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, September 11, 2012

Arpaio's Deaths in Custody: Stealing gifts from God.

 The wrongful death of Deborah Braillard (Braillard v. Maricopa County, et al)is going to a jury trial tomorrow at the Sandra Day O'Connor Federal Courthouse in Phoenix.

Here's what ABC News most recently has had to say:

Here's my original post, with the article from the Phoenix New Times below.

 4th Avenue Jail, Phoenix

--------from Arizona Prison Watch (December 11, 2010)-----------

Those citizens with their civil rights intact who flocked to Arizona to exploit cheap labor and avoid paying for public schools - not the families who migrated here from our south - are the people who endanger us the most. Increasingly, elections in this state are not exercises in democracy but acts of violence perpetrated on those of us whose voices don't count. If anyone plans to tamper with the constitution next year, it should be only to disenfranchise all the sadistic, delusional voters who support the likes of Joe Arpaio, applauding his stubborn refusal to provide health care to prisoners, his misogynistic policies and underwear, and his abusive staff.

It's sad how many of Arpaio's posse members seem to think of themselves as "Christians", you know - good ones, at that. They must have missed the part in the Bible about how Christ was a prisoner himself (as were Daniel, the Apostle Paul, and my own ancestor, Brigham Young - who would no doubt be treated as a sex offender today - even if never convicted). Would they entrust the care of their prophet, their Savior, or Mother Mary to the Maricopa County Sheriff - or even to the rest of the good Christians who voted for Sheriff Joe?

How about the care of their own mothers?

Investigative journalist Michael Lacey has written a lot of good pieces for the Phoenix New Times - this one should really bring home an award. I'm just giving you the beginning - follow the link for the rest, and take the extra time to view the depositions after you read. One prisoner testifies that she witnessed guards drag a "mentally challenged" women by her ankle, and begins to cry. Another one details the pains that the other criminals went to in order to try to keep Deborah Braillard alive and restore her to health themselves. Sadly, it's so often the case for people who are incarcerated that the most compassion they encounter as they are dying comes from their fellow prisoners. The last video in the series of depositions is this brief clip of Deborah's daughter describing the last days of her mother's life - on a ventilator and chained to a bed....

Good job, Sheriff Joe: that's really being "tough on crime." You can't clear your violent crimes so you vilify and brutalize whatever people you can take prisoner.
It's truly disturbing that your officers don't walk out on you en masse.

We have to figure out how to take back the keys to our jails from Arpaio and his crew before they kill some other little girl's mom or grandma, or someone's else's child. This is not an isolated incident - it's evidence of the criminal practices and patterns of the MCSO and Sheriff Joe that both shame and harm us all. We can't afford two more years.

Finally, remember, dear lawmakers and lawmen: when you deprive the people of meaningful mechanisms to participate in our government peacefully - all the while bludgeoning us and our communities with your rights to profit and your penchant for prisons - you not only risk your re-election, you tempt your fates. You Tea Party tyrants are the ones who will spark a real revolution that can't be contained by your lies and legislation, or by your badges and guns.

That's not a threat, by the way - just a warning. It's all I can see coming of your egocentricity, bigotry, self-righteousness, and hate.

--------------------from the Phoenix New Times----------------------

by Michael Lacey
December 9, 2010

Deborah Braillard, mother

Mom taught me to sew.

And I' m going to teach my own baby, Jennylee. Eventually.

Jennylee is a quick study for a 6-year-old.

She watches as I sew her Minnie Mouse costume. She is double-twice excited, though honestly, I think I like Halloween as much as she does, even if it is a gloomy time of year.

Come, sit here, Pumpkin, and watch now how I pin the paper pattern here on the cloth. You see that, sweetie? You cut this out while I trim the red polka dots for your bow.


You take a good look at these pieces and try to guess where they'll go. Mommy will be right back.

As mother and daughter work inside their little trailer, outside, slate-stained cumulonimbus clouds menace, gray anvil domes await the strike.

Deborah ducks, briefly, into the tiny, plywood-framed bathroom for a little pick-me-up. When she emerges, the sweetness of this moment with Jennylee does not escape her notice.

But lightning in the darkness overcomes it.

Deborah shivers in spite of herself.

Hey there, Pumpkin, here's the last part.

I'll just straight-stitch the seams, roll the fabric to make a hem, and secure the bow with a whip-stitch.

Let me iron up the white apron and spray it with starch to give it a little oomph.

You look perfect.

Wait! Wait! . . . Here, a little mascara, we'll make a black dot for your nose and whiskers. Hold still now, a little lipstick.

Okay, let's walk over to the community center.

Grandma will meet us there.

Jennylee, if you aren't the best mouse ever . . .

Jennylee Braillard, daughter
(2010 interviews)

"Just about my first memory of my mom was the Minnie Mouse costume she made me at Gold Bar, which is where you can hook up your trailer just outside Monroe, Washington.

"I won first place that Halloween. My prize was a six-pack of root beer."

As Jennylee speaks, her own infant daughter, Kaylynn, coos and looks around, a bow tied to her little, full-moon head.

"My mom was always happy. She was nurturing, caring. She was my mom."

Her mother's ashes sit in a container in Jennylee's home in west Phoenix. The dust is such a small amount inside a little vessel; you'd hardly believe that someone's remains could amount to so little.

It is a fact that Deborah Braillard did not always make good choices.

She died an agonizing death in a diabetic coma that would wring the life out of her over three weeks that seemed without end.

The bigger truth is that she was hurried on her way.

Deborah Braillard's passing is never far from Jennylee's thoughts; after all, she watched the worst of it.

"I was terrified to open the plastic bag with her ashes. I put mom in a big jewelry box. I think about taking her back to Gold Bar. That's where my grandmother and great grandmother are buried. It's been in the family forever. There are nature trails there . . .

"But I worry if something happens to my uncle who lives there [what would happen to Mom]."

Consider: In May 2010, researchers at the University of Wisconsin find that, in stressful situations, cortisol levels in girls soar. But for many of the young women, simply hearing their mother's voice is enough to wash away the anxiety, replacing the stress hormone with feelings of love.

Men have no such relief.

What happens between a mother and daughter comes from God.

Tamela Harper, inmate

(2007 deposition)

Tamela Harper is detained in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jail when they put Deborah Braillard into her cell in January 2005.

"She was unconscious [on the evening of the 2nd]. She wasn't hardly there. She walked back to her bunk, and that was the last time I saw that lady walking. People were helping her. She was throwing up constantly.

[Next day] that's when she started moaning and groaning and throwing up. She was basically unconscious at the time. She couldn't speak. She couldn't eat. The officers kept saying she was kicking heroin.

"She defecated on herself several times. There was no help for her. We kept telling the officers, you need to help her."

Brenda Tomanini, inmate

(2007 deposition)

Deborah Braillard threw up on other inmates, from her bunk to theirs. No guards, no nurses. The inmates, and Deborah, were alone on the 3rd.

On the morning of the 4th, medical asked to have Braillard brought into the clinic. But trusties could not wake the unconscious Deborah. She was left vegetating.

"I couldn't get Ms. Braillard up. Couldn't do it. She wouldn't respond to me at all. I could tell that she was breathing, but I couldn't get a response out of her.

"It just freaked me out because I don't think in my experience . . . I don't think she had been on drugs."

But the guards in the jail say different.

"Don't worry about Deborah Braillard. She's getting what she deserves. She's coming off drugs," is how Tomiani remembers it.

The inmates understand the drill, says Tomanini.

Tomanini described a retarded inmate brutalized for her sass.

"It broke my heart. I had to put my head under my blankets, and I cried. It broke my heart to see something like that."

Tomanini's experience with the medical clinic underscores the sense of neglect.

"I got sick and I was running a fever, and I had put a tank order in — that's what they call it for medical. And two months went along, and I didn't get any better. I was waiting for medical to call me . . . You had to fight to get medical attention.

Consider: It was standard procedure to collapse on the floor in order to get medical attention. Otherwise you might well be ignored by an overwhelmed medical clinic. Inmates report that guards would actually instruct them to drop, to collapse. Only then would a call — man down! — go out to the nurses.

Deborah Braillard, mother

Do I think? I think not.

I am aware.

I am aware of the I-will-nots:

I will not see my granddaughter, Kaylynn, walk. I will not give her my finger to steady her early toddles. I will not go down a slide with her. I will not put a Band-Aid on her owie.

I will not get a chance to be a better grandmother than I was a mom. Ever.

Consider: Deputies find methamphetamine in Braillard's purse about midnight on January 1, 2005. She is with a small group of users whose car breaks down in a parking lot on the west side when officers happen upon them.

She is admitted into the jail about 2 a.m. on January 2. Though the entire prison is videotaped around the clock, the sheriff is unable to produce any film of Deborah's early custody.

Historically, when inmates are killed or injured, Sheriff Arpaio loses evidence and incriminating video surveillance or produces video so degraded it is unwatchable.

Almost a full day after her initial booking, Braillard is transferred from the intake jail downtown to the all-female Estrella jail in west Phoenix. For the next 60 hours, guards at Estrella assume, mistakenly, that her wretched condition is the result of her kicking drugs.

This lethal mistake is aided and abetted by a poultice of organizational neglect combined with personal insensitivity that overwhelms thin outbreaks of humanity...

(Go to the source to read the rest... then PLEASE contact the Maricopa County Attorney's Office and tell them you want these people criminally prosecuted to the fullest extent every time they neglect or abuse a prisoner. Only then will some of this stop.)

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