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, November 22, 2009

The other way we tend to die in custody

Family of inmate sues Mesa after jail-cell suicide

The family of a Mesa man who hanged himself inside the city jail is suing for $400,000 in damages, claiming detention officers should have adequately watched him.

The U.S. District Court lawsuit brought by Miletta Lewis, sister of Marvin Lewis, names the city and its detention officers.

It claims Lewis' constitutional rights were violated because officers did not place him in a safe environment.

The suit also accuses the city and its detention officers of being negligent because they failed to closely monitor Lewis, who was found hanged in his cell April 9, 2008.

While he was being booked into the jail early that morning, Lewis told a jail guard he was picked up on a minor probation violation from Kentucky and said that he had once been jailed for murder, police reports show.

One detention officer said in her report that Lewis was one of the most-calm prisoners throughout the jail that night and that he "said he had a lot of respect for female officers."

Lewis described himself as a local landscaper. He told jailer he was arrested as ran outside because he thought his car was being stolen. In fact, police were closing in on him to arrest him on the outstanding warrant.

"I did not think that he seemed upset about his charges or upset about going back to Kentucky," the detention officer stated in her report.

Lewis was placed into a cell with another prisoner and released at 2:05 a.m. to use the telephone, police reports state. About 10 minutes later, he was returned to his cell, and his cellmate was allowed to use the phone.

Meanwhile, the officer who booked Lewis had placed a third inmate into the cell, and that inmate found Lewis.

"I did not have a chance to start back down the hall when (the other inmate) began banging on the door and yelling" that Lewis hung himself, the jailer wrote.

As other detention officers arrived, they found Lewis with a pair of socks tied around his neck and hanging from one of four hooks on the cell wall, according to police reports.

EMS personnel responded, but could not revive Lewis.

The lawsuit brought by Lewis' sister claims the city and jail guards "failed to ensure that Mr. Lewis had a holding cell free from suicide opportunities such as hooks anchored in the concrete wall close to the ceiling. (The city and detention officers) failed to take any precautions whatsoever."

City officials deny the lawsuit's claims.

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