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?