Retiring Arizona Prison Watch...

This site was originally started in July 2009 as an independent endeavor 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. It was begun in the aftermath of the death of Marcia Powell, a 48 year old AZ state prisoner who was left in an outdoor cage in the desert sun for over four hours while on a 10-minute suicide watch. That was at ASPC-Perryville, in Goodyear, AZ, in May 2009.

Marcia, a seriously mentally ill woman with a meth habit sentenced to the minimum mandatory 27 months in prison for prostitution was already deemed by society as disposable. She was therefore easily ignored by numerous prison officers as she pleaded for water and relief from the sun for four hours. She was ultimately found collapsed in her own feces, with second degree burns on her body, her organs failing, and her body exceeding the 108 degrees the thermometer would record. 16 officers and staff were disciplined for her death, but no one was ever prosecuted for her homicide. Her story is here.

Marcia's death and this blog compelled me to work for the next 5 1/2 years to document and challenge the prison industrial complex in AZ, most specifically as manifested in the Arizona Department of Corrections. I corresponded with over 1,000 prisoners in that time, as well as many of their loved ones, offering all what resources I could find for fighting the AZ DOC themselves - most regarding their health or matters of personal safety.

I also began to work with the survivors of prison violence, as I often heard from the loved ones of the dead, and learned their stories. During that time I memorialized the Ghosts of Jan Brewer - state prisoners under her regime who were lost to neglect, suicide or violence - across the city's sidewalks in large chalk murals. Some of that art is here.

In November 2014 I left Phoenix abruptly to care for my family. By early 2015 I was no longer keeping up this blog site, save occasional posts about a young prisoner in solitary confinement in Arpaio's jail, Jessie B.

I'm deeply grateful to the prisoners who educated, confided in, and encouraged me throughout the years I did this work. My life has been made all the more rich and meaningful by their engagement.

I've linked to some posts about advocating for state prisoner health and safety to the right, as well as other resources for families and friends. If you are in need of additional assistance fighting the prison industrial complex in Arizona - or if you care to offer some aid to the cause - please contact the Phoenix Anarchist Black Cross at PO Box 7241 / Tempe, AZ 85281.

until all are free -

MARGARET J PLEWS (June 1, 2015)


ANTICOLONIAL zines, stickers, actions, power

Taala Hooghan Infoshop

Kinlani/Flagstaff Mutual AID


The group for direct action against the prison state!

Black Lives Matter PHOENIX METRO

Black Lives Matter PHOENIX METRO
(accept no substitutions)



PHOENIX: Trans Queer Pueblo


AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Monday, August 31, 2009

Marcia Powell's Death Officially An Accident

Marcia Powell's Autopsy Report Rules Cage Death in ADC Custody an "Accident"

Marcia Powell, who died in ADC custody May 20

The Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office has released the autopsy report and toxicology results for Marcia Powell, the 48-year-old woman who died May 20 after being confined to a human cage at Perryville Prison in Goodyear for some four hours in the blazing Arizona sun.

The conclusion of Medical Examiner Mark Fischione is that the cause of death was due to "complications of hyperthermia due to environmental heat exposure." The manner of death is ruled an "accident." You can read the report for yourself, here.

The external examination revealed blistering and first and second degree "thermal injuries" on her upper body, arms and face. Toxicology showed that she tested positive for several medications, including Benztropine, a medication for Parkinson disease, the antipsychotic medication Haloperidol, and valproic acid, a mood-stabilizing drug used to treat depression and epilepsy.

Donna Hamm, with the advocacy group Middle Ground Prison Reform, said her group was concerned with the findings.

"We are trying to reserve judgment until we see everything, including the DOC investigation," said Hamm, whose organization ultimately took custody of Powell's remains, "but the autopsy does seem to raise the question of how far prison officials can go before something they do is ruled a reckless homicide. I guess the county attorney will make that final decision. We will certainly be interested in how this plays out."

Powell was serving a 27-month stint for prostitution at Perryville, when, according to an Arizona Department of Corrections statement released at the time, she was "placed in an outside, uncovered, chain-linked holding cell at 11 a.m.," on a day temperatures reached a 107 degree high.

"At 2:40 p.m., Powell collapsed," the statement continues. "Powell was taken to West Valley Hospital at 3:12 p.m. She was pronounced dead at 12:42 a.m. Wednesday [May 20]."

ADC honcho Charles Ryan gave the order for Powell's life support to be suspended on the advice of the physicians on duty, according to him. It was later learned that Powell had a guardian, the Office of the Public Fiduciary. Ryan told me following a memorial service for Powell at Encanto Community Church in Phoenix that he did not know Powell had a guardian when he gave the order suspending life support and that ADC had no record of a guardian in its files.

The fiduciary's office undertook an extensive investigation seeking a next of kin to take possession of Powell's remains. Powell's adoptive mother Joanne Buck, 76, of La Quinta, California was located by the fiduciary, but she said she'd had "very little contact" over the years with Powell, most of which was unpleasant. She told the fiduciary that she didn't want to take custody of Powell's remains.

Other leads on the whereabouts of Powell's family did not pan out for the fiduciary. A son turned up having been murdered. A daughter was adopted by family in Tempe, but there was no indication as to where the girl might be.

Another person by the name of Troy Troutman (with the alternative spelling of "Trautman") was listed in one of Powell's mental health files as "next of kin," with no further explanation. In testimony before Commissioner Michael Hintze concerning the matter, a representative for the fiduciary's office speculated that Troutman might be a son, but they could not locate him.

Hamm says that a prisoner who was in with Powell told her that Powell had a son named Troy. The medical examiner's report indicates Powell had several tattoos, one of which was the name "Troy" on her upper right arm. Others were of a flower, a teardrop, and the names "John" and "John C."

Powell's cremains were committed June 28 at Shadow Rock United Church of Christ in Phoenix. Her body may now be laid to rest, so to speak, but the questions concerning her death still resonate.

Why was she left in the 107 degree heat without water for about four hours, if not more? Did the drugs in her system, combined with the extreme heat and sunlight, exacerbate her condition? And why was ADC chief Ryan so quick to pull Powell's plug, when a little more time would have revealed a guardian and some next of kin?


Anonymous said...

So sad. May the truth come out.

A fellow human being

Anonymous said...

See also:

Anonymous said...

My honest opinion is that Marcia died by her jailors. The "caretakers" are ignorant and/or uncaring about (someone else's)drug addiction. This contributed to her death. She sold her body to thugs just to survive. The prison, worse than the johns, gave her body no shelter. I don't like calling the guards and administrators and warden thugs, but I believe they are responsible for her death. She never hurt anyone. They killed her.