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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Friday, September 10, 2010

Perryville SOS: Critical conditions for the seriously ill.

The following comment was posted to my earlier piece about conditions out at Perryville - this is specifically referencing San Pedro, which is supposed to be the "medical yard". The concerns enumerated by her are serious and chronic. There are elderly and frail women there, including women with AIDS, cancer, and a host of other illnesses and disabilities.

I can say with confidence that this woman's complaints aren't an exaggeration, nor are they unique to San Pedro (or even to Arizona). I also doubt that any of these issues were addressed when the women of Santa Cruz protested the recent lock-down. I've heard all these things from other women who were/are prisoners at Perryville - including two breast cancer survivors and one woman seeking a compassionate release who's now losing a battle with colon cancer (ironically, given the horrid conditions of her confinement, she was actually written up once for a "grooming violation").

Even the healthy women are at risk in that environment. The notion that people are "well taken care of" behind bars is a popular myth rooted in ignorance and self-serving politics that costs many vulnerable prisoners their lives. And no, they don't all "deserve" to be there in the first place - they certainly don't all need to be there for the sake of public safety - despite the absurd claim in the Fischer report that almost all of the ADC's prisoners are a danger to the rest of us (if you look at that link, check out Professor Mona Lynch's testimony in response, and note how Fischer doesn't differentiate between violent and repeat offenders for the legislature - they're just staving off budget cuts by preventing the early release of ANY prisoners, save a handful of "criminal aliens" the state had deported). My terminally ill friend is an example - she got 5 years from a Pinal County judge as a first time, non-violent offender on a controlled substances charge (she's an addict, of course). Hence the outrage of the author below about "bullshit charges" women are imprisoned for these days - our rate of incarceration has skyrocketed.

San Pedro is a minimum custody level yard - those are women who are low risk enough that they can move freely about the prison, share large dorm areas, and work in the community. When escorted outside of Perryville, they only need one guard to accompany them. So why do they need to be locked up at such an exorbitant expense at all? The average amount we pay per state prisoner in minimum custody in Arizona is about $21,500/year. That's more than twice what our federal government will afford for an elderly or disabled person in the community who is solely dependent on Supplemental Security Income (the state doesn't even supplement that).

Health care costs for prisoners are outrageous, but the quality of health care that prisoners get (if they get it at all) is worse than folks get on AHCCCS, believe it or not. Given that San Pedro is a "medical yard", the author's estimate of the cost of incarceration there may well be accurate, though - for some prisoners it's much higher. Once they finish doing their time (if they survive the experience), we're more than willing to leave them homeless, too, no matter how sick they may be. If they stay homeless too long on parole, they can get violated and thrown back in. That seems awfully twisted to me...

Thank you, to the former prisoner who took the time to send out this SOS for her sisters. She's absolutely right about women getting the worst deal in prison (most of the prisons are fire traps, but I don't hear nearly as much from the men about health hazards as I do from Perryville). Results will be hard to come by - God knows Middle Ground has been working on this for years - but if we can get some key legislators invested and build even a modicum of human rights' protections into Marcia's Law, it might help some of these conditions.

Please feel free to contact me - you or any other family members or former prisoners out there - if you want to work on these concerns with us. We need all the help and eyewitness testimony that we can get.
My number is 480-580-6807; call anytime.


September 10, 2010 12:41 PM

Anonymous said...

I want someone to fight for the women who are serving time in Perryville Prison. I just did a nine month stint on San Pedro Yard. The place is disgusting, none of the swamp coolers work, its 120 degrees in our cells. The K-9 dogs stays in cages in the air conditioning. We are treated like animals (worse than animals). The sewer systems on both yards over flow, right in front of the kitchens, YUCK! The swamp coolers are filled with pigeon poop, and we breathe that into our lungs. Every bathroom is covered with mold, the walls , the floors, the shower curtains. One of the kitchens on 8 yard has been condemed, and the prison is not supposed to house inmates in there. BUT THEY DO! As soon as the health inspectors come to check stuff out, they leave and they start housing girls back in there AGAIN!.

The medical services on San Pedro is a joke, more than one time I was told to take advil and drink alot of water, and I have blood clots, and fibromyalgia!!!! Ive Heard them tell the same exact thing to the girls right after they have a seizure! The prison is so over full that we are living in squaller, The smoking section is full of fleas, bugs, ROACHES. The Deputy Warden MUSE is useless, Im surprised she even has a job. IF we get lucky to have a community meeting, and ask her a question, she always puts it off on someone else, she is extremely rude, and inconsiderate. AND LLAAZZYY!!

San Pedro is supposed to be a medical yard and i have NEVER seen living conditions like that before.!, and Im not just taking someone elses word for it, I lived there. The prison is so broke , why do we continue to hold so many girls that they cant afford to take care of them. ITS your Tax money to hold girl in disgusting conditions, Why dont you let alot of them go home to there kids. Come on drug charges for there own personal use (GIVE ME A BREAK). It cost tax payers 30-40 thousand dollars a year to hold mothers, daughters, wifes sisters.... FOR SOME BULLSHIT CHARGES...... Dont any of you have better things to do with your money?

Push for the senate bill to lower the 85%, to the 65%, and Fire Deputy Muse, shes not doing one bit of good anyway. Illegal Immigrants had their 85% dropped down to 50%..... The Prison is condemned, and its filthy, if we were the men at the mens prison, wed riot for what we want, but because were women and were more passive , and we dont riot....WE GET THE SHITTY END OF THE DEAL!!!!!!!! HELP!!!!!HEALTH INSPECTORS ARE ALWAYS SHUTTING THINGS DOWN ON OUR YARD! we EAT DAYS OLD LUNCH MEAT EVERY SINGLE DAY FOR LUNCH! food poisoning is common!~

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