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:

Monday, September 6, 2010

Joe Arpaio should be prosecuted, not sued.

(This is from the Prison Abolitionist September 4, 2010.)

I don't know what the big deal is about the feds "suing" the MCSO. I know a lot of folks celebrated this news yesterday, but all it did was piss me off more - that man should be arrested, disarmed, and awaiting trial in a jail cell. He sure shouldn't be out doing more "crime suppression sweeps". We haven't been marching and writing and waiting this long for the feds to sue our county. Arpaio's been sued by plenty of people - and he's never the one who pays, even when he's responsible for killing someone. While good people are being prosecuted as criminals for resisting that man's evil, the DOJ is just stalling until his term expires so they don't have to take responsibility for how he's treated people. I think he does a lot of their dirty work, anyway.

What a mistake to even hope that the Obama administration would come to our rescue in Maricopa County. Look at who the president tapped for Homeland Security, after all - she did nothing but enable this guy. Joe Arpaio may entertain a lot of the nation, but he shouldn't be dismissed as just a clown, a controversial politician, or an incompetent sheriff (though he is all those things): he's an armed and dangerous criminal. After all, what's false arrest if not kidnapping? Racial profiling if not a hate crime? Misuse of public funds if not stealing by both deceit and force? Vindictive investigations and prosecution if not destruction of livelihood and threat to life and limb?

We prosecute young people for terrorist conspiracies just for plotting to drag a few newsboxes into an intersection to momentarily stop the madness of an exploitative, vicious, greedy world. That's not terrorism - that's disrupting the flow of traffic. Using violence or intimidation to coerce political figures or communities is terrorism - which means that Janet still has a job to do here. If anyone else did what Arpaio has been doing, Homeland Security would have swooped in with the DOJ long ago - except that the feds think he's been doing it to people that they really don't give a shit about, either. As I suggested above, it just means less work for them, and by contrast they end up looking like the "good guys", even when all they do is play this game of chastising him.

America is hardly the land of the free or the home of the brave, but most of the rest of the world figured that out a long time ago. We throw the truly courageous and liberated souls into prison like murderers, lest they expose the brutal, corrupt nation we are. So, the feds can slap Sheriff Joe on the wrist or give him a medal - unless they prosecute him as the criminal he is, though, they can take my citizenship and shove it.

They, like Arpaio, are just tools of this hateful, whi
te supremacist, patriarchal empire - they sure aren't serving the People. Arpaio and his kind are heroes only to those who benefit from perpetuating a slave state, and those who have been conditioned to fear the consequences of true justice. They and their kindred invaded and reproduced in this region with an explicit agenda in mind - gaining and maintaining their own wealth and power by impoverishing and criminalizing everyone who resists. It never ceases to amaze me how people like Russ Pearce manage to twist the truth of our collective history. It seems so blatant that I just don't understand how the rest of the country keeps falling for their lies and histrionics. We are indeed a nation of fools.

Well, I'm descended from the Pilgrims and soldiers of the American Revolution - I even carry Brigham Young's genes - but what I learned growing up (from my Young Republican parents, even) was that my family's relative privilege and our presence in this hemisphere by violent conquest makes me all the more responsible for preventing similar injustices from occurring here and now. It sure doesn't entitle me to subordinate the rest of those who populate this land, regardless of where our government erects borders and points its guns.

So, fuck you, your Keystone cops, and your source of power, Sheriff Joe - you are a corruption of what America has claimed to be. That's a claim that's led many young people to kill and die for the ideals of freedom and democracy - which you've done everything you can to subvert. Fuck the feds, too - they didn't come to our rescue - they just keep sending reinforcements to finish us off. And shame on every other American citizen who isn't resisting Power in this place - especially those citizens who lack color. You're like the so-called Christians who owned slaves, or felt a little guilty about it but looked the other way at the auction. I don't know what's so difficult about understanding that someone like Christ would never have voted for those who do violence in His name.

There are many ways to defeat racism and colonialism like this, but you are mistaken if you think you've found a neutral place from which to comfortably watch, tuning in once in awhile for to either vent about evil or scapegoat those
being victimized by it. In fact, if you're comfortable with any of what's going on in Arizona - and not at least boycotting this place - then you're already with them, condoning the repression, deportation, incarceration, and even slaughter of people America once so gladly welcomed. The condition was that they had to remain in perpetual servitude - it was only when they began seeking liberty and justice that we decided that migrants were all criminals and aliens. Now the good Senator Pearce wants their children to be born into slavery, too.

What has become of us?

There's never been any consistency in the enforcement of law in America, but in Arizona it's especially biased and mean. Power here demands that people like Arpaio seduce the already-sympathetic, and brutalize everyone else into submission. It's already made sure he doesn't have to go out of his way to put people like me behind bars. The law of this land and its enforcers have no credibility with me; they have my contempt. I guess that makes me another radical preaching anarchy. Call me an outlaw, too, then: I haven't carried state ID since SB 1070 was passed - I know very well who I am, and a good many of the people who would incarcerate me do, too.

I've already said what I think of the DOJ - they're worse than a joke because invested in them is a lot of people's hope. I've been begging them
for help for a year and they've answered with nothing but silence as people keep suffering and dying in these prisons. But if I refused to comply with them in the face of an investigation, I'd be charged with obstruction of justice and held without bond while search warrants were issued for everything they wanted - including my DNA for their database. They sure as hell wouldn't be suing me in civil court. What are they doing dancing with our Sheriff around this, then?

Law enforcement officers should be held to a higher standard of non-violence against citizens than anyone else precisely because they already have the guns, the training, and the benefit of the judge's and jury's doubt. Besides, they have a sworn duty to protect and defend us. Instead, however, it's the public that's held to a higher standard when it comes to the welfare of cops, whatever uniform they wear. Even the FBI is guaranteed to brutalize us if we cross them in any way, and the courts will back them up by dishing out solitary confinement for life, if they want - the Black Panthers are a prime example. So, I'm not really optimistic about the DOJ doing anything to rein in anyone's excessive use of force - not by the MCSO or anyone else. A lot of the violence against those targeted by police is done by prosecutors, anyway, in concert with the powers that be - far more than by cops walking their beat.

Case in point: the Arpaio 5. The feds are here because the Maricopa County Attorney wouldn't lift a finger to stop the MCSO from assailing the community (Andrew Thomas was in cahoots with him, anyway), even though tens of thousands of us have demonstrated repeatedly. But the MCA has no problem charging some of those youth who protested police tactics at last January's anti-Arpaio march as violent criminals for the chaos that erupted near the end with the Phoenix PD. There's a double standard, alright.

some of the more colorful anarchists
at the January 16, 2010 anti-Arpaio march.

No one who was there or has seen the multitude of videos can agree on what really happened - much less who was most to blame for police actions - so the default version of the "truth" is, as usual, the one told by the cops (and the Phoenix New Times - thanks a lot, Lemons). Those poor, frail officers (in body armor) were assaulted, obstructed and resisted by a handful of kids half their size who were being trampled by police horses and bikes, blinded by pepper spray, and threatened by a well-equipped cavalry.

Had I been there, I could have easily bumped (or been pushed) into a cop while trying to get out of the way, or arrested fo
r interfering while trying to keep a friend from getting killed in the melee. But apparently it doesn't matter to the county attorney what your intent or your actual capacity to hurt anyone was: if you touch a cop with anything from a banner to silly string, your ass is theirs - especially if you call yourself an anarchist, wear all black, and dare to talk back to state authority. You're really in trouble if you're a woman on top of all that.

So I keep thinking, if Justice is really blind and
one's purpose apparently doesn't matter in assault, then shouldn't the cop who hit toddlers with pepper spray be charged, too? Regardless of what frightened her or who she really intended to blind and cause pain (I really doubt she was aiming for the kids), totally innocent children got hurt - the videos and witnesses are pretty clear that little ones were screaming and all red and teary-eyed because they got sprayed. Relatively speaking, that seems to have been a far more serious "assault" than crashing into someone - even if that someone was a cop. If that officer doesn't do time for injuring bystanders by deploying her weapon - be it in self-defense or out of carelessness in all that confusion - why do the kids who got nabbed in the heat of the moment get screwed?

I'm especially disturbed that there's no semblance of proportionality in terms of what the Arpaio 5 are being accused of and what they might be charged with if they don't surrender their rig
ht to trial now. They clearly aren't considered to be a threat to public safety, since they aren't being held without bail and the plea deals being offered don't all entail jail. If they maintain their innocence, however, some are being promised the violence inherent in incarceration if they don't prevail in court - one has been told that if she puts up a defense she'll be prosecuted for a serious felony that would carry a mandatory minimum sentence of over ten years in prison.

That floored me - that's literally 100 times more severe than what she'd get if she just pleads guilty now. If the county attorney really thought this young woman was a danger to society, she'd be on her way to prison already. They're coercing her with a promise of harsh retaliation for resistance, not a deal negotiated in the interest of justice. The state isn't trying to protect the public, or even the police. They're trying to repress and silence these young people - and all their friends, by making an example of them - for their defiance of police authority, not for perpetrating violence on police officers. Yet how often do courts punish the cops with incarceration for harassing, pepper spraying, or wrongfully arresting one of us - much less beating or killing someone? They seldom ever treat it as criminal. All they're usually willing to do is let us sue the department they work for - like the DOJ is suing Arpaio.

The DOJ is basically a big fat cop, and thus isn't much different than anyone in Maricopa County - or the State of Arizona - for failing to press criminal charges against anyone at the top of the MCSO, letting Arpaio and his goons off the hook for the criminal harm they've done to so many people. Regardless of how embarrassing he is to the rest of law enforcement, he's still one of their own, so different standards of conduct - lower standards - apply than those which the rest of us are held to. Similarly, neither Thomas' nor Romley's office would prosecute any of the prison guards for Marcia Powell's homicide. Why not? They told me that despite 10,000 pages of testimony and evidence (and a year to investigate), they still couldn't sort out who did what. There were just "too many conflicting stories".

What??? Of course they're all pointing fingers at each other - no one ever wants to take the rap. Prosecute them ALL, then, and let them sort it out in plea bargains like you'd do to any of us. Don't let them off with the modified Nuremburg defense ("No one was following policy; it wasn't just me. Breaking the rules was SOP.") Who else would duck a negligent homicide charge in that situation but agents of the law? They may all tell a different story, but the story they tell is that it wasn't them. Again, the default version of the truth is theirs.

That's pathetic. I just don't believe that the Maricopa County Attorney can't even come up with a misdemeanor charge against one of sixteen (16) prison guards (officers of the law) who mocked or ignored a woman they had locked in a cage in the desert sun, leaving her for over 3 hours without water to defecate on herself, suffer horribly, and finally die with second degree burns on her body. There was enough culpability in her death for the prosecutor I discussed it with to say that it's unfortunate no one can find survivors with standing to sue the AZ Department of Corrections - that's the only way justice would be done, apparently, not through the efforts of the Maricopa County Attorney's office to find it. They're too busy prosecuting kids for challenging the police.

If Marcia Powell had been
a child in the care of a parent, the MCA would be looking for someone to execute within days of her death, not closing the file a year later. At the very least negligent homicide charges would be brought. They'd be quicker to prosecute someone if Marcia was a dog, actually - and then they'd erect a memorial for the poor thing. Being "tough on crime" apparently doesn't apply if the perpetrator wears a badge and the victim is a whore with no family to bury her remains. I can tell you from the hits on my blog and the emails in my box about Marcia Powell: the entire world is disgusted with us - all of us, not just the AZ Department of Corrections.

I don't know where the original cancer in this place started - I think it was long before Arpaio, though. The MCSO is just one of the worst sites it metastasized to; it certainly isn't the only one. Nevertheless, Joe Arpaio and his cronies should be excised from this community immediately if we are to ever know the meaning of justice here. The DOJ isn't promising that, however. What consequences does Arpaio face if he loses this round to the feds, anyway? A big fine, perhaps? No - the rest of the county has to pay that part, most of which will come out of lifesaving resources for the poor, of course. They don't even broach the issue of restitution for his victims. Does he actually have to step down (with a healthy pension), or maybe just promise to "reform"? No indication that they have that in mind, either - he could run for office again, for all we know. So, what are all those civil rights laws for, anyway, if they leave abusers in power and enjoying the fruits of their crimes? I really don't know what the point of their lawsuit is, except for the feds to say they did something (even if it amounts to nothing beyond them reclaiming a few million bucks).

Even though it's a rare thing for the Justice Department to sue a police agency, this lawsuit is still petty bullshit when you stack it up against what the man and his machine have done. As far as I'm concerned, Arpaio is worse than the schoolyard bully that too many people dismiss him as. He's more like a gang leader being allowed to run loose with deadly weapons, commandeering an army of thugs who, at his orders, are kidnapping people, committing hate crimes, terrorizing communities, collecting protection money, and persecuting his enemies with threats of violence under the color of "law" - all while he's "under federal investigation" for civil rights violations. How is it not a real crime to violate someone's civil rights, anyway - especially when you chain them up in the process?

Maybe the documents Arpaio refuses to release hold evidence of corruption that could be criminally prosecuted - if so, they have or will be destroyed before he lets them destroy him. I doubt that man will ever get sentenced to jail or prison time, like some of the Arpaio 5 might.
Marcia Powell was killed while doing a 27-month prison sentence for offering a cop a blow job, while Arpaio has prostituted himself to White Power for as long as he's been in office, spreading his racist, misogynistic venom in the community like an STD. He's a far greater threat to public safety than either the Arpaio 5 or Marcia could possibly be. So how is it that in the nation which incarcerates more of its citizens than anyone else in the world, this man is not worried about going to prison? I find this to be a very disturbing miscarriage of justice all the way around.

I can't imagine what more the DOJ needs to investigate to prosecute Arpaio. There's no lack of witnesses or evidence here to his criminal conduct: he's publicly boasted about it to no end. He should be arrested immediately and held without bail so the communities he persecutes don't have to keep living in fear. Unfortunately, no one with power in this state defends the common people or human rights - people like Russ Pearce cultivate bigoted, selfish, abusive men (and women) like him. They know Arpaio and his henchmen will enforce only those laws they make to protect their own interests - against those who resist or can be bullied - with the consent of a largely "Christian" public that votes from their fear, rather than from what they profess is their faith.

My bet is that I'll be the one who ends up in jail before the feds pack up and go home - not Sheriff Joe. If any of the Arpaio 5 are doing time there, though, I'd be more free in their company for cursing the state than I would be if I silently empowered the evil
holding the keys to our chains.

one of the Phx PD's more dangerous hoodlums:
"Remember Marcia Powell"


Department of Justice Sues Maricopa County Sheriff's Office for Refusing to Cooperate With Investigation

Friday 03 September 2010

by: Nadia Prupis, t r u t h o u t | Report

The US Justice Department (DOJ) filed a lawsuit against controversial Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Thursday for alleged civil rights violations and refusal to cooperate with a federal probe.

Arpaio, who leads the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) and calls himself "America's toughest sheriff," has drawn both criticism and support as one of the country's most outspoken opponents of illegal immigration. Arpaio is also an active participant in 287(g) - a program funded by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that trains and authorizes state police departments in enforcing federal immigration laws. The MCSO has deported more than 26,000 immigrants in the past three years, one-quarter of the national total of 115,841.

Since March 2009, the DOJ has attempted to investigate Arpaio for a litany of alleged civil rights abuses, including racial profiling, unconstitutional searches and seizures and enforcement of English-only policies in his jails, but Arpaio's office has refused to produce all the requested documents. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits federally funded programs such as 287(g) from discriminating on the basis of race, color and national origin, and grant recipients are required to provide the DOJ full access to documents, facilities and staff during investigations. To receive federal funds for its participation in 278(g), the MCSO signed contractual agreements that assured its compliance with Title VI and promised its full cooperation with discrimination probes.

This DOJ investigation is not the first time Arpaio has faced federal charges for civil rights abuses. A separate probe launched this year by a grand jury is looking into abuse of power charges against Arpaio after he conducted baseless prosecutions of political opponents. In 1997, the DOJ also investigated Arpaio for civil rights abuses within his jails, alleging that he deliberately failed to discipline guards who subjected inmates to excessive use of force. Arpaio's compliance in that case led to the implementation of more humane jail policies, including the limited use of pepper spray, stun guns and restraint chairs.

Thursday's lawsuit marks the first time in more than 30 years that the DOJ has had to sue a police force for compliance. Arpaio refused to comply with an August 17 and a September 10 deadline to produce documents requested over 15 months ago.

"The actions of the sheriff's office are unprecedented," said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division. "It is unfortunate that the department was forced to resort to litigation to gain access to public documents and facilities."

Arpaio's attorney Robert Driscoll wrote in a letter to Judy Preston, acting chief for the Special Litigation Section, that the MCSO "certainly did not agree that every document DOJ requested is required to be produced in a Title VI investigation ... If DOJ seeks to dictate every deadline and maintain the position that it, in its sole discretion, can determine what it wants and when, without any reasonable limitations on scope and without any input from MCSO, what DOJ truly seeks is compelled or coerced compliance. MCSO is committed to providing DOJ with a reasonable amount of information and documents based upon which DOJ can investigate allegations of national origin discrimination."

The MCSO and Arpaio's alleged crimes violate not only Title VI, but also the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. According to the lawsuit, if the MCSO is found guilty of discriminatory behavior, Maricopa County stands to lose an estimated $113 million in federal grants. The funds also go toward programs such as assistance for low-income families and health care for the homeless.

During a press conference Thursday morning, Arpaio expressed disappointment in the ongoing investigation. "I thought we were really close to getting this resolved," Arpaio said. He also promised to proceed with his current operation of 278(g), stating, "I'm going to continue, maybe tomorrow, to enforce all the illegal immigration laws ... As [State Senator Russell Pearce] always says, 'Take the handcuffs off the cops.' I'm not going to be intimidated by the federal government going to court against us."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bad laws, laws that hurt far more than they help, should be eliminated. Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is just a bad law that hurts the good guys and lets the bad ones run free. Here's why: