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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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Messianic and Orthodox Jews persecuted at CCA's LaPalma prison

I received a letter this week from one of the Kosher adherents at Corrections Corporation of America's LaPalma Correctional Center in Eloy, AZ regarding their efforts to defend prisoners' religious rights. Kosher meals and their adherents in prison are under attack by private vendors and state actors all over the country right now. Here's the update on the California/AZ front, with my inks to the pertinent documents embedded...

(Art and italics below are those of AZ Prison Watch editor Margaret J Plews)

May 12, 2013
Kenneth Santiago (CDCR#F03822)
CCA LaPalma Correctional Center
5501 N. LaPalma Rd
Eloy, AZ 85131

Dear Peggy,

I am enclosing 20 notices submitted to Chaplain Brunk. There remains equal if not more notices to be collected...

I want to start by saying that Trinity Services Group should be exposed for the anti-semitic organization that it is. At the behest of its food service director (FSD) Hallahan, policies have been enacted against the Kosher community that deny our basic civil liberties. We have recently been threatened that if we fast and not eat our unkosher food we would be put in “Ad-Seg”. These tactics employed by CCA Warden Jim MacDonald are very reminiscent of ones used by Hitler that led up to the horrific crimes against humanity.

On 10/24/12, approximately 1pm, a staff member from California Contract Beds Unit (of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, responsible for assuring that private prisons comply with state laws...ed) who identified himself as Assistant Director Moss (I believe this refers to Mr. Joseph Moss, Chief Deputy Warden, Contract Beds Unit, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation - ed.), spoke with me in the presence of CCA Warden MacDonald and AW Stansel. He stated that “because of your appeal of the Kosher program, I will make sure that you never leave Arizona...” and to take him to court and sue him. There is nothing beneath Trinity Service Group, CCA, and CBU in their campaign to discourage and dissuade prisoners from pursuing their rights.

I, as well as all concerned, desire to be afforded the same civil liberties as other California inmates are, which the California Code of Regulations Title 15 Sec 3379 (I) asserts. This regulation was enacted to safeguard the basic fundamental rights and protections guaranteed to all California inmates. We are not asking for new statutes or policies, only equal protection under the “current law”.

CCA Warden MacDonald, who is a former CDCR warden, is well aware that he is responsible for the treatment of all inmates (CCR Title 15, Section 3380 (a)) CA Penal Code 5058 requires the department to adopt and amend its rules for administration of prison through the Administrative Procedures Act (Gov Code Sec 11340).

Notwithstanding statutory and regulatory requirements, on May 14, 2012, CCA LaPalma issued an administrative bulletin titled “Menu Change” (See attached) This bulletin was issued through CCA Warden MacDonald and noted that Kosher program would be changed to a “Global Kosher Diet” program, soy-based and cooked in-house. Cooper v CALIF (N.D.Cal) NO:C02-3712-JSW settlement agreement NOV 12, 2003, as well as statutory and regulatory laws prohibit the cooking of any  food in the Kosher program. Only sealed meals are acceptable.

As an agent of CDCR Warden Jim MacDonald is bound to follow the letter of the law. Because this bulletin has adopted “a whole new and different scheme affecting the feeding and administration of Kosher inmates” which nullifies both statutory and regulatory rules, said bulletin should have been promulgated in compliance with the Administrative Procedures Act (GOV Code 11340).

The courts have already stated that such policies constitute invalid “underground regulation” requiring Kosher inmates to eat at common undedicated tables and to drink from unkosher common containers (see memo dated April 26, 2013). It should be note that all items including tables used in any Kosher program must be dedicated exclusively to the Kosher program. The tables in the dining hall are wiped with rags that are saturated in the very food we are to abstain from. There are no hot water urns for the tea bags/coffee packets served. If Kosher inmates take any items out of the dining hall we will receive a disciplinary write up.

On 5/7/13 several inmates began fasting and praying from the Kosher meals. After 2 days we were threatened by CCA staff that if we didn’t cease from exercising our first amendment right to fast and pray we would be put into Administrative Segregation.

Being an elder and spokesman for our Assembly, the welfare of the community weighs heavily upon my heart. Therefore, I suggested that any meals delivered in our cells be received. It should be noted that Trinity Service Group FSD Hallahan intends to shortly begin serving so-called Kosher meals on plastic trays that will be washed in the same dishwasher as the general population. When this occurs, the community cannot in good faith receive any of the food served on them.

It is bad enough that our food is cooked in a fly-infested kitchen next to a bathroom by inmates who experiment with our food daily. I have included as evidence a personal letter written by the Kosher cook. That letter serves as proof to the wilful and deliberate sabotage of our food at the behest of FSD Hallahan. I will be sending you more sworn declarations from inmates who work in the kitchen and were told by Hallahan that he is doing this to get inmates off the Kosher program.

I am a chronic care inmate and will sacrifice myself for the greater good of the community.  I see this as inevitable. My only concern is for the health of others.

Kenneth Santiago (F03822)

--------contact info --------

La Palma Correctional Center (LPCC) 

Warden: Jim MacDonald 

5501 North La Palma Road
Eloy, Arizona 85153
Main Phone : (800) 624-2931

477 Commerce Blvd
Oldsmar, Fl. 34677
(813) 854-4264

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Dalinda Harman, Chief, Contract Beds Unit

10961 Sun Center Drive
Rancho Cordova, CA 95670
(916) 464-4001