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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Thursday, July 8, 2010

ASPC-Tucson: The death of Tom Reed.

Someone forwarded this link to me from a relatively new website: the "Arizona Chapter of Reform Sex Offender Laws." I don't usually post anonymous submissions, but these prisoners would be vulnerable if their identities were revealed, and I find their report credible. So, I'm pasting this post here as is, sans last names of officers involved. I'd hope that the ADC would have this under investigation - this sounds like cruel medical neglect to me. I have another letter to post on that issue, this one to the governor from the son of a prisoner.

But first, the letter about
Tom Reed, who died in March of this year. The cause listed by the ADC on their press release is heart attack; prisoners thought they called it suicide. He may well have been allowed to die unattended and un-medicated because his life was so devalued already by his prisoner status - and by his conviction for child molestation. Who's going to whine about a child molester being allowed to suffer that way and die in prison? Many people would have added that punishment onto his 17-year sentence anyway.

I'll complain about it. If it's okay to do that to one prisoner, it's easy to justify neglecting - and in this way brutalizing - them all. Besides, you never know when someone might actually be innocent. And medical ethics demand that prisoners receive a minimal level of health care regardless of their criminal history, lest nurses and physicians start dishing out their own vigilante justice...which happens anyway. This is one of too many stories I've heard about the health services at ADC causing, rather than alleviating, pain and suffering - contracting medical care out to a for-profit company isn't going to absolve the ADC of this responsibility.

Our condolences to Reed's family and friends. Thank you to the two prisoners who got word out about this incident. It will be forwarded to the DOJ with another CRIPA request so they can make a determination as to the accuracy of the report...


In Memory of Thomas Reed

By Two Undisclosed Inmates

This is what I witnessed the day Thomas Reed died in ASPC Tucson / Winchester Unit Building 8 A/B in the shower room .

At 11:05 PM staff and "Sgt. L" came into A run and had us get up and go to the day room in B run. At that moment inmates were going to the restroom to use the urinals including myself. At that moment I noticed inmate Thomas Reed on his back motionless naked with a towel over his privates. A female staff member was filming the whole incident. A male staff member was by inmate Reed turning inmate Reed to his side because he didn't know what to do. I do recall the male staff member stating out loud, "What do I do?"

At that moment I heard Sgt. L say, "Turn him into his side." Mr. Reed while on his back motionless his stomach huge with a blotched appearance. I also noticed fluid on the floor by inmate Reed and the male staff member. It was brown in color and it smells like bile. The inside of inmate Reeds stomach blew up and this was the fluid that was coming from his mouth. This was the reason the male staff was turning inmate Reed to his side because while on his back the bile was coming out of his mouth.

For two weeks after coming back from the hospital, the medical unit at Winchester would not give the medication prescribed to inmate Reed from the doctor at the hospital. Inmates of all races were telling the correctional officers that Mr. Reed needed help and his medication. The correctional officers kept calling medical and medical kept telling inmate Reed to put in a medical request. They even said this to correctional officer staff. Inmate Reed had to walk to the medical unit only to be turned away and refused his medication.

The night Mr. Reed died I told the female staff about 1 PM that Mr. Reed is in pain and he's going to die if you guys don't help him. The female staff got on the phone to medical and called them. I stated to the correctional officer, "you're going to log the time and date you're calling on this incident." The female correctional officer while on the phone logged it in. I walked back to check on inmate Reed once again. Numerous times throughout inmate Reeds return from the hospital, staff was returning to check up on Reed to see if he was all right. Repeatedly Mr. Reed told staff he needed his medication.

Inmate Reed was dying inside while living and the Arizona Department of Corrections did nothing to prevent his death. Mr. Reed did not have a bloated stomach while he was alive and all the inmates who checked up on him would have noticed his bloated stomach while he walked or while he laid in his bed or while he sat in his bed.

Mr. Reed died at about 10:40 PM because an inmate went to check up on Mr. Reed when Mr. Reed tried to take a shower. There is no doubt that he was dead when I seen him. At about 11:38 PM numerous inmates were upset that this took place. I myself as other inmates asked Sgt. L. if he would write a statement, but refused to say anything stating, "I can't. I don't want to get fired. I need this job I have a wife and kids. I will address your concerns to staff."

The night inmate Reed died I wrote to his family, Connie Reed in Glendale, Arizona what had happened, but the letter returned so I sent out a letter to another family member by the name of Tina Reed in Menominee, MI. if that letter doesn't return back then Tina Reed has the original letter with the time of Sgt. L.'s reply. Mr. Reed finally received his medication after he died.

This is my best recollection of the events that took place in the death of inmate Thomas Reed.

Respectfully submitted this day of April 23, 2010.

This death could have been prevented.


Name withheld by request to avoid retaliation.


Winchester unit is to be a medical unit, but that I recall no medical staff was present in Building 8 A / B when Thomas Reed died. Medical is backed up. I can't see medical for a hernia that I have. I am still on the waiting list to see a doctor. On a rainy day two or three weeks ago before Mr. Reed died medical had a long line of inmates waiting outside. Staff called the warden and the warden had medical get the inmates out of the rain and into the medical building and ordered two nurses to take care of the inmates instead of one.

Medical nurses take walker's from inmates. Refuse to give medication in a timely manner. No shower rails for the elderly in the showers or the bathroom toilets. The elders must walk the long way to medical, chow hall, programs etc. any inmate questioned can vouch for this three-page statement including the inmates in Building 8 A who witnessed the events leading to inmate Thomas Reed's death. I had also told Sgt. L. that night. "You know that these correctional officers don't always log down what happens." Sgt. L. stated, "You're probably right, they don't."


Name withheld by request to avoid retaliation.