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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Monday, October 22, 2012

Wexford at Lewis: A Clear and Present Danger

This opinion piece comes from a prisoner doing time in the AZ DOC at ASPC-Lewis. He was courageous enough to offer his real name, but I want to see him get home safely to his family someday, so I'm posting this anonymously for him. The DOC appears to have silenced just about everyone else who's been writing to me, so thank you, EV, for your voice today. 

for the AZ DOC's dead...

------------------ from ASPC-Lewis----------

Wexford Health Sources, Incorporated
Serving the Lewis Complex Wasteland:
A Clear and Present Danger

October 2, 2012 (REVISED October 27, 2012)

I’m writing from within the confines of Arizona’s Lewis Complex Prison, where each day I become more and more aware that I’m becoming less and less human--banished to some perilous wasteland of diseased and neglected souls lost in the interests of corporate greed.

Welcome to the wonderful world of ADOC and Wexford Health Sources, Inc., the infamous Pittsburgh-based, private, for-profit corporation hired in July to provide healthcare to Arizona’s 42,000 inmates--a 3-year, 349 million dollar deal.

And July was the last time many of us ever went to medical.

Since then our health needs requests and grievances have gone unanswered, there exists a culture of indifference to inmate medical needs, including excessive delay in psychiatric evaluation, and duty of care violations rising to a level of gross negligence. In fact on August 27, 2012, Jane Nwadiuto Nwaohia, a Wexford nurse already under investigation by the state nursing board contaminated the insulin supply with a dirty Hep-C infected needle, then used the contaminated insulin vial to administer shots to 105 other inmates, causing an exposure incident that neither ADOC nor Wexford reported to the Health Department for a week. (And this only after an inmate's family contacted 12 News to break the story September 12.)

Inmate grievants, attempting to exhaust their administrative remedies, pursuant to the prison litigation reform act, have been met with shameless and blatant delay tactics designed to frustrate or eliminate potential lawsuits arising from such grossly negligent and admitted violations of basic infection control protocols by the nurse, since fired.

These inmate victims are people that I know and who I see everyday with families just like mine. We've gained national attention, not for our crimes, but for attempted suicides, deaths, and infectious disease outbreaks. Some guards walk around wearing latex gloves all day to avoid Staph and other infections and viruses in abundance at the Lewis complex wasteland. And who can blame them?

ADOC Director Ryan said some of those exposed to the Hep-C outbreak may have already been exposed (so it shouldn’t matter, right?).  Wexford was reportedly fined $10,000.  A 349 million dollar contract and a $10,000 fine- or $95.00 per inmate exposed to an incurable liver disease.  And further exposures do cause harm.

What message does this send?  My message is this: Wexford Health Sources, Inc. is a clear and present danger to all inmates everywhere and is a huge liability to all involved in their substandard practices.

In fact, the recent Arizona incidents are but a small fraction of the misery Wexford has caused nationwide.  The Private Corrections Working Group, in Florida, has posted a Wexford “Rap Sheet” detailing the company’s gross negligence and substandard care across the nation ( ) and the Santa Fe Reporter (NM) did a 15-Part award-winning series entitled “The Wexford Files” (2006).

Administrators at the Lewis Complex Wasteland are no less culpable in the continued indifference to inmate medical grievances, at times refusing to provide grievance forms, refusing to process a grievance due to time frames although it involved a serious condition, and staff indicating that the nurse contaminated the insulin supply on purpose All this under the supervision of Warden Tara Diaz, ADW Chris Moody, DW Kimberly Currier, ADW Barrios, and COIV Juanita Baca.

I’ve often wondered what becomes of our humanity when even the so-called “good people” allow their hearts to become cold.  What becomes of the human spirit when its light is extinguished by the overpowering agenda of a multi-hundred million dollar powerhouse corporation., like Wexford, whose only motive is profit--no matter the cost in human dignity, suffering, disease, and even death?

I’ve been to the bottom and seen the worst in human nature, but somehow I still believe that we’re all fundamentally good.  Regardless of where we are in our respective lives, we’re all entitled to basic human dignity and a measure of respect--even those in prison.

I call upon the good people who can, to take action in defense of those of us in the wasteland--each of whom have brothers and sisters, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, and children of our own who live in your midst.  It’s time to send a clear and present message to ADOC and their corporate millionaire friends who “win” hundred million dollar contracts to provide substandard and grossly negligent care to inmates whose mothers can be seen by all in tears on the evening news as they prepare to bury a son.  Or a mother whose son’s DUI sentence may very well now become a death sentence (of course, Wexford did receive a $95.00 fine for that, which they appealed).

There must be a full scale legislative investigation into privatization of prison healthcare because what really matters is the bottom dollar.

As good citizens of Arizona, what should matter to you is that all the while we become less and less human.  Many of us will become more and more like your next door neighbor.