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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Saturday, December 11, 2010

MCSO Thug Prosecution: Let the Sunshine In.

I'm sorry, Mr. Montgomery, but I'm not impressed that these are all just Class 6 felonies - knowingly and intentionally abusing a vulnerable adult like William Hughes is a class 2 felony. I may not sound like much of an abolitionist, but right now I'm not sure how else to protect prisoners with psychiatric and developmental disabilities. What you do with these guys will have major implications. The rampant criminalization (AZ has 10 times as many mentally ill in jails/prisons than hospitals) and victimization of people with mental illness in this state is profoundly troubling. If real justice here is ever served, it isn't served to them.

So, I'm going to continue to encourage people to contact you about prosecuting Gerster and Keesee under that vulnerable adult statute. Why do we have those laws if not to prevent custodial agents from abusing disabled and elderly people? I bet a lot of cops don't even know it could apply to them. I'll hold off on calling the Department of Justice in on this one, though - they already have their hands full with Arpaio's garbage, anyway. Besides, I really want to see you do this right yourself. We desperately need to know that someone in law enforcement here is really on the side of the people who get beat down the most.

I can't find out enough about Flores to say if he was restrained in the psych wing because he was high, drunk, mentally ill, or just plain "mouthy", as Sheridan put it, but how much more vulnerable can you be than to be strapped down naked in four-point restraints while the guy with the keys to your cell is breaking your jaw?

Why do they have to strip mentally impaired people of all their clothes when they're putting them in 4-points, anyway? They certainly aren't going to hang themselves in that position. That's abusive in and of itself - those folks are already traumatized. Many of us are survivors of sexual assault as it is, and the MCSO is just humiliating people on top of terrifying them. Please bring that up when you have a good opportunity. It's my understanding that you're someone who has compassion for us.

Furthermore, how could either Gerster's or Keesee's conduct be anything but an intentional attempt to inflict pain and injury? It sure wasn't necessary to bring their prisoners under control or protect the prisoner, themselves, or others from harm.

And what about the release of that former prisoner's address resulting in Gerster's buddy assaulting his ex-wife and her lover with a deadly weapon? Why is Gerster not sitting in jail right now with him? That guy is a violent, repeat offender.

In any event, how is giving Gerster three or even six years in prison for repeatedly assaulting helpless, vulnerable people when he was in a position of absolute power and trust supposed to protect public safety or ensure justice for all? By all means, though, please don't give him a deal for something less than a felony and let him walk with probation. He's hurt too many of us already - as a member of the public whose trust he violated, he hurt me, too.

Nevertheless, I do appreciate that you're at least charging the guy for all counts of assault - and that you announced when his next court date is so the rest of us can be there...justice requires that kind of transparency.
Now please go after Keesee, too. He just smashed William's head into the table for the fun of it.

To everyone else out there:

Note that the next court date for Gerster is supposed to be on December 23 (probably first thing in the AM at the Central Court Building on W. Jefferson). I don't know that a show of citizens opposing police brutality will make a difference, but I plan to be as visible and vocal as possible about justice being done for the victims of these men. For those who have been trying to find out about both Gerster's and Keesee's court dates through the Maricopa Superior Court website, it's been slow to update and I don't think they're too enthusiastic about making that info public - though their court appearances should be as publicly available as the rest of ours would be.

So, if their appearance dates aren't posted on the web, try calling the criminal court clerk's office - they're pretty helpful: 602-506-8575. Call at a little after 8am every day and be ready to go - a lot of hearings are scheduled before 9am. The case number they gave me last week is #PF 2010-162681-001. That may have changed, though (in fact, he should have a few cases, I think), so when you call the court, if they can't find the case number, tell them his birthday was in October, 1975.

****Thank you, by the way, to those MCSO jail staff who reported these two. I saw some white coats looking on as Gerster was punching and kicking William Hughes - I'm about to post on the medical neglect at the MCSO, but realize that some of you are actually trying to do the right thing there. Please stay and keep it up. We'll send help as soon as possible.***

Here's how to reach the Maricopa County Attorney, Bill Montgomery:


------------From the Maricopa County Attorney Office's website-----------

Former MCSO Detention Officer Charged With Assault, Computer Tampering

PHOENIX, AZ (December 10, 2010) – Former Maricopa County Sheriff’s Detention Officer Kevin Michael Gerster (DOB 10/23/1975) has been charged with a total of five counts of aggravated assault and two counts of computer tampering in connection with three different incidents, one of which involved the videotaped beating of a Maricopa County Jail inmate. The charges are detailed in three indictments and will be pursued as three separate cases.

Gerster is charged with two counts of aggravated assault, both Class 6 felonies, for physically assaulting inmate Miguel Flores on June 5th, 2010 while Flores was bound or otherwise physically restrained. In a separate indictment, Gerster is charged with two Class 6 felony counts of unauthorized release or access of a criminal history record on September 9th, 2010. A third indictment charges Gerster with three Class 6 felony counts of aggravated assault in an incident involving Maricopa County Jail inmate William Hughes which was recorded on video and widely disseminated on the Internet. Gerster resigned from the Sheriff’s Office earlier this month.

“Today’s indictments should send a clear and unambiguous message that no one is above the law and that everyone, even those entrusted with enforcing the law, must and will be held accountable,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “The incidents alleged in these indictments stand in stark contrast to the hard and honorable work the overwhelming majority of our uniformed law enforcement officers perform each and every day to protect the citizens of Maricopa County,” he added.

Gerster’s next court appearance is scheduled
for December 23rd.

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