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. firstname.lastname@example.org
until all are free -
MARGARET J PLEWS (June 1, 2015)
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Kevin Gerster's Arraignment
I made it down to the Maricopa County Courthouse this morning where Kevin Gerster was arraigned. The courtroom was late opening up, though, and there were 67 people on the morning's docket - the first half of whom were in custody and appearing from jail via video-camera. It was interesting to see that the only defendant not being represented by a public defender of some kind was Gerster - who is being very well-represented, no doubt, by David Cantor.
Before court commenced, the prosecuting attorney asked if any victims were present. None stepped forward, so I got up and introduced myself as representing the interests of families of people with serious mental illness, explaining that I was there to observe Gerster's indictment. I don't know if she was aware of my communication with Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery or not, but she seemed somewhat annoyed with that, saying "it is what it is," then turned back to her table, effectively dismissing me.
Gerster entered the courtroom when I did, along with 3 companions - one of whom looked like he could be his brother. While hanging out in the lobby before the doors opened, Gerster looked relaxed, chatting and even laughing aloud with his lawyer. All I could think of was him assaulting those two mentally impaired, physically restrained prisoners for what appeared to be no reason but sadistic pleasure, and how much I wanted to see that guy sweating this out in chains and stripes with a court-appointed attorney, instead. That's not very abolitionist of me, I must confess, but honest.
As court commenced and Commissioner Lynch began to work his way through the prisoners in the order they were listed, I thought I was in for another hour or so, and ran out to drop more change in my meter. Big mistake. Needless to say, by the time I made it back through security and up to the 8th floor of the East Court House, Gerster was done and gone. No surprise, I guess - since his attorney was there only for him, my bet is that the judge called him up soon after I stepped out so Cantor could make it to his next appearance.
Privilege has its perks.
Fortunately KPHO was paying attention. Gerster plead "not guilty" to all charges and it was probably over in less than 2 minutes. He isn't due in court again until his pretrial conference on February 10 at 8:15am.
I'll post any updates here, but there likely won't be much more news on him unless the MCAO decides to drop one or more charges. I've decided to place a widget near the top of this page, too, with upcoming court dates of interest - a lot of cops here are criminals, it seems. This could drag on for a year before there's any trial or resolution, so I'll take more responsibility for organizing people to attend hearings.
William Hughes, one of Gerster's victims, is better-represented now, by the way - I believe through the Homeless Legal Assistance Project, where Craig Logdson mentors law students, and Ian Fischer is also somehow affiliated with. They appear to have sprung him even though he's facing a Rule 11 competency hearing in January. I don't know his current circumstances, but at least the kid won't spend Christmas in Joe Arpaio's cold, abusive jail. Frankly, I think his judge should just throw the charges out now and let him get on with his life; that guy has already endured enough.
No news on when/if William's other assailant, Alan Keesee, will be prosecuted. Millions of people have probably viewed that video by now, but as far as I know they're still "investigating" - and he's still on "paid administrative leave" (i.e. extended vacation).