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. collective@phoenixabc.org

until all are free -

MARGARET J PLEWS (June 1, 2015)
arizonaprisonwatch@gmail.com



AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Grieving Jessie Cota.

(January 29, 2011: Raymond - email me so I can send you something, or call. I don't have your number. - Peggy 480-580-6807 prisonabolitonist@gmail.com)

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Jesus Cota was a prisoner of the state of Arizona when he passed away January 10, 2010. His death was ruled a suicide by the Arizona Department of Corrections. I've been doing some research into the prison suicides of late, and came up with a few things on Jessie, as he was known. I think it helps the community to know that prisoners have families and complicated lives, too.

First is his AZ Republic Guestbook, where his friends and family have been leaving messages for him since he died. Jessie loved and was loved by a good many folks. There are a few recent entries because it would have been his birthday September 1. These are the secondary victims of incarceration who never get counted - prisoners' families and communities. Here's a sample:

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August 31, 2010

September 1st is here..and although theres no candles or cake here today..or presents for you to open I hope you know,and can see that you haven't been forgotten.. And if your looking down and wondering why, it's because you live in the memories of everyone wishing you a Happy Birthday today..Friends, family, everyone..A part of you is always here Jessie and today a little more than any other day your being thought of.. Happy Birthday.. Love Your Friend,"Lola"
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January 19, 2010

"Jessie you always reminded me of dad. your laugh just like his and now your with him and pappi.i wish i could have seen you one last time.to hug you and to tell you how much i loved you.and i want to let you know you will never be forgotten you will always be remembered love always your lil sister crystal a.k.a.tutu"

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January 14, 2010

DAD I MISS YOU SO MUCH..WHEN I HEARD YOU HAD PASSED.. I WAS VERY SAD BECAUSE YOUR MY ONLY DAD.. ILOVE YOU.. ME AND DAMIEN MISS YOU SO MUCH.. I WONT FORGET YOU AS LONG AS I LIVE NO ONE COULD REPLACE A COOL DAD LIKE YOU.. I REMEMBER WHEN YOU USED TO CALL AND SAY I LOVE YOU ANDDAMIEN.. THANKS FOR STILL BEING THERE FOR ME EVEN WHEN YOU WHERE IN PRISON.. THANKS FOR LOVING MY MOM SINCE YOU GUYS WHERE KIDS.. LOVE YOUR SONS : ALEX COTA, DAMIEN COTA....
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April 08, 2010

SON THESE DAYS HAVE BEEN SOON PAINFUL, I LOST MY MOTHER FIRST, THEN MY FATHER, THEN YOU, SO MUCH PAIN IN SUCH A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME. I REALLY DONT KNOW HOW BUT WERE STILL TRYING TO GET THOUGH IT, BUT .WERE STILL TRYING I DONT THINK THAT PAIN WILL NEVER GO AWAY. LOSING THREE PERSON WHO WE ALL LOVED AND MENT THE WORLD TO US THIS PAIN WILL NEVER FADE AWAY. WISH SOMEONE OUT THERE WOULD TELL US WHAT REALLY HAPPEND. ITS HARD FOR ME TO SLEEP, JUST WONDERING WHAT REALLY HAPPEND THAT DAY. I CLOSE MY EYES AND I PICTURE YOU IN THE POSITION THEY SAID YOU WERE IN AND I START TO CRY. WHY SON Y! I ALWAYS LOVE YOU. TAKE CARE OF NANA AND TATA GIVE THEM A HUG FORM ALL OF US. LOVE YOU. LOVE YOU SON FROM YOUR MOM
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June 20, 2010

It's June 20th 2010, and yes today your being thought of Jessie.. "Happy Father's Day".. I know your kids are thinking about you and missing you today as well as everyone else..I've never been one to pray but I pray for you every night and I hope that your at peace... God bless you & sleep with the angels.. Love Always, Your friend "Lola"..
----------And a blessing for his journey--------
January 14, 2010
Jessie,

I remember you as a little boy always eager to read and learn. You were at my house doing your homework when I lived on 27th lane. I had gone to the drug store across your mom house and you wanted to come to my house. You were in the 6th grade and was going to Sutton school. That little boys who had dreams of being a teacher. You liked school so much then. After Tata's passing I found your report card in papers nana saved. You had made HONOR ROLL the whole year!!! I told Gloria I'm going to keep it and then I told her, no I am going to mail it to him.
But a few weeks later here we are now. As I never told you, I want you to know as I watch you grow older and farther apart how I wish you had the glow in your eyes to follow your dreams. How time has change and you change your destiny, but I am sure inside your heart those dreams were still there. We take different path in our lives and sometimes it is not our choosing but for comfort. I pray to God to fill your heart with your dreams in heaven, that were really meant for you here on earth. The plans that heavens has for you will soon be answered. Just reach for the sky and you will find your wings. Forgiviness for what took place here on earth has been answered. God Bless You Jessie, and he will bless you and recieve you with open arms.

Love Tia Nena
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The most pressing thing I found, however, is troubling, but shouldn't be discounted or ignored. It's a comment that was buried at the bottom of the Phoenix New Times article that covered Jesse's death. It seemed important to the discussion we've been having about prisoner safety to bring to the surface, where it can be more easily assessed. The allegations appear to be made by someone who knew Jesse pretty well and has the details on how this relationship unfolded in prison.

Here's an excerpt about the circumstances surrounding Jesus Cota's death (from "karma belief"). I do hope this is being investigated thoroughly:

"...I am hoping to bring attention to this matter, but more than likely this will go ignored or set aside. Below you will find an email I sent to several departments within the AZ DOC. The only response received from DOC is that Warden Larson retired as of 01/08/2010. They couldn't even reply that this was under investigation and they could not comment.

No one has bothered to question the fact that he was assaulted by Officer Apodaca (there were witnesses). Or how odd it is that as soon as SMU learned of the relationship he began with a former guard, he is suddenly found dead and they call it a suicide. Sure it may have been, but with all of the other information, why are there no further questions being asked? What if this had been your son, brother, father, or anyone else important to you? When a person called down there to check on him after he had been trying to reach them that day, why didn't the guard check on him? If he had been having issues earlier, and the person called, why were they told to call back on Monday and ask someone else? Had that guard got up and looked into this, this never would have happened...

(email follows)

How unfortunate yet another inmate has been able to succeed with possibly having committed suicide. What exactly are my tax dollars covering in these facilities? Obviously not education and training...

Let me get to the point. The death notification and news articles state that an investigation is under way. Are you going to do a proper investigation and start from the beginning? Are you going to take this back to the Lewis complex where Jessie was assaulted BY A CORRECTIONAL OFFICER for getting involved with one of the other officers? Where the assault took place AFTER she QUIT her job to be with him? And while DURING the assault, the guard made it clear as to why he was beating Jessie?

Are you going to go back to Lewis where SSU got involved after she quit and started doing everything they could to cut him off from recreation, where things as simple as a TV were taken from him, where he was cut off from mail, phones, and other family before they shipped him off to SMU? Are you going to look into why he was not being given his mail because the officers at Lewis took it upon themselves to share the letters and pictures he was sent? Again all of this happening AFTER she QUIT working there. They cut him off from the world during the same time his brother and grandfather passed away. During the same time his own children were experiencing hardships in life and he couldn't even contact them.

You may be thinking what this has to do with suicide and SMU... Are you going to look into officers being advised on 01/10/2010 that Jessie was not doing well and needed either attention or supervision? Are you going to look into him being pulled out of his cell for a brief time and then sent right back, all the while no one taking into consideration just how serious his mental state may have been. Why wasn't he placed on watch?

Are you going to look into why there are two versions of how he was found? One states he was found in his cell and the other claims he ran through the door and jumped when it was opened. Do all of your guards open a door and then stand to the side to allow an inmate such freedom of movement? And once again Jessie had been cut off from his family because someone let them know at SMU he had become involved with woman that had QUIT her job at Lewis to be with him. Did she mean that much to all of you?

Are you all satisfied that you not only broke him but cost him his life? And was whatever you were told worth a life? But let me guess, this will go nowhere because anyone that overheard or saw something will be too afraid to come forward. They will be afraid of either being assaulted themselves or losing time with their families. And once again, DOC employees will say either he was just an inmate or had been in trouble so it was to be expected. "
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Anyone who wants to help me fill in some of the blanks about Jessie's life and death, please contact me at prisonabolitionist@gmail.com or 480-580-6807. - Peggy Plews

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