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, November 9, 2009

Veterans Courts: Progress?

These are beginning to show up around the country now - recently in Nevada. There's some controversy bout whether or not it's appropriate to have a separate court for veterans (PTSD is caused by many kinds of traumas). Many communities in America are war zones, in fact: why not send an 18-year old gang member who watched his brother get murdered at the age of 11 to a veterans' court? We must not believe the legal system works that well if we have to keep making special courts to divert people to treatment and out of the CJ system. perhaps instead of making more special court, we should incorporate more of the elements  that make those courts successful into our "regular" justice system. 

Acknowledging and responding to the special needs of veterans in the criminal justice system is essential - especially now that we're entering our ninth year of war, increasing our troop deployments in Afghanistan, and have no end to combat in sight. Many soldiers - including Weekend Warriors in the Guard and Reserves - have done three or four tours of duty already with little respite or attention to the toll it's taken on their lives. Equally important is providing military personnel - and their families - with sufficient mental health and substance abuse treatment resources, relief from combat duty, crisis and marital support, economic support - especially adequate wages - and fair and humane treatment before they end up criminalized. The shooting at Fort Hood is a case in point.


Special court for veterans addresses more than crime

Treatment for mental health issues included

BUFFALO - The first clue that the Tuesday afternoon session in Part 4 of Buffalo City Court was not like other criminal proceedings came just before it started.

Judge Robert Russell stepped down from his bench and walked into the gallery where men and women accused of stealing, drug offenses, and other nonviolent felonies and misdemeanors fidgeted in plastic chairs.
"Good afternoon," he said, smiling, and talked for a minute about the session ahead.

With the welcoming tone set, Russell headed back behind the bench, where he will mete out justice with a disarming mix of small talk and life-altering advice.

While the defendants in this court have been arrested on charges that could mean potential prison time and damaging criminal records, they have another important trait in common: All have served their country in the military.

That combination has landed them here, in veterans treatment court, the first of its kind in the country.

Russell is the head of a courtroom team of veterans' advocates and volunteers determined to make this brush with the criminal justice system these veterans' last.

"They look to the right or to the left, they're sitting there with another vet, and it's a more calming, therapeutic environment," Russell said. "Rather than them being of the belief that 'people don't really understand me,' or 'they don't know what it's like' - well, it's a room full of folks who do."

If the veterans adhere to a demanding one- to two-year regimen of weekly to monthly court appearances, drug testing, and counseling for any combination of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, substance abuse, or anger management, they could see their charges dismissed, or at least stay out of jail.

After counting 300 veterans in the local courts last year, the judge tailor-made the treatment court to address not only veterans' crimes, but their unique mental health issues.

Charles Lewis, who stood before Russell at a recent session, may be the kind of defendant the judge had in mind. The 25-year-old acknowledged walking out in frustration from his last counseling session.

"We all know that you're a good person who at times has done some inappropriate things," Russell told him. "It's time to get past the nonsense, don't you think?"

Lewis nodded in agreement. A jet mechanic four years into what he thought would be a 20-year Navy career, he severely injured his leg on the flight deck of the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in 2004 and was discharged.

Forced to rethink his future before his 22d birthday, he returned to Buffalo, where he found work as a laborer and in the concrete business before starting his own concrete company.

After taking on more work than he could handle, Lewis said he found himself charged with larceny in December for allegedly keeping a $3,000 deposit from a customer for a job that never got done.

A daily habit of prescription pain pills for the plates and pins in his leg compounded the problems of someone who had known only the rigidity of the military from the time he was 18.

"It was hard to adjust," Lewis said later at his home in Buffalo's north end. "I was used to that structure. That whole time [in the Navy] I was doing what I was supposed to do, then I got out and it was just not working."
A 30-day stay in rehabilitation to get off prescription drugs began his path through veterans' treatment court. "I'm doing really good now," he said.

Russell believes the need for courts like his will only grow, pointing to the 1.6 million troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It has been highly praised by the Veterans Affairs Administration and other veterans' organizations.

"What I appreciate about this is this isn't letting people off for what they do, it's just getting them the care that they need," said Patrick Campbell, legislative director for Iraq Veterans of America.

The group has been working with Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, on legislation that would provide grants for the creation of veterans treatment courts like the one in Buffalo.

"A lot of veterans, when they come home, find the transition difficult and we all turn to different things to get through those times," said Campbell, who served in Iraq in 2004-2005. "If we're not lucky enough to have a strong family social network to hold us together in those difficult times, people turn to drugs, turn to alcohol."

"All of a sudden they find themselves in a position where, instead of being the outstanding patriot who's always been the person everyone looks to, they find themselves on the other end of the law," Campbell said. "This is going to get service members back to serving their country again." 

No comments: