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:

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Resign, Director Ryan: Former Deputy Warden breaks the silence.

What follows is an open letter to the Director of the Arizona Department of Corrections, Charles L. Ryan, from a former deputy warden of his, Carl ToersBijns. For those of you who missed it, Mr. ToersBijns was interviewed by Channel 12 recently, calling on Ryan to resign. Ryan was asked to respond, of course, at which point he called Carl a disgruntled employee, hence the reference to that in the letter below.

Mr. ToersBijns recently published two books about his career with the Arizona and New Mexico prison systems: "Wasted Honor", and "Wasted Honor II: Underground Power", which I ordered and skimmed through after we connected, wanting a better sense of the man before publishing his letter here. They aren't tell-all books; there are really only a handful of references to Ryan in them (though they serve as examples of how not to be a good department director). Carl's intent appears to be to train others going into the field of corrections, not to slander his former colleagues or boss. I suspect there are many secrets he still keeps.

I originally received the letter below by email on August 17, 2010. Between the several exchanges we had about it, his public posts and the interview, and my cursory review of his books, I am convinced that the letter is authentic.
Carl is hardly an abolitionist (he was quick to tell me he isn't a liberal either, but I do believe he's more progressive than most men in this state). We have vastly different perspectives on incarceration (especially on solitary confinement and special management units, or SMUs), but my impression is that he is a sincere man who does not frivolously engage in character assassination or vindictive crusades. He appears to be motivated by a genuine concern for the public's safety, the success of corrections officers in assuring security and facilitating rehabilitation, and the welfare of those committed to the custody and care of the state. Carl evidences considerable compassion for prisoners who are mentally ill, in particular.

I am not so sure that the same can be said for Director Ryan, however, as he and his staff have ceased communicating with me on all matters. I've had a couple of public demonstrations and challenged him on a few things, and I think he's punishing me with the silent treatment, now - he knows how much I hate it. I'd lose my mind in an SMU - which is precisely where he'd put me if he could, I'm sure, so watch my back out there please, folks. I'll be coming out with a lot more on the ADC soon.

The only edits I made below were for formatting purposes, by the way - the content is all Carl's.
This, I think, takes real courage...


Open letter to Mr. Ryan.

I have only told a few but I put it in my book about my relationship with you [Mr. Ryan]. I was somewhat taken by your name calling referring to me as a disgruntled employee. Yes, I did leave sudden and I gave the Agency my two weeks notice. However, what I didn't say out loud is why we are ethically apart.

On May 13th last year, you said something in a general [warden's meeting] setting about a family member of mine. A man [family member] I have never met to this day, but who was the brother of my wife and incarcerated in Lewis. You, Mr. Ryan, told the former warden of Lewis complex this man [family member] deserved to die. You told the warden on the pretense of an "inside joke" some inmates deserve everything they are entitled to (per the grievance policy) except RH, who deserves to die.

(Obviously, you didn't know this inmate was my wife's brother incarcerated in Lewis and who has a very serious crime and considered by me to be a very bad individual with poor moral values).

I kept this mentioning of your comments about her brother from my wife and my mother in law for a month - I never ever kept anything from my wife - we had no secrets and I felt like (inappropriate term) keeping it inside and pretending all was ok. We [Ryan] had a face to face and we agreed to disagree and we moved on. You gave me a director's coin and we parted. It was never pleasant around you nor did I believe you were sincere when you offered an apology to me in your email stating "Nor, would I have had any knowledge that you had a family connection to an inmate in our system."

Since then I let it go and worked on the issues at hand. Yes I left sudden cause I had the time of service and age to retire. He had no integrity with me and I could no longer work for this man. I said this in my resignation letter that I handed to my warden... Disgruntled, not me, disenchanted, very much, I thought leaders were men or women who serve others and not themselves. Character counts and you Mr. Ryan, have no character when it comes to leadership and taking care of your staff and the public.

Respectfully submitted "Kodiakbears" [Carl ToersBijns]

1 comment:

toersbijnsc said...

Open Letter to State Legislators and Director Ryan:

We should refrain from throwing out the baby with the bath water.. The state could in fact reverse some of their traditional trends by taking a good look at their prison population and do the following:
1. Identify their non-violent offenders
2. Identify their drug related first time offenders
3. Take those non violent offenders and drug related first time offenders serving under two years and make them eligible for a classification review to community corrections [conditions would be clear conduct, no institutional violence, no history of escape or prior history of violent crimes]
4. Transfer these identified offenders to community corrections e.g. house arrest, electronic supervision, intensive supervision, halfway houses.
5. Focus on increasing funding for community corrections and parole probation officers and take those positions from the prisons case managers position [re-allocate existing resources] and offer laterals to the community to keep staff
6. Change the laws to allow first time non violent / drug offenders to be processed or supervised through drug courts, house arrest etc.
7. Change the laws to allow judicial discretion to sentence first time offenders without priors as a juvenile for lesser sentences that include probation, electronic supervising work release etc.
8. GPS expansion using prison funds for vehicles or equipment
9. Reduce the good time awards from 85 to 50 per cent for those over two years and non violent / first time drug related crimes expediting their exit out of the prisons and creating a flow for bed space that will eventually be reduced to avoid building more prison beds.
10. Develop a citizen corrections oversight board that will maintain ethical and legal responsibility for reviewing such reductions in sentencing while in prison and deny those not appropriate for early release through these changes.
Contrary to some experts out there, if you can avoid incarcerating those first time offenders whether drug related or non violent, you have a better than 65 per cent change of them not coming back however, if you incarcerate them, the odds are even in reverse and you will see 65 per cent of them coming back. Give or take the %, this is not a bad plan and public safety is not compromised by anyone who is afraid of looking "soft" on crime.. Arizona has a chance to get ahead of the curve and stop this high rate of incarceration for those who don't always need prison time to be rehabilitated. Like it has been said a hundred times, when you send an inmate to prison, he or she comes out a better crook. There is some truth in that and this will avoid that negative impact created by those who believe 3 strikes and your out but now find it hard to fund such an agenda. NO growth in prison but rather a re-allocation of existing resources that will be optimized with what you already have and making is smaller.