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, February 26, 2013

Watching Tony Die: Case dismissed against officers who withheld first aid.

Remembering Tony Lester
Day of the Dead Prisoners (Nov 1, 2013)
Maricopa County Superior Courthouse

Most readers will remember the story of Tony Lester, a 26-year old seriously mentally ill Native American AZ state prisoner who cut his throat in Tucson prison in July 2009. He bled out over the course of at least ten minutes as five AZ Department of Corrections officers stood around and watched without making the slightest effort to render first aid. The family filed a massive lawsuit against the AZ DOC for their failure to act (and for giving Tony the razor in the first place), but the critical part that was lodged against those five officers was dismissed last month. Once I have a copy of Judge Talamante's ruling on that, I'll be writing my own response to him.

Thanks to the work of Wendy Halloran and Channel 12 News at KNPX, those officers actions are at least visible for the rest of the community to see now. The names of the brave and noble AZ Department of Corrections officers watching Tony die are: Orlando Pope, Humberto Hernandez, Rene Barcelo, Dale Brown, and Danielle Pedroso. The judge apparently agreed with experts who said that since these officers couldn't have saved Tony's life if they tried, it's alright that they didn't even bother.

I wonder if five police officers did nothing at an accident scene but film the dying victims, for example, if that kind of abdication of a first-responder's duty to care would have been okay with this judge as well. That's not equal protection under the law if it's acceptable for officers to withhold first aid from a dying prisoner just because they're too freaked out to render it, but it's not alright for a first responder in the community to do so. These peace officers should all lose their AZ POST certification for their gross neglect of duty - they shouldn't even be allowed to be security guards for McDonald's: children would end up choking to death while these idiots record it for Youtube.

Please, after viewing this report, reach out to KPNX at and thank them for caring enough about mentally ill prisoners to air it. We want them to cover such human rights violations in the prisons more in the future.


Inmate suicide response captured on video

KPNX 12 News |  
Fri Feb 22, 2013 11:59 PM

Here are the Arizona Department of Corrections' finest at work...

What follows is the argument that the lawyers made defending the inaction of these officers to Channel 12 News before the above video was released - presumably this was what they pitched to Judge David Talamante, who fell for it and threw the case out. 

I wonder if the good Dr. Harvey W. Meislin, the Director of the Arizona Emergency Medicine Research Center at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, would have also argued that since Tony was already so far gone, it was even pointless for the emergency personnel to try to help him, and that they should have also shown Tony their indifference as he lay dying....I think not. I suspect his slant on this was just swayed by the sweet check he'd get for his expert testimony, and his own faulty presumption that prisoners are not entitled to the same standard of medical care that the rest of us are. That's certainly not someone I want in charge of teaching our next generation either the science or the ethics of emergency medical care - for which he receives my tax dollars....


From: David Cantelme []
Sent: Friday, February 22, 2013 9:18 AM
To: Halloran, Wendy
Subject: Inmate Anthony Lester and Arizona Department of Corrections

Dear Wendy,

I understand that you are doing a follow-up on Inmate Anthony Lester and the response of the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) after Inmate Lester’s cellmate notified ADC officers that he was bleeding. As you know, my law firm represents the State of Arizona and ADC in the lawsuit brought by Inmate Lester's mother. I am available for comment, as is Aaron Brown, my law partner. In case we do not connect, here are some points that should be conveyed to the public to make sure it has all the facts:

Plaintiffs could not produce any evidence indicating that the actions of the ADC Officers in responding to Inmate Anthony Lester’s injuries in any way fell below their standard of care or that they in any way caused or contributed to Inmate Lester’s death. Accordingly, Superior Judge David Talamante granted judgment for the State of Arizona on the claim that ADC Officers failed to render proper aid to Inmate lester.

Sometime before 7:35 p.m. on the evening of July 11, 2010, Inmate Lester’s right carotid artery and right internal and external jugular vein were completely severed while he was in his cell. These wounds would have caused immediate significant blood loss. As Dr. Terrence O’Keefe, the emergency treating surgeon, indicated during his deposition, the blood exiting the neck wounds would have initially been visibly pulsating (arterial wound) and briskly flowing (jugular wound) out of the wound. There is no evidence indicating that any of the first responders observed Mr. Lester actively bleeding from his neck wounds.

Moreover, the treating paramedics placed a gauze bandage over Mr. Lester’s neck wound and the bandage did not immediately saturate with blood. The video recording of Mr. Lester shows at its first footage that he was unconscious and in profound hypovolemic shock, which would have resulted from severe blood loss. Additionally, Mr. Lester’s left arm was in a decorticate posture, which is indicative of possible brain damage.

All this indicates that, before the ADC Officers arrived at the scene, Inmate Lester’s body had lost too much of his blood supply to allow him to survive. At that point, there was little anyone could do to save his life. While en route to UMC, Mr. Lester went into cardiac arrest because of hypovolemic shock.

The ADC Officers that responded to the emergency involving Mr. Lester immediately summoned Tucson Fire paramedics, which were located directly across the street from the prison grounds, and, by all accounts, appear to have done everything possible to assist in transporting Mr. Lester to UMC so that he could receive advanced medical care. Once Mr. Lester arrived at UMC, physicians performed an emergency ED thoracotomy followed by open cardiac massage. He was placed on rapid transfusion protocol and received multiple units of blood products, all to no avail. Mr. Lester was then transferred to the operating room for operative intervention for the thoracotomy and the neck wound. Mr. Lester’s neck wounds, including his internal right carotid artery and jugular vein were ligated. However, Mr. Lester was highly coagulopathic and continued to bleed from his wounds. Despite the heroic efforts of the trauma team at UMC, Mr. Lester's life could not be saved.

The response made by the ADC Officers was reviewed by Dr. Harvey W. Meislin, who is board certified in Emergency Medicine, is a Professor with tenure in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Arizona, College of Medicine, and is the Director of the Arizona Emergency Medicine Research Center at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center.
Had Judge Talamante not thrown out this claim, we would have called Dr. Meislin to the stand and he would have testified that ADC employees responded reasonably and appropriately to the emergency on July 11, 2010, and met the applicable standard of care in providing first aid by doing everything reasonably possible to summon paramedics so that Mr. Lester could be immediately transported to definitive care at UMC. Mr. Lester’s survivability was dependent upon transportation and arrival to the trauma center where definitive management of his wounds could and would take place. 

Dr. Meislin would have testified that under the specific circumstances of this case, application of pressure to Mr. Lester’s neck wounds was not called for and would not have served any useful purpose. Dr. Meislin was also of the opinion that no act or alleged omission by ADC employees in responding to Mr. Lester’s emergency caused or contributed to his death. Thank you for your attention to these facts.

David J. Cantelme
Cantelme & Brown, P.L.C.
A Professional Liability Corporation
3003 N. Central Avenue, Suite 600
*Please note our new address*
Phoenix, Arizona 85012
Telephone:(602) 200-0125


How We Did It
 12 News |  
Fri Feb 22, 2013 11:59 PM

12 News investigative reporter Wendy Halloran has been asking questions for more than two years about what happened to Tony Lester.

Halloran’s public records’ requests to the Arizona Department of Corrections began in the fall of 2010, just months after Lester died. In June 2011, she requested a copy of a video that captured how corrections officers responded when they found Lester bleeding in his cell. ADOC denied the request, citing the privacy interests of Lester’s surviving family members, who had filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging officers stood by and and did not render first aid.

In July 2012, Halloran renewed her request for the video. It was again denied.

In September, Halloran tried again with the permission of Tony Lester’s family. ADOC denied her request a third time. Later that month, Halloran was allowed to watch the video at the law firm representing the state. She then requested the first 12 minutes of the video that showed how the officers responded. She was again denied.

12 News filed a special action in Superior Court in October asking that a judge review the matter. The following month, ADOC was ordered to produce the video to the station. The judge found ADOC wrongfully denied Halloran’s public records request, and the department agreed to pay more than $26,000 in attorneys’ fees to the station.

Watch Wendy Halloran’s previous reports on Tony Lester:

12 News investigation leads to viewer outrage over inmate's suicide
Arizona inmate's family watches his death video
Arizona inmate suicide: Failure to aid, Part 2
Arizona inmate suicide: Did correction officers fail to administer aid?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

ASPC-Tucson Deaths in Custody: Homicide of Christian Frost.

UPDATED POST: July 1, 2013

AZ DOC Deaths in Custody: Loving Christian Frost

Original POST: 2/24/2013
If anyone out there has information about this man's death, or knows how to reach his surviving family members, please contact me at 480-580-6807 or arizonaprisonwatch@gmail.comMy name is Peggy Plews, I'm a prisoner rights activist, artist, and freelance blogger. I work extensively with families who have survived the loss of a loved one to suicide, neglect, or violence in custody. I also correspond with state prisoners trying to fight for their health care rights and find a "safe place" in the system to do their time. 

Follow this link for Survivors of Prison Violence and the articles 
Bob Ortega wrote last June for the AZ Republic
about the rising violence in AZ state prisons.

The problem is that there are no safe places in prison. The particularly dangerous places are the ones no one else ever sees or hears of, and the worst happens to those who no one thinks anyone will care about, so please, if you know anything about how Christian Frost lived or died, and who may have loved him, it would help me to know. Then I need to tell others, so they realize he was a human being, not just a caricature of a criminal and inmate that the state paints to assure the family is shamed and the public feels no sympathy when they die.

I'm available to anyone who has a loved one still living in prison, too, who is worried about their safety, health, or the conditions of their confinement. It's the prisoners and families themselves who have been teaching me how they survive, so I can pass information, like this post, on to others. So, please feel free to call or email anytime - that's what keeps me up on what's happening inside. 

Condolences to Christian's family on their loss. My heart goes out to the guys directly affected by this as well - I know a lot of guys for whom this will be terrifying, as they believe they will be next. Hang in there, guys, write to AZ Prison Watch even if you have no money, and my friends and I will help you fight the state the right way: 

   Peggy Plews
Arizona Prison Watch 
PO Box 20494 
Phoenix, AZ 85036

Margie is working on a special project assessing and addressing violence against gay and transgender prisoners as well, so let her know if you're interested in that in particular.


Inmate dies from possible homicide in Tucson prison

Feb 23, 2013 2:34 PM 
by Van Nguyen /Channel 4 - Tucson NBC

TUCSON - An inmate has died while in custody at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Tucson.

Investigators say 38-year-old Christian Frost died Friday from a possible homicide.

Medical responders tried but couldn't save him.

Frost was serving a 26 year sentenced for manslaughter, flight from law enforcement and aggravated assault.

He came to the Arizona Department of Corrections on February 13, 1998 and was held at ASPC-Tucson.

The investigation on how he died is ongoing and being conducted by the department's Criminal Investigations Unit.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Deaths in Custody: Watching Tony Die.

Most readers familiar with the crisis of violence and despair in Arizona's state prisons in recent years  are aware of the story of Tony Lester. If you aren't please watch Wendy Halloran's emmy-winning investigation at the top of this page on KPNX/Channel 12 News / PHX. They have a follow up episode coming up tonight, February 22, at 10pm...

Tony was sentenced to 12 years in prison in May 2010 for hurting two ex-girlfriends who tried to prevent him from cutting his own throat when suicidal and psychotic on his 23rd birthday. He had been struggling increasingly with symptoms of mental illness, which went untreated until the crisis that sent him to jail instead of a psychiatric hospital.  There they found him to be so severely mentally ill that it took over a year to restore him sufficiently to sanity to prosecute him as if he'd been sane all along. Then it took another nine months for him to recover from the trial enough to be sentenced. 

This state is exceptionally cruel.

Once sent off to prison, despite recommendations from the judge that he be placed in a special mental health treatment setting, Tony's illness still wasn't treated properly. He was left to suffer in prison without his anti-psychotic medications while his paranoia mounted. He was placed on a general population yard where he was soon confronted by the Warrior Society, a prison gang which informed him he wouldn't be allowed to live safely on the yard, in part, due to being a known bi-sexual. Tony's assault convictions had been tagged as domestic violence, which was another big strike against him...

Violating each other in our honor is not how to reduce violence against women, by the way, gentlemen. It diminishes us all.

Not surprisingly, facing 12 years like this, the next opportunity Tony had to cut his own throat - when handed a razor by DOC staff - he was sure to do the job right. He was no doubt fearful that what the other prisoners had in mind for him was far more traumatic than any death he could bring on himself. 

When Tony was discovered by AZ DOC staff, they just stood by and watched him die...

Tonight Wendy Halloran will be following up on this story with some of the footage of the last minutes of Tony's life, while five corrections' officers stood around and watched him bleed out. Please watch KPNX Channel 12 PHX Friday Feb 22 at 10pm, then send your comments to

Let Channel 12 know we need to see more of what's happening behind prison walls, because what happened to Tony isn't the exception  - this kind of deliberate indifference to - rather, outright contempt for human life is all too common at the AZ DOC. The suicide and homicide rates in state prisons doubled once Chuck Ryan took over, and haven't abated yet. Something is seriously wrong in there.

Ask them to look into the other deaths in custody, the practicality of a new supermax prison, the problems with privatizing the health care services for prisoners, and so on. Le tthem know there's an audienc eout here or that stuff, or the tone they'll hear from the community when they cover a prisoner's suicide will be left at "good riddance - give them all rope!". Let's not let those kinds of people dominate the dialogue on life and death for the most vulnerable in prison. Please watch the show AND give feedback.

Monday, February 18, 2013

AZ DOC: Resisting prison violence (REVISED).

The letter below is my response to a slew of requests lately regarding the continued increase in prison violence, and the numbers of AZ state prisoners seeking a safe place to do their time. It's a revised version of one I wrote in October, so discard previous copies, if you have one, please.

While most of the letters I get about protection are like those I characterize below, I also hear from prisoners who are explicitly anti-racist and being persecuted by the gangs for refusing to abide by their racist rules, from prisoners who are mentally ill and just can't navigate the nuances of yard politics, from gay and trans men who are being told they don't need PS because being openly gay doesn't subject one to a statewide threat of violence and extortion (the New Mexican Mafia has something different to say about that), and from men who witnessed and testified to horrible crimes, thank god, in order to put the perpetrators away - then got labeled as snitches in prison as a result. The stories are diverse and complex and often reflect what I see as a strong spirit of resistance to violence and racism - and these men are literally fighting for their lives. If you can reach out and help any of them, please do.

At the end of the following letter I'll embed links to those resources I most often send to AZ state prisoners in the process of seeking protective segregation (also known as the 805 process, named for the DOC policy number). They are not to substitute for the qualified opinion of a criminal justice/legal professional. But it's stuff they need to know. 

We have a real need for a community-based prison law library - a core group out here that meets once a week who helps get basic info to prisoners like the stuff posted below - otherwise these guys have to depend on the DOC for all their legal resources, which is one reason the conditions are so bad. If anyone wants to help organize something like that, let Peggy know at

My apologies to the women out there needing protective segregation as well - I only get these requests from the guys, so my letter, this time, went out directly to them.


February 2013

AZ State Prisoners:

This is an update to the October PS letter I put out - though not much has changed. All of you I’m addressing right now are applying for protective custody - or have been turned down and will need to appeal or apply again.  All that will really do is keep you in detention longer, though, and may result in more tickets for refusing to house. There’s a logjam in the system - the PS yards are full and the DOC isn’t approving anyone right now, that I can tell, without an attorney on board - or otherwise, the clear ability to fight them.

I’m still not the DOC’s most-loved activist, by the way. In January I organized friends of prisoners and family members of those who have died under this administration to chalk the walk at the Federal Courthouse in PHX with all the names of Ryan’s dead.  And I’ve been pretty aggressive about confronting the violence on the yards. It’s really out of sight. But I don’t think the DOC will turn down your case just because I stick up for you anymore.

So, I’ll keep writing Central Office about the more compelling cases, if you ask, but don’t expect that to win your argument for you - in fact, it could still be a kiss of death, so think of me as a last resort. I can’t step in the ring on your behalf, like an attorney can, anyway - if you can‘t afford one, you’ll need to do it yourself. Other then send you some material to study, all I can really do is be a witness and tell others - in my blogs and the federal courts, if need be - what transpires in your struggle. But you need that - someone to preserve and share evidence that DOC administrators and decision-makers are aware of the danger you face, which I need to keep hearing about in order to communicate to them. I can write about your fight for other pris0ners and their families to learn from, as well. Things have gone desperately awry in the state prisons in recent years, and the larger public needs to know that, too

Before I go any further, though, make sure that if you have ANY way of hiring a professional like Donna Hamm to help you, do so. She is at Middle Ground Prison Reform, 139 E. Encanto Dr. Tempe, AZ 85281. Your family can call her at 480-966-8116. That said, if you‘re stuck with me and your own wits, it will be a long uphill fight, from what I see now, and you face the biggest risks. They may disrupt my work more if I get to be too effective or obnoxious, I suppose, but what you can do through the courts, if you master it, is more important, so you are the bigger threat, if you can figure this system out. Once informed, you scare Power even sitting quietly in the hole in nothing but your shorts. Remember that.

Most of you have been told you are being denied PS in part because you haven’t been assaulted yet. I need copies of the denial form the DOC gave you saying that. Ask the librarian for DO 902 - Access to the Courts. Attachments A&B, if I don’t send them, are what you need - ask for the “Rights of Prisoners, 4th ed.”  to start with - it‘s huge, so scroll the table of contents and get the sections you need most. Look for Farmer v Brenna for the standard of indifference in a case about a transgender prisoner. Let me know if they want to bill you for photo-copies to keep on person, and how you deal with that if you’re indigent. Whenever you can send me your paperwork from the DOC refusing to help you access legal materials, please do. Just let me know if you’ll need it back.

Some of you have been denied PS because DOC asserts that you don’t face a documented statewide threat (even though you are being persecuted for being gay, or are in trouble with the New Mexican Mafia all over the place). The DOC also likes to say that your claims are just self-reported, as if you aren’t under any real threat unless the yard leaders personally sign a written death warrant for each of you on gang stationary.  You also need to read “Farmer v Brennan.” In the meantime, I’m working up some bullet points to help you guys fight those claims a little better.

I’m impressed by the number of those of you who just said no to the racism and violence when invited - or ordered - to join in.  Some of you witnessed - and testified to - horrible crimes: that doesn‘t make you a “snitch“, in my book - though even snitches don‘t need to be silenced with violence.

Most of you are in the 805 process for the same reason - a yard leader or gang member looked at your police report and for any number of reasons decided you were “no good”, giving you the choice of 1. leaving the yard (PCing up) 2. Assaulting someone and joining them or 3. Being assaulted or killed yourself. There are a lot of things wrong with the logic behind that particular strategy for recruiting gang members, by the way. I’m trying to figure out the most tactful way to point that out - without getting myself killed, that is.

According to the yard leaders these days, the police report is the standard by which someone who is otherwise undesirable is able to be identified. The truth is, however, the guy you really need to be worried about took the fifth when he was nabbed by the cops and made a sweet deal with the prosecutor later - not so much the guy who shit his pants when he was put into cuffs and confronted with his crimes - often that at least tells you who has a conscience. So that whole method of finding out who can and can’t be “trusted” to share a prison yard with is fundamentally flawed.

Which tells me the whole police report test isn’t really meant to see who can be “trusted” - it’s just an excuse to put the green light on guys who wont immediately bend to the authority of the gang, and to give the new recruits target practice. So who are the gangs ending up recruiting this way? A lot of jerks who go ahead and “clear their names” by lowering their own moral standards even more and assaulting fellow prisoners they have no business messing with - that‘s who makes up these gangs. I wouldn‘t call one of those guys a brother. As far as I’m concerned, most of you guys are pretty noble for saying no to that crap.

Besides, you’ve already been judged and sentenced for your crimes - most of you far too harshly. There’s no need for other prisoners to further the punishment - THAT’s complicity with the state and the cops, as far as I’m concerned. Those gangs should be showing solidarity with the struggle of prisoners, based on their espoused ethics,  not adding to the misery.

People  interested solely in pursuing their own profit, at whatever cost to others, are sociopaths. That seems to characterize the behavior of prison gangs, too - they have nothing to do with resisting the state - they strengthen it, instead. The state is all about it’s own needs too, not “the People’s” but at least it tries to manipulate people into being loyal before they threaten to kill them. There is a show of state defiance by gangs, but they rule the yards with the consent of state power to divide and conquer prisoners - and addict and terrify you - so you can’t effectively mount resistance against your captors for the conditions of your confinement. Otherwise, prisoners would be organizing across race and putting an end to some of the bullshit the DOC perpetrates on you.

There will come a time when the norm on GP prison yards will be closer to the one you seek in PS, but that will only be after a fight - your fight, not mine. It may be up to you guys, not the state, to undermine the authority of the gangs by providing collective safe harbor for others who resist them in the meantime. Just how to do that right now, I don’t know. This is not the way it has to be, though. An empire protected by an army of men recruited specifically because they have no integrity is vulnerable to men of conscience. And the state is vulnerable to those who are armed with knowledge of the law.

Most of you guys have got the first one down - you’ve already said no to hurting more people or compromising who you are as a way to survive. You may take a beating in more than one way in prison, but you can come out of there whole and proud of who you are, nonetheless - which is the only way to win, since the whole goal of prison - from the dehumanization to the constant threat of violence - is to break you as a potential revolutionary, not make you stronger and more articulate and critical of the state upon release to your home communities - which desperately need your help, by the way.  Learn to fight by the rules now as practice for when you get home, so you can help your people fight back effectively as well.

Anyway, I respect those of you who have resisted the gangs because you reject their politics and tactics, and to those of you who just want to get out of alive - that’s okay too. I will do whatever I can to help you in your struggle not only for personal protection but for a more safe place for all to do their time. Detention cells and specially designated yards should be reserved for the few thugs - in orange and brown alike - who ruin it for everyone, not the other way around. The exile of prison is bad enough punishment - once you get there, GP should be where you guys are free to work, participate in programming, and so on without abuse and harassment following you - not where the real criminals just refine their predatory skills until they get unleashed again on the rest of us.

How I can be most helpful, though, in helping to change that culture, is yet to be seen. Be mindful that if you correspond with me and raise a fuss about your rights you‘ll be in the doghouse with the DOC, and if the gangs ever find this letter we’re all in trouble with them and the state together - they will reach out and touch me for this, no doubt, so be careful where you let this fall.

As for your fight with the state, here’s some of what seems to be helpful - in my non-qualified, illegal opinion:

Read the actual DOC policies about the 805 process (or STG validation and debriefing, if that applies to you instead). Follow them to the letter, and go through with an appeal even if you think it’s pointless - that‘s called exhausting your administrative remedies. This is your chance to inform the people you may ultimately have to sue of the danger against you, and their chance to respond before it results in further harm or goes to court. Give it a good faith effort on your part, but make your argument a compelling legal one, not an emotional one. And expect at this point to have to go through this process several times, at least - PCing up, waiting in detention, being denied and moved to another yard, being threatened again or assaulted, and beginning the 805 process all over.

Save and collect evidence supporting your claim that you need protection from an identified statewide threat. This includes anything from threatening kites to signed statements by other prisoners willing to testify about real prison life - like how the proliferation of cell phones means that everyone is targeted as a snitch or gay or “no good” on every yard in the system, now, within days of arriving. Or how the higher level yards are run by yard leaders, not by the guards, and what evidence you may have that the DOC is well aware of that fact - like a sergeant going out to negotiate your safety directly with a yard leader instead of starting the 805 process, or guards making deals with the leaders on the side.

Copies of statements you give the DOC about criminal activity, as well, is evidence that you are in danger - but don’t have that stuff in your property, or some porter will snatch it and then you’ll really be in trouble. If the DOC says you need to provide them with copies of your police reports yourselves and you just can‘t get them, write down the reference numbers and where they can be obtained and tell them they are responsible for assuring that those are in your 805 file, if they doubt your claims about their contents, as it isn’t safe for prisoners to have them in one’s possession in prison.

Build a parallel file of evidence and copies of 805 requests, responses, and appeals with someone you trust out here - preferably the loved one who will have standing to sue if you are killed or incapacitated, and will need the evidence you have to do so. Any HNR’s, incident reports, or other documents you have the pertain to harm you sustained as a result of an assault are important too. The DOC is known for rifling through property to find and destroy documentation that could be used against them.

Note the dates of major incidents - like assaults or the initiation of your 805 request - as well as locations, the names of officers who may have obstructed your attempt to file an 805, the names and titles of officials up the chain of command who denied you protection, names of witnesses to assaults or threats made against you (including doctors who treated you), etc. You will need all that later, if you have to sue in court for your safety.

Get a copy of the National Lawyer’s Guild Jailhouse lawyer’s Handbook. It’s not the same thing I send you chapters from - it’s more of an overview of all the stuff you need to know about fighting for your rights. They will send it to you for $2 (stamps, check, money order). Write to them (or have a loved one do so) - they have to mail it directly to you from the NLG:

National Lawyers Guild / 132 Nassau Street, Rm 922 / New York, NY 10038

Have your loved ones write letters to the Department of Corrections making the same kind of legal argument that you do when you apply for your 805, showing that they are aware of what evidence you have for your claims, and make sure they send the letters certified. If they email me I can send them the same materials I send you guys, so they know just what you need to know to fight the state. They really need to read “Farmer v Brennan” too. My phone number is 480-580-6807 (that’s for your families: do not call me on a contraband cell, please…). My email address is

The best people to include in their correspondence to the DOC appear to be; Charles Ryan, Director; Dawn Northup, General Counsel; Stacey Crabtree, Offender Services; and the Warden and DW of your prison. They don’t need to threaten anyone with a lawsuit right away or make accusations that the DOC is intentionally trying to get you killed - just have them state your argument clearly, emphasizing the statewide nature of the threat against you and the expectation that you do not have to be assaulted  (again) or killed before they take your safety seriously.

The address to AZ Department of Corrections is 1601 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix, Az 85007.

If they put the following people in the cc (they need to note at the bottom that’s what they’re doing so the DOC knows it) and send us all copies, it may help to at least let the DOC know you have other witnesses, in case something does happen to you: James Lyall, ACLU-AZ (PO Box 17148, Phoenix, AZ 85011); Middle Ground Prison Reform (139 E. Encanto Dr. Tempe, AZ 85281); and if you want to keep me in the loop, Arizona Prison Watch (PO Box 20494, PHX AZ 85036). Just remember I’m an antagonist. If they have an attorney they should put them in the cc too.

Let me know each step of the way what’s happening, including if anyone is obstructing your efforts to access the 805 process, legal information or the courts. I can’t give you legal advice, per se - you’re going to have to find a lawyer for that - but I can send you information and ideas if you’re going to wing this yourself.

If you need the Jailhouse Lawyer chapter on safety still, or info on the PLRA, write to me. If you need info on how to file a civil suit yourself in Arizona, write to the US District Court nearest you, and ask how to file a section 1983 complaint on your own behalf - they, not me, know how to do it right:

Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. Courthouse
401 W. Washington Street, Suite 130
Phoenix, AZ 85003-2118  

Evo A. DeConcini U.S. Courthouse
405 W. Congress Street
Tucson, AZ 85701-5010

If you’re waiting for something from me and think I forgot you, write to me again - I’m sorry, it’s not because of anything you’ve said: I’m just really swamped, and your letter may have been buried on my desk three weeks ago. If so, only a new one will bring you back to my attention. If I don’t get back to you - if no one from this address does - then the state will have managed to shut me down somehow. Hopefully they won’t have snatched my computer and files, too, and someone from my end will still be able to follow up with you. But don’t hold your breath if my side goes silent one day - once they come for me, I’ll probably be tied up for awhile. Not that I’m doing anything criminal - just that the state doesn’t like people who help prisoners help themselves.

That’s why it’s important for you to learn what you can about your legal rights yourselves. People out here aren’t reliable for one reason or another, and no matter what anyone else does on your behalf, if the state thinks you won’t be in a position to actually fight for your rights in court, they won’t prioritize your safety or welfare. They’ll take all the guys who have lawyers and know what they’re talking about first, and put you back in GP for another round or two - or three or four.

So, that’s a lot for you to think on.  I’m sorry to those of you with poor vision - I need to conserve. I wish I had better news. I’m still developing a new strategy for dealing with this, and will let you know what other thoughts or resources I come up with if you keep me current with your address. Don’t send me stamps by the way - I’ve been told those are now contraband, and since my correspondence will likely be under increasing scrutiny, I don’t want to get anyone into any trouble.

Please keep me posted on your cases, and watch each others backs. In any event, don’t stop writing, or your stories won’t get out. That’s what the DOC wants, is to isolate you again and keep their dirty little secrets in-house. Don’t let them win.

Take care,

Peggy Plews

PS:  I have a friend helping me handle your correspondence now - Margie Diddams. Look for her letters. She’s good people.

OLD!!! DO 805: Protective Segregation 

(still analyzing this - it's going into effect march 7, 2013

(families at least read the TOC and chapter 1 of this manual if you can, then decide which chapters from the whole thing to send in. I'm only posting links to the ones I use the most)

(more compact than the above manual, and you can orger one for only $2 from the NLG - they must send it to the prisoner from their HQ - or print this PDF version up and mail it in to prison yourself)

Columbia Human Rights Law review Article posted by Just Detention International about the case law regarding a transsexual prisoner in part re: whether or not a prisoner must be assaulted before the threat is taken seriously, how deliberate indifference by the prison authorities is defined and established, etc.

Prisoners should ask the AZ DOC for a copy of this, just to learn how the "law library" access works and how responsive they are. They should document any resistance they get from the DOC to accessing a copy of this case and file a grievance, if necessary, about their access to the courts being hindered, and send me copies of their documentation. If they can't get a copy of this case from the DOC, though, print it up from here.

It's best for prisoners to write the courts directly for this information. They need to establish a relationship with the court themselves if they plan to file a civil rights suit, and they should be getting instructions from there first, not other sources, as to how to proceed - the court will make sure their paperwork is complete and current as well. But above are the links to what the District Court of AZ has posted that prisoners need to ask for; if you are helping someone, you need to know all this too.

ACLU-AZ Complaint form for prisoners (to send in after you have appealed and been denied PS. Even if they can't help, they need to know what's going on)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Perryville's Deaths in Custody: Christina Black, 52.


According to the Phoenix New Times, 52-year old Christina Black, who reportedly hung herself on the Lumley Unit at Perryville Prison Tuesday, had a history of paranoid schizophrenia. She was sentenced to life in 1999 for killing her grandmother a few years earlier, who was initially considered to have died of natural causes at 88. The police only arrested Christina after she contacted them to confess of her own volition.

The New Times didn't mention Christina's motives for having confessed, but many people with serious mental illness are people of conscience who are devastated upon regaining their sanity to discover the harm they've done to loved ones and others when suffering from manic, depressive, or psychotic symptoms. They'd sooner have killed themselves than hurt another person, and many can't live with the guilt. Some are brave enough to try to move beyond guilt and take responsibility, not only for what they may have done under the influence of delusions, but also to prevent themselves from ever doing such harm to another person again. 

I wonder if that wasn't what drove Christina to turn herself in long after she had already "gotten away with the crime": she came into a period of mental and spiritual wellness. 

Predictably, Arizona's only response was to put her in cages and chains for the rest of her life, where her mental health would be sure to suffer. Between the class action suit and the complaints I've heard from other prisoners with mental illness about the psychiatric services under Wexford these past few months, I wouldn't be surprised if this poor woman's psychiatric meds had been cut off or dramatically changed before she was found hanging in her cell. She was apparently transferred to the maximum security yard (Lumley, where women are also sent to be punished - I mean "appropriately housed" - for being mentally ill, raped, etc.) within the past 2 weeks...

But much of that is speculation. If anyone out there really knows what happened with or to Christina, then and now, please let me know. The only narrative that others will be putting out otherwise will be limited to the state's version of her crime and her punishment. I'd like to know about her struggle, her strength, her reasons for being, and for no longer being. I need to hear from those of you who loved her to help tell her story - we must in order to try to stop this from happening again. Please contact Peggy Plews at 480-580-6807 or That invitation to contact me is open to those of you worried about a loved one still alive in custody as well; I'll do what I can to help.

Condolences to those who loved Christina, especially those behind prison walls. I hope the DOC and Wexford offers crisis counseling to the grieving women around and close to her for free, lest there be a repeat attempt at self-harm - the guards automatically get help debriefing after critical incidents, and they are hardly the highest risk...

Arizona Prison Watch Newsletter: February 2013.

Dear AZ Prisoners...

Just wanted to update you all on what's been happening out here lately – and some of what's been happening in there. Forgive me if I'm all over the map with this one, but I want to get this out to you all in time for Valentine's Day, so I won't be doing much editing.

First, as many of you know, I was out of town for most of the holidays and am only now catching up to folks. If you wrote to me and your letter came back undeliverable, I apologize - my PO box is just having problems, so be persistent and try again. If you're waiting to hear back from me on something, write to me again – it will bring your file to the top of the pile, and sometimes letters get lost – just don't think I'm ignoring you for some reason – I don't work that way.

While I was out of town I had a lot of help keeping up with stuff here from a couple of friends, including one who has stayed on to help me on an on-going basis – Margie Diddams. She's pretty cool and I trust her implicitly; if she answers a letter from you to me or AZ Prison Watch, rest assured she probably chatted about it with me first. We do a lot of good strategizing together. She's my more organized half, too, so if you have a really complex situation or a lot of paperwork, you'd better hope she's the one on top of it.

One of the things Margie's helping me work on is confronting the high rate of homophobic and transphobic violence behind bars. As many of you know, my good friend Kini Seawright's son, Dana, was murdered at Lewis in July 2010 by the West Side City Crips for being gay (and for loving a Mexican while Black). Since then, I've received a lot of correspondence from prisoners subjected to violence due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Because there are so many intersecting issues they deal with that affect others, when root causes for violence against minorities are addressed, other societal violence tends to abate as well, so this is in everyone's interet in the long run. Therefore, if you or a loved one behind bars is LGBT (or, as I tend to identify myself, just plain Queer) get in touch with us and become part of a more collective effort to change things in there.

I've also been working to build support in the community for the women of Perryville. The Sun City West Valley NOW (National Organization for Women) Chapter had me speak there in November and is really interested in figuring out how they can help women prisoners with health care and conditions of confinement. Don't pass up this chance - If there are any women in Perryville willing to risk institutional harassment for reaching out to them, please ask the NOW women how prisoners can become members (or start your own chapter) at:

Sun City/West Valley NOW, 10015 W Royal Oak Rd #256, Sun City, AZ 85351.

Now, let me just remind you all that I'm no lawyer, nor is Margie. She's still a student (albeit a radical like me), and I'm a college drop-out. I'm a prison abolitionist and human rights activist who happens to blog, which has resulted in quite a bit of contact with state prisoners and their families over the past few years, which compelled me to try to figure out how to help with some of your dilemmas. The best we can do is give you access to things that will empower you to help yourselves. This is our own little way of fighting back against hetero-patriarchy and state violence and all that crap, which is one reason our help comes to prisoners and their families for free. If you have money, though, don't settle for Margie and me – get professional help.

Good intentions alone can sometimes really screw people up, so make sure you access whatever other resources you can if you need help fighting the state- they are pretty formidable.

On to the other news: I'm sure you all know by now that Wexford has bailed on their contract to provide medical care to you all, so Corizon will be taking over beginning March 1. All I can say is that I'll be surprised if it's much of an improvement, so you need to keep arming yourselves with knowledge of civil rights law.

Please be filling out medical grievances per policy (check to see if it changes after March 1, too) if your HNRs aren't being responded to; don't just fill out new HNR's repeating yourselves. The prison library is supposed to give you access to the DOC policy manual, but write to me if they don't cooperate (and send me their note of refusal, so we can nail anyone violating your access to the courts).

Ask your librarian for the DO 902 policy. Look at Attachments A and B. From B, request the packets for filing Section 1983 civil rights complaints, as well as for the rules and forms to file civil actions in state court. You need those documents so you know what they'll be asking you to do later with the grievances you're filing now. It's not enough for the courts to see that you simply wrote grievances – they need to be relevant to the civil suit itself, if you have to go that far to get action from the DOC or medical.

Your grievances show the judge that you had a complaint and made a good faith effort to get the prison administration – all the way up the chain of command - to hear and respond to it BEFORE anyone gets sued. So if you do end up suing after exhausting your administrative remedies, you should still be asking for pretty much the same remedy over the same grievance you started out with in your first inmate letter to your COIII about it. Be clear describing your issue and reasonable in your requests for relief (including disciplinary action against errant officers, compensation for medical care, etc.)

From DO 902 Attachment A, ask your librarian for the Rights of Prisoners, 4th Ed, too – see what they let you see of it, anyway. You may have to pay for them to print up pages for you to keep on you – let me know how they deal with that if you are indigent.

Don't leave it to your family to get action from Central office for you – but if you have family who can raise hell for you, give them my info and I'll help them strategize dealing with the DOC. Just be mindful that no matter what they say or even if they bring an attorney into it for you, you must be filling out those grievances per policy.

On to more news: On January 25, David Fathi from the ACLU-National Prison Project argued in front of US District Court Judge Neil Wake that parsons v. Ryan should be given class status and allowed to proceed as a class action suit. Wake pretty much gave our side a hard time, expressing both annoyance and skepticism, arguing with David about the merits of the case itself (since he already set guidelines about solitary and food rations in recent county jail complaints, for example) instead focusing on the issue at hand...but what do I know about the law? Anyway, he was taking it all under advisement and we're still waiting to hear his decision.

By the way, about that Botulism at Eyman – don't believe everything you hear: the first batch for sure wasn't hooch. The guys say they were coerced into saying it was before they would be provided medical attention, and will be filing suit. If you were affected by the second batch, get a lawyer. Botulism is so incredibly rare that it's like lightning for it to strike twice in the same place...which means there's something fishy going on there.

Please tell me how you manage keep your head up, a smile on your face, or your soul intact through all you must survive in there, my friends. And let me know if yours is a story I can share with others, as well. In the meantime, take care of eachother and yourselves.

Hang in there,