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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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

MCSO Brutality and Sunbelt Justice: getting what we "deserve"?

Maricopa County Sheriff's Office detention officer Kevin Gerster, seen in video in the previous post assaulting already-restrained mentally ill prisoners made his $36,000 bond and is out of jail already.

Bet he didn't get cuffed, shackled, bagged and beaten by our beloved defenders of public trust and safety during his brief stay. His jaw probably wasn't broken by some thug with a badge while he was in 4-point restraints in the jail's psychiatric wing. I doubt anyone will be sending an armed intruder to his home to slice up him and his loved ones, either. He's actually pretty fortunate that most of us don't endorse his brand of "justice", and that the cyber-bullies who applauded him following the news articles about his crimes are all just as cowardly as he is.

Gerster's next court appearance is (Rescheduled for an unknown time and place - check for court records on both him and Keesee here, once they're posted, or call the criminal court office at 602-506-8575 if you don't find anything). Anyone who cares about real justice should be there to make sure that not only the cops, but also the courts and prosecutors are held accountable, too.

No word yet on when his colleague, officer Alan Keesee, will be arrested and arraigned. It does not appear as if any of the officers who witnessed the assaults and did nothing (or even those who helped restrain the victims) are being charged. Nor is any of the MCSO leadership, of course.

During his press conference about Gerster's arrest Arpaio seems to justify that conduct by stating "being a detention officer is a difficult job". The Lower Buckeye Jail's chief of custody, Jerry Sheridan, goes on to attribute the assault of the most recent victim to him "mouthing off".
I don't believe there's ever a case in which violence is justified by mere insult - especially coming from a mentally ill person already bound in chains - but for some reason law enforcement officers seem particularly inclined to think it does.

The Maricopa County Sheriff Office's history of human rights' abuses suggests that Officer Gerster's disposition to repeatedly assault helpless people was fostered by his boss and the workplace culture Arpaio has cultivated there. Savagery and criminal misconduct by law enforcement agents of the MCSO is a well-established pattern and practice - one which this state's deluded electorate sadly seems to embrace.

For those of you who missed it, the PHX New Times did a thorough investigation in 2007 of how the MCSO treats prisoners: Inhumanity Has a Price. Read it and weep. I did. As of the time that article was written, the Maricopa County jails - under Arpaio - had already killed 11 prisoners in as many years as a direct result of violating their constitutional rights. For all you right-to-lifers who think the jails just house rapists and murderers who "deserve whatever they get": the death toll included the unborn child of a woman who hadn't even been convicted of anything yet.

By contrast, according to the MCSO website page dedicated to their fallen officers, "In the Line of Duty", since 1994 two officers died in car accidents and one died by gunshot. To hear the rhetoric that keeps justifying the massive build up of weaponry, the round-ups of "criminal aliens", and the brutality they display towards all those dangerous characters they throw in the local lock-up, you'd think the deputies were being slaughtered out there. According to the Goldwater Institute, Arpaio and his crew aren't even going after the real bad guys, though. It's actually the rest of the public that's in danger of getting killed by the MCSO.

Sunbelt Justice in the title of this post, by the way, is a reference to a very worthwhile read about crime and punishment in Arizona. Pick it up before the next legislative session, and recommend it to State Senator Ron Gould, the new chair of the AZ Senate Judiciary Committee. He has a lot to learn.

Again, if you care at all about the abuses of power occurring here, show up for Kevin Gerster's next hearing, stay tuned for Alan Keesee's, and show the rest of this community that at least some of us won't stand for it.

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