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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Thursday, December 2, 2010

MCSO: Prisoner Civil Rights Complaints.

The guy quoted below (in bold red) about how "seriously" the MCSO takes these assaults on prisoners is presumably Jerry Sheridan, the Chief Custody Officer for the Maricopa County's jails. Let me just remind folks that when the MCSO convened their grand press conference Monday to release the video and announce Gerster's arrest, Sheridan seemed to explain his officers' conduct by saying that the victim of Gerster's first recorded assault (the mentally ill guy strapped down in 4-point restraints who got his jaw broken) "was probably mouthing off."

I don't think that was part of the planned press release - that's just what comes out of those guys naturally whenever they open their mouths. I hope all the MCSO's victims catch that and make a point of putting these administrators - and Arpaio - on their federal civil rights' complaints, since they've created a climate in which "mouthing off" at guards justifies violent retaliation against helpless, mentally disabled prisoners.

If you've been a victim of the MCSO while in their custody, here's the form you need to fill out to make a civil rights complaint, with instructions (here and here are a couple of jailhouse layer guides, too). If you're still in custody, don't let that stop you - the courts will be accommodating. Just make sure that you read the directions carefully and follow them. A lot of otherwise sound cases get thrown out because people don't follow the right format, name the right defendants, or go through the internal grievance process available to them.

Also, below is contact info for the folks at the Department of Justice to contact in support of a CRIPA Investigation (Civil Rights for Institutionalized Persons), if you have evidence of a pattern/practice of abuse/neglect of prisoners in any law enforcement agency's custody. I believe they're already on to Arpaio and his Klan at the jails (at least the ACLU has been working it) - give them more evidence anyway. And please feed them stuff about the state prisons - or email me and I'll send it on its way.

Since these big tough men who are supposed to be defending our constitution and safety will no doubt be whining to the press that the Obama administration is just picking on them because of politics, let local media know why you filed a civil rights complaint or contacted the DOJ, that you're ordinary people from Arizona, not politicians from Washington, and that it's all about them violating human rights and abusing the public trust
. If they ever really practiced what they preached, they'd suck it up and take responsibility for their own behavior.


US Department of Justice

Special Litigation Section

Mailing Address

Special Litigation Section
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, PHB
Washington, D.C. 20530
For FEDEX: 601 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

Telephone Number
toll-free at (877) 218-5228

Fax Numbers
(202) 514-0212
(202) 514-6273


Jonathan M. Smith

And this is the Judge who ordered Arpaio to get it together and clean up the jails. Let him know if he's doing his job or not:

United States District Court
Sandra Day O’Connor U.S. Courthouse, Suite 524
401 West Washington Street, SPC 52
Phoenix, AZ 85003
Phone: (602) 322-7640

No more appeals, Arpaio!


Accused Detention Officer Resigns from Job

Fox News Updated: Thursday, 02 Dec 2010, 7:23 PM MST

PHOENIX - The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office said Thursday that detention officer Kevin Gerster resigned on Wednesday following his arrest earlier in the week on aggravated assault charges.

A jail surveillance video shows the former Arizona detention officer stepping on the neck of an inmate who was restrained and bent over a table.

The video shows the inmate, William Hughes, handcuffed behind his back, bent over a table, and surrounded by three officers. Gerster walks up to the men, gets on the table and steps on Hughes' neck.

The video of the assault also shows the officer later punching Hughes in the back of the head four times and kicking him in the leg once. Investigators also said they believe he slammed Hughes' head up against a wall in his jail cell, although there is no video evidence of that.

Sheridan said Hughes did not require medical treatment and didn't have any apparent neck injuries, although he had some bruising and a cut on his forehead, which investigators believe happened in his jail cell.

Gerster posted a $36,000 secured appearance bond Tuesday after he was booked into jail on aggravated assault charges stemming from Hughes' assault and from a June incident, which was uncovered during the recent investigation.

In a June video also released to the media, Gerster is shown punching inmate Michael Flores in the jaw.

Gerster also faces charges of accessing criminal history and one count of computer tampering. The sheriff's office said Gerster looked up the address of an ex-inmate for his friend, whose ex-wife was dating the inmate and who allegedly assaulted the two with a box cutter after getting the address from Gerster.

Another officer, Alan Keesee, who is shown in the November video slamming Hughes' head against the table, was not arrested, but the sheriff's office recommended he also be charged with aggravated assault.

Sheridan said the sheriff's office decided to release the video to the public because he and Sheriff Joe Arpaio "took it very seriously."

"We were upset with the actions of both these officers and we quickly initiated a criminal investigation," he said.

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