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 who I've been supporting, Jessie Burlew.
I will miss my work and the people who have supported me - but I have been most especially grateful to the prisoners who educated, confided in, and encouraged me. My life has been made all the more rich and meaningful by their engagement.
I have 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. email@example.com
until all are free -
MARGARET J PLEWS (June 1, 2015)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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...