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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AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Arpaio should resign over botched sex-crimes investigations.

"In El Mirage alone, officials discovered at least 32 reported child molestations — with victims as young as 2 years old — where the sheriff's office failed to follow through, even though suspects were known in all but six cases. Many of the victims, said a retired El Mirage police official who reviewed the files, were children of illegal immigrants."

Amid Calls for His Resignation, Arpaio Apologizes for the Mishandling over 400 Sex-Crime Cases
The controversial Arizona sheriff, who calls himself the "toughest Sheriff in America" and has in the past made headlines for his hard-line stance toward immigration, apologized Monday to potential victims for his office's botched investigations of over 400 sex-crimes cases.
Facing rising criticism for his office's management, Sheriff Joe Arpaio held a news conference to discuss the investigations in the city of El Mirage a day after The Associated Press ran an article outlining some of the bungled cases.
His office said 432 sex-crimes investigations from El Mirage and other parts of the county were reopened after his office learned of cases — including dozens of alleged child molestations — that hadn't been investigated adequately or weren't examined at all over a three-year period ending in 2007. The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office was under contract to handle law enforcement duties in the city on the edge of Phoenix at the time.
"If there were any victims, I apologize to those victims," the sheriff said in his office's most detailed public comments about the cases.
Chief Deputy Sheriff Jerry Sheridan said the sheriff's office is poised to take possible disciplinary action as early as this week against the employees responsible for the cases.
The reopened cases resulted in 19 arrests, a figure the sheriff's office considers to be average and equal to the number of sex-crimes arrests made so far this year countywide.
Still, Captain Steve Whitney, the official in charge of criminal investigations, said there might have been more arrests had there been more timely investigations.
In El Mirage alone, officials discovered at least 32 reported child molestations — with victims as young as 2 years old — where the sheriff's office failed to follow through, even though suspects were known in all but six cases. Many of the victims, said a retired El Mirage police official who reviewed the files, were children of illegal immigrants.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, whose district doesn't include Arpaio's jurisdiction, issued a written statement saying the sheriff should immediately resign before more damage is done to public confidence in law enforcement. He and other critics say Arpaio puts too much emphasis on rounding up illegal immigrants at the expense of more important law enforcement responsibilities.
"The picture emerging — no follow-up, no investigation, no prosecution, no justice and a shield of silence after the fact — is not how we conduct law enforcement in this country," Grijalva said. "Enforcing laws against violent crime, whatever a victim's legal status, is mandatory and not something we leave to individual communities as an open question. Selective enforcement undermines respect for our brave legal officers and is rightly not tolerated by the public."
Arpaio rejected the congressman's criticism. "I am not going anywhere," Arpaio said.
The botched sex-crimes investigations have served as an embarrassment to a department whose sheriff is the self-described "America's Toughest Sheriff" and a national hero to conservatives on the immigration issue.
Sheridan said pending disciplinary action prevented him from explaining why the cases weren't investigated, but he acknowledged that employees of the sheriff's office made mistakes. "Once initial information came out, some detectives decided not to follow up," Sheridan said.
Whitney said the sheriff's office has since made changes to better track cases, and enacted more training and moved certain employees out of the sex-crimes squad.
Of the 428 reopened investigations that have been completed, 116 were deemed to have no basis in fact to move forward or had accounts that didn't add up. More than 220 were turned down by prosecutors or didn't have enough evidence to bring to prosecutors.
Sixty-nine cases had no further information to pursue or couldn't be advanced further.
The sex-crimes cases had been reported earlier by The Arizona Republic, the East Valley Tribune, KNXV-TV and other media outlets.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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