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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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

PNT: Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections

Suicidal Tendencies: The Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections Is a Bloody Mess

By Amy Silverman

Published on December 15, 2009 at 3:18pm

The girl has a history of pulling out chunks of her own hair and drawing on the walls with her feces and blood, then wiping herself with pages she's ripped from a Bible. And she's a cutter. The scars from her self-abuse are visible on her arms and legs.

The details of juvenile cases aren't public, but according to someone close to her, she threatened family members and then a judge; that's how she ended up at the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections.
She clearly requires constant supervision, but on September 21, staff at the ADJC's Black Canyon facility in Phoenix left the girl alone in a bathroom for at least eight minutes. When a guard finally asked what was taking so long, the girl replied that she was constipated. She emerged from the stall covered in blood and deep cuts she'd made on both arms with a piece of a broken light bulb, then ran through the grounds "with blood squirting everywhere," according to the agency's internal documents.

"It was like CSI meets like a horror movie," one eyewitness tells New Times, adding that some of the cuts "were so bad, to where you could almost see the meat in them."

The girl was handcuffed and taken to a local hospital, where she refused treatment. On the way back to the agency, she bit a staff member who tried to make her wear a seatbelt.

It took two days to clean up the mess in the bathroom.

• On February 14, a boy at the Adobe Mountain facility in Phoenix was found in his room unconscious with a pair of pants tied around his neck. Staff loosened the pants, and the boy gasped for air; later, he admitted he'd had a Valentine's Day fight on the phone with his girlfriend before trying to kill himself.

• On April 3, staff at Black Canyon noticed a girl lying on the floor; another kid admitted she knew the girl was trying to choke herself. A guard cut a ripped T-shirt from around the neck of the girl, who had covered the evidence with a towel after taking a shower.

• On April 4, a boy at the Catalina facility in Tucson jammed his door shut, and it was only when another kid begged a guard to check on him that any adult noticed that the boy was turning red and then blue, with a towel wrapped around his feet and neck to choke himself. Staff eventually kicked down the door and cut the towel off with a knife.

The guards seemed surprised, even though it had been discovered earlier that day that the boy was already making a rope; he was angry that he couldn't make a phone call when he wanted to.

• On May 17, a boy at Adobe Mountain claimed he fell and hit his head, causing a bloody injury, but another kid admitted to guards that the boy had purposely smashed his skull into a metal bar on his bunk bed. Guards then found a bloody staple that the boy had been using to cut his thigh. When he was escorted away, the boy announced, "You haven't seen nothing yet!" asking, "You wanna see blood?"

The guards put the boy in solitary confinement, removed his clothes, and gave him what's called a "suicide suit" to wear. He refused, and stood undressed, hitting his wound and punching the wall with his fist, 'til staff calmed him down.

Staples are a popular cutting implement for kids at the ADJC. On April 14, staff found that a girl at Black Canyon had hidden a staple under her upper lip. She admitted she'd hidden other staples around her housing unit, and showed them where. She'd also used lead from a pencil to carve into her skin, and showed them where she'd hidden that, too. She told staff she'd made a drawing in science class she was proud of; in it, she's hanging herself.

The staff counseled the girl "about setting goals for herself to keep herself motivated," according to the agency's report on the incident.

"Youth replied, 'If I make a goal for myself it would be to kill myself.'"

The Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections is supposed to educate and rehabilitate juvenile delinquents. Instead, the agency has become the state's adolescent mental hospital, a job it's clearly not equipped to handle.

Things are literally a bloody mess. Staff find screws, nails, and broken pencils in kids' rooms. But self-abuse gets more creative. One boy recently bit off his entire fingernail in front of a guard. A girl in solitary confinement was so desperate to hurt herself that she was seen rubbing her wrist against the rough paint on the floor hard enough to draw blood. The kids are sometimes put into suicide suits so they won't try to hang themselves with their shirts or pants, but the Velcro on the suits presents a challenge; you can draw blood with that, too.

For some kids, the cutting and suicidal talk is almost certainly copycat behavior. But every suicide threat is supposed to be taken seriously. And some kids arrive very sick....

(much more of this story at the Phx New Times site. Next website we do will be an AZ Juvenile Justice Watch. Look for it in January.)

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