Fight the Treatment Industrial Complex

Fight the Treatment Industrial Complex by supporting the AFSC- Arizona campaign

Fight the Treatment Industrial Complex by supporting the AFSC- Arizona campaign
AFSC-Arizona staff are amazing advocates for prisoners - and as such, are true blessings to our communities. Spend time on their site - lots of resources.

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. collective@phoenixabc.org

until all are free -

MARGARET J PLEWS (June 1, 2015)
arizonaprisonwatch@gmail.com



AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Walshe: The ordeal of being gay in prison.

I've been hearing from queer prisoners under attack at the AZ Department of Corrections lately, and will have some excerpts form their letters in the weeks to come as I struggle to get at least one of them into protective custody before he gets hurt. In the meantime, this brief article is a good way to open the discussion - I've been impressed with how hard Sadhbh Walshe has worked on exposing human rights violations in our prisons this past year. Check out her other work at the Guardian...




---from the Guardian----

The grim truth of being gay in prison.
Sadhbh Walshe
March 7, 2012

In 1984, when Calvin Burdine was awaiting sentencing for allegedly stabbing his gay lover to death, the prosecuting attorney encouraged the jury in his closing remarks to award Burdine the death penalty, rather than life in prison, on the grounds that sending a gay man to prison was akin to sending a kid to a candy store. After 17 minutes of deliberation, the jury obliged and sentenced Burdine to die. His death sentence was later overturned (mostly because Burdine's public defender had slept through much of his trial), but the homophobic thinking – that prison is some kind of paradise for gay men – lingers on.

The reality of life in prison for homosexuals and transgender individuals does not appear to reflect this myth. One young man named Rodney, imprisoned for fraud and check-forging, sent me a detailed account of his life so far in prison. He described a litany of brutal rapes, assaults, beatings and, eventually, the total abandonment of his male identity as his only means of survival in the hyper-masculine and often homophobic prison environment. His account suggests that far from being a paradise, prison for gay men can be a living hell.

Within days of his first entering prison, the 23-year-old Rodney claimed he was the victim of three separate sexual assaults, involving five different inmates. The prison he was first sent to did actually have a separate tier for gay inmates, but according to Rodney, because he did not "appear overly effeminate" during his classification, he was placed with the general population; and because it was supposedly rare to have a gay person slip through the cracks of the system, his fellow inmates took full advantage.

"My first week or so in general population was hell on earth. Physical, mental and emotional torture. After being raped, I performed acts by request. It was understood and expected. I had no means to protect myself, being only 23 and scared for my life.
"I dared not report anything because I was clearly warned that my life would be in jeopardy should I do so. I quickly learned that a snitch is a worse label than a fag.
"Against popular opinion, jail is not heaven for a homosexual. Nothing is heaven about being intimidated into performing sexual acts. It is also rape, just like the three forcible rapes were.
"True enough, I am attracted to men and always have been, but in life [outside], it's my choice whom I share a bed with; it's intimate and personal. Having my mouth and anus aggressively penetrated by several strangers is anything but."

He went on to report how one of his rapists took a fancy to him and "purchased" him from the tier rep for $20. Even though he was thereby essentially enslaved by his new "prison husband", he was grateful – because his days of "being the communal bitch were over". He said he tried to do whatever his prison husband wanted or needed, including cleaning his cell, washing his clothes, preparing his food, and whatever else his "husband" wanted or needed, including, of course, being available for sex – because "he did what I wanted and needed – kept other inmates off me."

As time wore on and "husbands" came and went, Rodney perfected the art of being a "prison ho", as his only means of surviving intact. This involved establishing a female name and identity, learning how to speak when spoken to, "respect his man" and emasculating himself to the point where he could not stand while urinating. There is nothing about the experience that could be considered enjoyable.

"I've heard before that 'jail is a faggot's dream.' I assure you that cliché is not the case. Gay men who do not attempt to hide their sexuality are forced into passive and submissive roles. To live with some standard of equality, we have to trade in our manhood. We are completely emasculated. It's a form of technical castration. The role of woman is forced upon us and any rebuttal is considered a sign of disrespect. My way of thinking about myself and my sexuality has been permanently altered."

It's difficult to assess how typical Rodney's prison experience is, but numerous studies conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, based on anonymous inmate surveys, have shown that gay and transgender inmates are among the most targeted groups for sexual victimization. Until fairly recently, little has been done to help them. Just Detention International (JDI), an organization whose aim is to eradicate prison rape (pdf), is trying to change that.

JDI has been working with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to establish "sensitive needs yards" (pdf), where gay, transgender and other vulnerable inmates can serve out their time in safety. Several prisons operated by the CDCR have now established sensitive needs yard with some success, and the JDI is hoping that other states will adopt this model.

In the meantime, prisoners like Rodney have been forced to make their peace with their "prison ho" fate.
"I've grown to realize that I am a man and being a prison ho is an act."
It is not, however, an act that Rodney or any other inmate should be forced to perform.