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)


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Sunday, August 16, 2009

More of the same from Sheriff Joe's jails

This came out a couple of weeks ago; my friend Matt just turned me on to it (thanks Matt). I believe I already posted McClure's story here or on Prison Abolitionist


Lawsuits filed over quality of care at jails

by JJ Hensley - Aug. 3, 2009
The Arizona Republic

More than seven months have passed since the health-care provider for Maricopa County inmates was stripped of its accreditation, and the effects are starting to show.

A pair of lawsuits filed by inmates and family members against Correctional Health Services last month mention the agency's lack of accreditation.

It's exactly what local and national experts predicted when the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare pulled the agency's accreditation in January, after a two-year probation period and months of wrangling over inmate medical care.

The county is still without accreditation, although Correctional Health Services Director Betty Adams said in a statement that the agency would "reapply in the next few moths."

"CHS is not required to be accredited," Adams wrote, adding that the agency's policies are more comprehensive than the commission's.

Gary Lessen, an attorney representing the plaintiffs in both recent lawsuits, said the lack of accreditation points to larger issues and leaves the county's taxpayers more susceptible to this type of legal action.

"One of the reasons that lawyers in these death and personal-injury cases use that is that the violation of accreditation standards and state and federal statutes may constitute negligence per se," he said. "It makes our case easier."

The cases of Kevin Smith and David Wayne McClurg, 55, as laid out in a pair of court complaints, were both booked into jail and subsequently denied access to medication or medical care.

McClurg was booked into the Fourth Avenue Jail on Oct. 23, 2007, where health-care screeners didn't recognize his diabetic symptoms, according to the claim, a condition McClurg didn't know he had, either.

While McClurg was in jail awaiting trial on an aggravated-DUI charge, his trial was continued repeatedly because his condition worsened, according to the claim.

Deputies took McClurg to Maricopa Medical Center in December, where doctors diagnosed him with diabetes, eventually amputating seven of his toes and later a leg.

McClurg was sentenced in February 2008, but he remained in the hospital until he died on Sept. 24.

The claim attributes McClurg's death to his untreated diabetes.

His two sons are seeking compensation for the county's negligence, unconstitutional policies and deliberate indifference to medical needs, according to the claim.

Smith survived his stay in Maricopa County jails, but claims he suffered head injuries after staff members denied him medication for seizures while serving a two-day DUI sentence. Smith couldn't return to work and says he lost his job because of the injuries.

"If you don't take your meds on a regular basis, you're subject to these uncontrollable seizures," Lassen said. "They (pass out medication) one time a day for their convenience as opposed to two to three times a day as the prescription requires."

Adams, without responding directly to either claim, said staff members pass out medication twice a day.

Another inmate, Delyla Pierson-Winburn, filed a suit against the county in June after she claimed health-care employees also denied her medication.

County officials repeatedly have been told that Correctional Health Services operations are inadequate and pose a danger to inmates.

Over the past 10 years, faced with hundreds of lawsuits, a federal court order and the loss of accreditation, the Board of Supervisors has paid more than $250,000 to consultants to find solutions.

Since 1998, the county has paid $13 million in legal fees, settlements and jury verdicts to inmates and their families for injury and death claims against the Correctional Health Services.

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