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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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rep Joe Sestak Remembers Incarcerated Vets

Sestak aims to help imprisoned vets

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Looking to combat growing problems of homelessness, substance abuse and crime among veterans, U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak is trying to make sure incarcerated vets with service-related injuries and impairments receive proper medical treatment while behind bars.

The congressman wants Veterans Administration doctors to communicate and share records with physicians at local, state and federal prisons who are charged with the care of veterans who were disabled as a result of their military service.

“I am not defending criminal behavior of any kind,” Sestak, D-7, of Edgmont, said in an open letter to Gen. Eric Shinseki, secretary of Veterans Affairs. “I do believe that those who volunteer to defend our nation and become disabled in our service, particularly with PTSD and TBI (traumatic brain injury) need to be provided with the care appropriate to their injuries. At present, we have a seam in the administration of care for those veterans should they be incarcerated.”

Sestak said many incarcerated vets are receiving improper medical treatment that makes them more likely to reoffend upon release.

“PTSD is the signature issue of this war,” said Sestak, a retired Navy admiral. “Many of our young men and women are coming home, not getting the care they need, and then seeking comfort in drugs and alcohol. Once they become hooked, they are committing crimes to support their habit. It’s a trail we want to stop.”

Sestak met with members of Shinseki’s staff about his proposal last week and said the response was positive.

“The general has already stated his goal of eradicating homelessness among veterans in the next five years and I think what we’re trying to accomplish goes hand in hand,” he said.

Vietnam veteran Thomas Clay of Media, who spent 21 months in the hospital recovering from machine gun wounds he suffered during the Tet Offensive in 1968, said Sestak’s proposal makes sense.

“As long as you have the person’s consent, I think those records should follow them wherever they go,” Clay said. “A lot of people who returned from Vietnam in the late ’60s and early ’70s came back with drug problems and medical problems that went untreated.”

Clay said advances in body armor are saving the lives of soldiers and Marines who would have been killed in previous wars. The trade-off for those that survive, however, is often some type of brain injury.

“People don’t realize the long-term effects of concussions,” he said. “These are injuries that can last for months and months and never really heal.”

Sestak said he also supports special courts for wayward veterans who commit nonviolent crimes.

“I think it can be combined with the mental health court,” he said. “We know that 20 percent of our active force and 32 percent of our National Guard force are coming home with PTSD,” he said. “It makes sense that we have a (system) in place that takes into account what they have been through.”

Joseph Rogers, president of the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, said a veterans court could cut down on recidivism and save money.

“Different communities have been using mental health courts for some time,” he said. “Most of the crimes are nonviolent and the largest percentage of cases are drug-related. With the high cost of incarceration, if you can divert these people effectively and show the diversion works, it can be an useful alternative.”

Sestak said 46 percent of veterans in federal prison and 15 percent of veterans in state prison are incarcerated for drug violations.

Of that population, 61 percent meet the American Psychiatric Association’s criteria for substance dependence or abuse.

“Simply stated, we must do more to help ensure that those who specialize in treating service-related illnesses can help rehabilitate our veterans who suffer from these illnesses before they are incarcerated,” Sestak said.


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