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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AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chuck Ryan andTerry Stewart : Common Ground.

The original posting of this was made nearly a year ago, around the publication of an AZ Republic story about what fire traps the state prison facilities are. It seemed worth resurrecting in light of the death records I've been reading of late and the letter that came out last week from the Arizona Correctional Peace Officer's Association calling for Brewer to fire Chuck Ryan, the Director of the ADC.

As far as I know, many of the prisons are still primed to go up in flames, taking everyone inside - prisoner and CO alike - with them. Even if those problems were addressed, there are serious problems with the conditions of confinement at the ADC.

The history of the class action suit against AZ for not protecting prisoners in protective segregation is especially interesting, considering how many prisoners have been murdered or killed themselves in higher level custody settings at the ADC of late - and those who killed themselves after being denied extra protection.


Arizona Prison Watch: January, 2010
(Edited slightly)

I don't know how the abuse that Marcia Powell endured in her final hours could have possibly been a shock to anyone in power at the AZ Department of Corrections. They've been defending that kind of behavior for a long time. Terry Stewart, the long time director there, is a disturbing man. Current Director Ryan was his protege, by all accounts.

Ryan's tenure consulting with Iraq's prisons isn't mentioned with the piece from Senator Charles Schumer's office about Stewart, but he apparently made it over there in time for the scandal: check out his bio. He was part of a team that was exporting our tactics for imprisoning and punishing people, while most of the rest of America thought we were "liberating" Iraq. It even appears he received a medal of valor for it. Coming from George Bush, I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing.

In either case, I sure hope you begin to show us something new at the ADC, Ryan.

How can you not keep track of fires at the prisons, anyway? How can those facilities even be open? And why wouldn't you tell the rest of us about those repairs being turned down - we'd have given the legislature hell and got that funding approved or had some folks sent home.

You can't be imprisoning people if you can't keep them safe, Ryan - if you were a nightclub, you'd be shut down and charged with all sorts of things - and that's if nothing even caught fire and no one died. You're just waiting for someone to die before you have to do anything about it.

We can't afford to wait for that.

What other population that the state has custody of is left to languish locked inside fire traps? Maybe we better check all the institutions to make sure...

That must be some kind of constitutional violation - stripping someone of their liberty and trapping them someplace you can't safely evacuate. We saw what happened to the guys in New Orleans when the guards abandoned their posts, leaving them locked up to drown.

Anyway, here's ADC's darker side, Terry Stewart. He's the one who seemed to think that it was okay to ignore sexual abuse and to punish prisoners for days on end with exposure to the elements. It's a wonder he didn't kill more prisoners than he did.



Schumer Reveals Fourth Corrections Official With Checkered Record In Power Position At Iraqi Prisons

Former head of Arizona prisons turned a blind eye to sexual abuse of female prisoners by male guards including rape, sodomy and assault

Evidence mounts: Fourth civilian with shocking record of tolerating prisoner abuse hand picked to oversee reconstruction and running of Iraqi prisons

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today revealed evidence that a fourth civilian who served in a position of power in the Iraqi prison system had a troubling history of tolerating and defending prisoner abuse while serving as a corrections administrator in the United States. Senator Schumer also called upon the Department of Justice's Inspector General to investigate how so many US prison officials with checkered records were selected by the DOJ to oversee the sensitive and important project of reconstituting the Iraqi prison system.

Schumer revealed that Terry Stewart, one of a handful of former prison officials recruited by the Department of Justice to help rebuild Iraq's prison system, came under scrutiny for numerous incidents involving the mistreatment of inmates while serving as the head of the Arizona Department of Corrections from 1995-2002.

In 1997, the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division named Stewart in a suit brought against the Arizona Department of Corrections concerning a pattern of sexual assault against female prisoners by male prison guards. Stewart was charged with knowingly turning a blind eye to repeated incidents of sexual abuse by guards against female prisoners ranging from sexual assault, rape and sodomy to watching female prisoners undress and use the restroom. The suit was eventually settled after the Arizona Department of Corrections agreed to make major changes in numerous prison policies.

Under Stewart's watch prisoners at Arizona facilities were also made to stand outside in the summer for up to four days in the summer and for up to 17 hours in the winter without sanitation, adequate drinking water, changes of clothing, proper food or protection from the elements. In a third questionable incident a class action suit was brought against the Arizona Department of Corrections during Stewart's tenure charging that the prison system had failed to properly use protective custody to shield certain at-risk inmates from harm.

“How four individuals with such checkered pasts could be placed in positions of power in Iraq's prison system defies reason and demands explanation,” Schumer said. "The fact that Terry Stewart turned a blind eye to sexual assault perpetrated by guards under his watch is appalling. Every revelation leads to further questions, and to further silence from the Department of Justice. I wish Attorney General Ashcroft would at a minimum explain what kind of vetting system, if any, was in place for such high level appointments to such sensitive posts."

Stewart joins John Armstrong of Connecticut and Lane McCotter and Gary DeLand of Utah as members of a growing list of civilians with checkered records who were placed in positions of power overseeing the reconstitution and running of Iraq's prison system. While serving in Iraq McCotter and Stewart even dubbed themselves the "Baghdad Duo" while traveling the country in their roles working for the Department of Justice.

Schumer's revelations concerning Stewart come on the heels of his discoveries concerning John Armstrong, who was forced from his post as the head of Connecticut’s corrections department for defending abuses of prisoners before eventually serving in a high-ranking management position overseeing the Iraqi prison system. While running Connecticut’s prison system, Armstrong made a practice of shipping even low-level offenders to a supermax facility in Virginia which was notorious for its use of excessive force - ranging from unjustified use of stun guns shooting 50,000 volts through prisoners to locking inmates in five-point restraints for such lengthy periods that they were routinely forced to defecate on themselves.

Armstrong resigned under a cloud of credible allegations that he tolerated and personally engaged in the sexual harassment of female employees under his command.

Lane McCotter, who had a similarly disturbing history of defending inmate abuses, was also tapped to be one of four individuals sent by the Department of Justice to redevelop Iraq’s prison system. McCotter was forced out of the top spot in Utah's Department of Corrections when a schizophrenic prisoner died after being strapped to a chair naked for sixteen hours. His record was further tainted when the DOJ investigated a New Mexico prison that was run by a private corrections firm that employed McCotter for failing to provide inmates with a safe environment and adequate medical facilities.

Gary DeLand served in the same position later held by McCotter, as head of Utah's Department of Corrections, in the late 1980's. According to Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, Deland was well known for the "sadistic" manner in which he ran the state's penal institutions. DeLand was also recruited to help reconstitute Iraq's prison system, including Abu Ghraib.

"A pattern like this just doesn't happen spontaneously," said Schumer. "It is time for the Department of Justice to explain how lightening managed to strike four times in the same place. This why I am calling on the Inspector General to investigate how the United States government manage to send four individuals with histories of involvement in prisoner abuse cases to oversee a prison system that is now notorious for prisoner abuse. Given the far reaching impact of the revelations of abuse at Abu Ghraib it is vital that we answer this fundamental question, and we must answer it soon."


Anonymous said...

About McCotter and DeLand, see here:

Abu Ghraib, USA
By Anne-Marie Cusac
When I first saw the photo, taken at the Abu Ghraib prison, of a hooded and robed figure strung with electrical wiring, I thought of the Sacramento, California, city jail.

When I heard that dogs had been used to intimidate and bite at least one detainee at Abu Ghraib, I thought of the training video shown at the Brazoria County Detention Center in Texas.

When I learned that the male inmates at Abu Ghraib were forced to wear women's underwear, I thought of the Maricopa County jails in Phoenix, Arizona.

And when I saw the photos of the naked bodies restrained in grotesque and clearly uncomfortable positions, I thought of the Utah prison system.

Donald Rumsfeld said of the abuse when he visited Abu Ghraib on May 13, "It doesn't represent American values."

But the images from Iraq looked all too American to me.

Anonymous said...

The buildings are still fire traps