a killer, Kenneth Smith, writing that the state had not stuck to its own policies in carrying out executions and was “haphazard” in its application of the process.

Judge Frost went on, “Ohio pays lip service to standards it then often ignores without valid reasons, sometimes with no physical ramification and sometimes with what have been described as messy if not botched executions.”

Dr. Jay Chapman, who devised the first lethal injection protocol in Oklahoma in 1977, has questioned the problems with executions in the years since. “It seems to me that it would not be that difficult to find people that are competent to carry out the tasks,” he said by telephone.

Fernanda Santos reported from Phoenix, and John Schwartz from New York.