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)
Monday, September 24, 2012
Seawright Prison Justice Project organizing.
I've been pretty swamped with letters from prison lately, and it's pretty much all bad news. Assaults are so prevalent that guys are having to get smashed or stabbed on several different yards before their protective custody applications are finally approved. I'm in a heated battle with the DOC over the violence they allow to be perpetrated against gay prisoners in particular. Mentally Ill prisoners are racking up tickets for refusing to house where they don't feel safe, and being punished with higher classifications that justify placing them in solitary and Supermax.
I know it sounds crazy, but from everything I'm seeing and hearing go on in the prisons right now, Arizona is actually building 500 new Supermax beds to classify the victims of extortion and violence into needing - particularly those who are mentally impaired - when they seek the protection of the state. That's instead of locking up the guys demanding to see their paperwork at every yard and ordering them to be hurt for the pettiest of infractions. Kill or be killed over bullshit, is what it comes down to, and good for all the guys who call it that and walk away knowing they just got a Kill On Sight jacket put on them. They want to go home to their kids someday, and few really want to keep anyone else from getting home to theirs.
I'm also hearing from families of prisoners who have been deteriorating for months waiting for their medication or a specialist consult to be arranged by Wexford. Wexford has a 1-800-we-hate-prisoners "help line" for families to call (okay, it's really 1-855-890-6307 ), but I was told not to waste my time, and instead got the contact info for the DOC's Director of Health Services in case I ran into any problems regarding health care delivery for prisoners.
That fellow, Richard Pratt, says he passes my concerns on to the appropriate parties, and I guess I have no reason to disbelieve him. The problem may simply be that Wexford just doesn't care what he has to say, either, because we're having a hell of a time getting decent medical care to prisoners at ASPC-Phoenix/ Flamenco, which is the mental health yard. My friend there went for almost a week without any of the cream he needed when his interferon treatment caused him to break out in boils all over his body. He got visibly agitated about the oozing and pain after 5 days, so instead of filling the prescription he needed for relief they placed him on a suicide watch to make him suffer under closer observation. Brilliant, eh?
I already posted on the stuff I've been hearing from Perryville; it's all pretty bad across the state, but the women are especially vulnerable when buried in the misogynistic heart of any police institution, especially Chuck Ryan's prison system.
Anyway, my mailbox is overflowing these days and it may take me longer to get back to folks than it used to, but I want prisoners to keep on writing if they need help or if they have abuses to report for me to follow up on. I can't promise anything, but if there's something I can do to help even one person survive that place, I'll try. I've been organizing with some friends and families of prisoners lately - people are really rolling up their sleeves and giving to the cause, so I'm not so alone in trying to keep on top of my correspondence and expenses anymore.
Speaking of organizing: The Seawright Prison Justice Project is hosting meetings at my place every Sunday this fall - contact me for the address and to confirm time (email@example.com). Generally speaking, families come by in the mornings (10-noon) to do case management and advocacy type stuff, while the anarchists tend to come out at night (6pm). Go like the page if you want to join us, and keep posted.