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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AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Friday, March 1, 2013

Criminals are in charge at the AZ DOC...

Maricopa County Superior Courthouse
(November 1, 2012)

I saw this on the DOC website but didn't get around to blogging before Stephen did, so I'll post his here, after my own comments, which I left for him as well.

Charles Ryan is the worst criminal of them all - he just has the permission of the state to perpetrate the harm he does, unlike the rest of us. If we want to chain and torture 40,000 people (and their families), we'd get into a hell of a lot of trouble for it.  

Anyway, I don't understand how he has all this understanding and tolerance for the criminals who work for him everyone wants to give the employees resources to stabilize their lives and save their jobs and families. In the meantime, of course - out of a billion dollar budget, with a prison population which Ryan says 75% of are in for drug-related crime, and over  -  only 4% of prisoners a year will get ANY kind of substance abuse treatment from the DOC.

That means most of the prisoners who have tested positive for Hep C (curent count is 6,621) wont be allowed to get medical care for it - they have to prove they've been drug free for a year, and will stay that way - though heroin is easier to get in prison than on the streets these days (thanks in no smalll part to corrupt guards), and with no programming to help rehabilitate them, a lot of guys are coming out hooked on stuff they never took before going in - and like Carlo Krackoff, some are dying from it.

The high prevalence of violence in AZ State prisons right now is in large part a consequence of the mentality of DOC staff (beginning at the top, with Ryan) who themselves know nothing but the use of violence to solve problems and don't have qualms about smuggling heroin in for a few extra bucks - that's one reason some prison towns have such high violent crime and drug abuse rates, the guards, not the families of prisoners, move in.

Sad that the only thing Ryan seems able to do in response to prisoner violence is  build 500 more supermax beds...of course, the mentally ill, not the "worst of the worst" are the ones who end up there. Help us stop him.   

Thanks for this Stephen, you Feathered Bastard...

Charles Ryan, ADC Director, Reports 640 Staff Arrests in last 4 1/2 Years

Arizona prisons are notorious reservoirs of criminal behavior, and apparently that's just the staff.
No joke.

Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan admits as much in a recent post to his "Director's Desk" blog, wherein he states that "in the past four and a half years, there have been 640 staff arrests," of which, 433 "were for behaviors like domestic violence, fighting, assaults, harassment, drug use and possession, and drinking-related offenses."

See a graph on "negative law enforcement contacts" by ADC employees.

Ryan also relates that ADC staff arrests are on the rise, "averaging almost eleven arrests per month."

A startling, and very public admission, and yet, the blog item is addressed to ADC employees, with an almost plaintive tone that's far more carrot than the stick you might expect from the top dog at a penal institution.

Study a complete listing of offenses by ADC staff, from homicide and sexual conduct with a minor to DUI and shoplifting.

"No one doubts that employment in corrections can place unique pressures on staff," notes Ryan in a fatherly tone. "Yet irresponsible alcohol consumption or drug abuse - which can lead to Driving Under the Influence (DUI) - and a tendency to solve problems with violence are neither acceptable nor wise tactics for dealing with those pressures."

Ryan details a number of options for staff with emotional or substance abuse issues, and he promises that he will soon add "another corrections-focused employee program," which will provide "education and support for our staff and their families" to assist with the "unique challenges" of being a corrections officer.

"For those employees who are feeling the stress, it is not a sign of weakness to seek help," Ryan writes. "On the contrary, it is a sign of strength and courage to choose the constructive path, and I urge you to do so."

Which sounds more like TV Pastor Joel Osteen than the hard-nosed administrator known to some detractors as "Vader," as in "Darth Vader."
Ryan worked for the U.S. Department of Justice as an assistant program manager overseeing the Iraqi prison system for almost four years during the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

(Abu Ghraib? Ryan wasn't implicated in the abuses there, but Abu Ghraib was one of the prisons that he reportedly helped rebuild.)

You might remember Ryan as the guy who made the call to pull the plug on an indigent, brain-dead Marcia Powell back in 2009.

Powell, 48, had been serving a 27-month sentence for prostitution when she collapsed after being confined to an outdoor cage at Goodyear's Perryville Prison for more than four hours in 107 degree heat without water.

No one was ever prosecuted for Powell's death, though 16 prison employees were either fired or sanctioned. Powell's demise caused howls of outrage from prison reform advocates and resulted in changes to ADC's outside enclosures, such as access to water and shade.

One of those howling the loudest back then was Donna Hamm, executive director of Arizona's Middle Ground Prison Reform. Hamm was unaware of the blog item when I called her, but after reading it she was surprised, and full of questions.

"If they're convicted, do they have the ability to keep their weapons?" she wondered of ADC staff. "If they have a domestic violence [conviction], are they reassigned so they're not allowed to work in female prisons?"

ADC spokesman Bill Lamoreaux stated via email that ADC "did not analyze the data beyond what was posted online," and so was unaware of the conviction rate or "the specific discipline resulting from the arrests."

Lamoreaux said that the purpose of the director's message to its 9,284 employees was to advise them of available services, as well as to solicit input.

"The 640 arrests over the past 4.5 fiscal years represent the total number of arrests and criminal citations throughout the Department," wrote Lamoreaux. "The arrests equal approximately 140 per year, or almost 11 arrests a month. This averages out to about 1.5% of the employees in the Department being arrested or criminally cited annually.

"The Director is concerned about these arrests. The message is to share this concern and to provide assistance to those that may want or need it."

Sounds noble enough on its face, but Hamm noted the very public nature of this disclosure, and the fact that the data comes from an internal document called the "ADC Morning Report," which she says is not made readily available to the public.

I asked Hamm why she thought Ryan went this public route instead of choosing a less public method to communicate with his employees.

"I think he's got a problem that he doesn't know what to do with," Hamm replied. "He's going to claim he doesn't have the resources to do anything, but I think he just doesn't know what to do about it."

Why not apply more stick as opposed to carrot? Why not stiffen discipline for offenders and start firing people?

"It's our experience that [ADC honchos] don't fire people very often," she said. "They shuffle [problem employees] around from post to post. Ryan's got a lot invested in these people once they get through [ADC's] academy, a lot of money in training and so on."

Hamm wanted to see how ADC's rate of criminality compared with other law enforcement and correction agencies, in state and out of state.

Truly, Ryan's unusual admission about his own employees opens a Pandora's box of questions for the director. Lamoreaux says Ryan may be available Monday. If so, perhaps he'll choose to answer some of them.

Here's the link to the mainstream media report at the AZ Republic, too, by Craig Harris.

Arizona Corrections director: Number of staff arrests worrisome