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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Monday, September 13, 2010

Shannon Palmer's murder: prisoners at risk.

This in from Phoenix's KPHO Channel 5 this morning, telling us that Shannon Palmer was castrated by his cellmate. I was kind of annoyed last week that the AZ Department of Corrections felt it necessary to notate that Palmer was in prison for the fourth time, since it seemed to have nothing to do with the fact he was murdered. Now I realize why they may have wanted to make him look like a more dangerous criminal than he was - he was being housed with a REAL serious criminal, which they're responsible for doing. Turning around and telling us all how many times the victim has been to prison before was just a way to make us care less about what happened to him, once the truth came out. That's pretty despicable, frankly.

What the ADC didn't tell us is that when Palmer was charged with criminal damage this last time, his mental capacity was in question enough that the judge ordered a competency exam twice under Rule 11 before allowing him to plead guilty, and again before sentencing him. The first time he was found to be not competent and had to be medicated to be deemed competent. All of that tells me he had a psychiatric disability. If fact, early on in the legal proceedings against him Palmer couldn't make it to the court hearings because he was in a "mental health setting".

cellmate, on the other hand, was an apparent sociopath in for FIRST-degree murder and kidnapping, among other things, and had a history of violent behavior while in prison. Some of Palmer's prior court records are sealed because of his mental illness, but he apparently had no violent misconduct charges on his prison record.

I did some reading up on the ADC's policies about custody levels and housing recently because I've been investigating all these murders in the prisons of late, and was disturbed to see how easy they've made it for violent offenders to have access to people who can be easily victimized - presumably they did that to cut costs by cramming as many guys into a cell or dorm area as possible. It appears to have begun under Stewart or Schriro - the latter is the one who initially authorized putting medium -custody murderers in Kingman to begin with, not Ryan (though before the escapes happened, Ryan seemed to take pride in the ADC risk assessment instrument he helped develop that put those guys there).

Another interesting thing about this cellmate match-up is that both of the guys were just moved last month, after the escapes, to the Transitory Unit at Lewis. If there are any insiders out there who can fill me in on this unit, please do. According to the ADC daily count sheet for 9/8/10, that particular unit is very small and is ranked as a minimum custody unit (much of the rest of Lewis is close custody or protective segregation). Like the murderers who escaped from Kingman this summer, Palmer's deadly cellmate was listed as only a 3/3 internal/external security risk. Palmer was a 2/2. My bet is that they were part of the shuffle to appease the public's sense of security, but no one took into account the safety of the prisoners. Just looking at their records would tell you that these two guys weren't at all "similarly situated" in such a way that would justify putting Palmer in with Rushing, even temporarily.

My bet is that an insurance risk assessor determined that the state would save more money by bunking first-degree killers and mentally ill vandals together than they would lose from lawsuits if a prisoner was murdered - especially if they put people with no voice or family to care about them in with the real bad guys. Besides, how often does the public object to prisoners being murdered here? Unless it was another prisoner that did the killing, we won't even prosecute them, apparently. I hope Palmer has family that will sue the state for everything that Marcia Powell's mother wouldn't for housing him with Rushing. I'm sorry that won't bring him back home to them, though. The poor guy was almost done with his sentence when he was killed.

Please register your dismay about Palmer's murder wherever you see the news on it pop up, so the state gets the message that it's NOT okay to put vulnerable people at risk this way. This is especially disturbing because I recently received a letter from another prisoner with a mental illness who's terrified that he's being moved to a unit where he'll be murdered, too - it came Saturday, and was written before Palmer was killed. "Manuel", who has no family to fight for him, says it's the gangs doing all this killing - and he's not the only prisoner to write to me for help about their housing or custody arrangements out of fear of being set up for a gang hit or otherwise victimized. Apparently the killers and gangs have more control over the prisons than Director Ryan and his people do these days.


CBS 5 News has learned that an Arizona prison inmate who was found dead on Friday was castrated by his cell mate. Shannon Palmer died from his injuries Friday at Lewis Prison in Buckeye, according to prison officials, who would neither confirm nor deny that he was castrated.

His cell mate, convicted murderer Jasper Rushing, is believed to have castrated Palmer, someone with knowledge of the incident told CBS 5 News. Palmer was serving a three-year sentence for criminal damage out of Maricopa County. It was the fourth time Palmer was in prison, according to a Department of Corrections spokesman. The spokesman said that an investigation is ongoing.


Anonymous said...

This is ABSOLUTELY ridiculous!!! Are these not one man cells where only ONE man should be in?! How about the convictions... how is it a murderer is even in with a person that has been convicted of a lesser crime. (Yah, going to jail for three years for climbing a utility pole... REALLY? I mean REALLY?!?!?!)

Anonymous said...

I just got out of prison-Shannon was my neighbor on the unit we were at-we were on a PS yard which is a protective segregation yard-i knew shannon well he was a nice guy-he just had serious mental issues-he left the unit we were on because he was afraid for his life-when someone tells prison staff that they are afraid for their life the go to a lockdown type environment ironic that he asked the prison staff for for help because he was afraid for his safety-and then look what happened to him-I know the whole story because I was in prison with the guy-this was the prisons fault time and time again they would not do anything to help this guy-if you want to know anything else hit me up-I'll check back for post later

R.I.P Mr. Gutierrez & Mr. Palmer said...

I am so disgusted that yet another person had to die because of jasper.. My father was his first victim and should have been his last. jasper was sentenced to life in prison to keep people safe from him.. The system has failed again and I hope the family of Mr. Palmer can do something to help keep things like this from happening again,I am so sorry for their loss.. And I really do hope at some point they can find peace.. Somehow the ADC has got to learn they can not and should never put violent offenders in with non violent offenders. Otherwise for one what is the point in the classification of non violent & violent.. And 2 things like this will continue to happen.. It just really saddens me to know another family had to lose a loved one from the hands of jasper..