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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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Lewis Prison Stand-off Litigation

 I find the angle on this article a little troubling (the whole victim-blames-victim thing), but posted the section I found most interesting in yellow. There are few parts actually, but, what really intrigued me was the section about workmen's comp laws and the state "owning the rights to (Fraley's) complaint" against the food service company. I wondered if all corrections officers - all state employees, knew this was how it worked. Who needs violent criminals when the state will do it to you themselves?
Prison-hostage rape victim blames other victim

Legal repercussions from Arizona’s longest prison-hostage saga continue dragging through court five years later, but with a curious twist: One of two women sexually assaulted during the drama is blaming the other rape victim for allowing the violence to get started.

The Maricopa County Superior Court suit was filed three years ago by Lois Fraley, a correctional officer at Lewis Prison who was held in a guard tower for 15 days during 2004 by two inmates, Ricky Wassenaar and Steven Coy.

Defendants include Canteen Correctional Services Corporation, which prepared inmate meals in a kitchen where the incident began, as well as a company employee who was raped by Coy.

That employee previously sued the Department of Corrections and received an undisclosed financial settlement after alleging that prison officials negligently allowed violent felons to work with civilians in the kitchen. She blamed lax prison security, inadequate training and incompetence.

In the ongoing case, attorney Joel Robbins, who represents Fraley, alleges that the female kitchen employee failed to close and lock an office door as required by prison rules. As a result, the suit says, Wassenaar and Coy were able to enter the office and overpower the Canteen employee and a DOC guard in the room.

While Coy raped the kitchen worker, Wassenaar went to a nearby guard tower where Fraley and detention officer Jason Auch were on duty. According Department of Correction records, Auch failed to verify who was at the door before pressing an electronic buzz-in device. Wassenaar entered the tower, subdued both guards and gained control of an arsenal. Coy then joined him. Auch was released midway through the ordeal, while Fraley was held hostage and terrorized for two weeks.

A peaceful surrender was arranged with both inmates promised out-of-state transfers to complete their prison terms.

Fraley’s lawsuit says Coy was able to fashion a homemade shank in the kitchen using metal bands removed from milk cases that had been banned because of previous incidents.

Although Auch’s decision to open the tower door was crucial later on, the suit argues, the rampage could have been averted if kitchen employee upheld their security responsibilities: “Ms. Fraley would never have had to endure the two weeks in hell but for Canteen’s conduct.”

Canteen Corp. contends in legal filings that the company was responsible for preparing food, not overseeing inmates or maintaining security.

The trial has been tentatively scheduled for late 2011.

As a state employee, Fraley was barred from suing the Department of Corrections under terms of Arizona’s workers compensation law.

According to court papers, she sued Canteen on behalf of the state, which owned the rights to her complaint. However, the state reassigned those rights back to Fraley, subject to a lien.

Arizona previously sued its insurance company for refusing to honor liability coverage in the prison saga. The outcome of that case could not be determined.

Meanwhile, Coy and Wassenaar – both convicted on multiple felony charges in the escape attempt – are serving consecutive life sentences in out-of-state prisons.

The kitchen employee is not in this report because the Republic does not identify rape victims unless they have gone public. Fraley, no longer a prison guard, has openly discussed her experience and operates a foundation on behalf of hostage victims.

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