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, July 23, 2013

DOC Director Ryan's Noble legacy of public service...

UPDATE 05/19/19

#DARTHryan   #DarkSideRyan 


(I frankly doubt that @dougducey has the balls to   #FireChuckRyan")

The Art Attack above was in front of the AZ DOC's HQ on June 26, 2012.  Thought it fit well with this interesting piece from ALTERNET in 2004 re: Charles Ryan and the Good Old Boys he travels with...the pack from the days when he and Jan Brewer first became pals, I imagine.  He got a commendation of some kind from the Bush Justice department ofr his service in Iraq, it's only fair to say. That must be something to be proud of, eh?
For those who missed it, by the way, I'm not the only one who says "It's time for Chuck Ryan to go!" Today the AZ House Minority Leader called on him to resign, too.

Brewer knew exactly what kind of prison administrator Ryan would be when she hired him for the job, and he's apparently been keeping her pretty happy as her chief disciplinarian since they took office. My bet is that Jan Brewer will stand by her man till this blows over - or at least long enough to make us think that while she can be bought by private prison companies, she won't be "bullied" into making wise decisions by Anarchists, Quakers, Democrats, or the grieving loved ones of her dead prisoners...

-----------------from ALTERNET---------------

Did the Justice Department intentionally contract the roughest, toughest prison officials; regardless of their histories; to reform Iraqi jails?

If you're an American ex-prison official whose tenure was tainted by federal investigations, state hearings, inmate deaths, allegations of torture, civil rights lawsuits, even an outcry from Amnesty International, despair not. There's a job for you in Iraq. 

In what appears to be an emerging pattern of ill-advised hires, the Justice Department has sent a virtual who's-who of prison tough guys to Iraq over the past year – their collective track record on human rights essentially one enormous red flag – and paid them to reconstitute that country's detention system. 

Already, two of the Justice Department's 'corrections advisors' are making headlines: Lane McCotter, former director of the Utah Department of Corrections, and John Armstrong, his Connecticut counterpart, both resigned after inmate abuse scandals occurred under their respective watches. 

McCotter stepped down from his Utah post in 1997 following the case of a schizophrenic inmate who died shortly after being strapped to a restraining chair for 16 hours. McCotter later became an executive of a private prison company whose Santa Fe jail was investigated by the Justice Department in 2003 for healthcare, sanitary and safety deficiencies. 

Armstrong left Connecticut's top corrections job last year amidst the fall-out from an ACLU lawsuit over his decision to transfer inmates to a notorious Virginia prison (two Connecticut inmates died in custody there), and a state human rights commission hearing which took him to task for failing to deal with sexual harassment of female guards. Armstrong also attracted the ire of Amnesty International, which called for an investigation into the state's York Correctional Institution for women in November, 2000, after the group received complaints from inmates and former employees alleging sexual abuse by guards. 

The Justice Department's hiring of McCotter and Armstrong could be relegated to an eyebrow-raising turn of events; two occasions do not necessarily constitute a trend. However, there are signs that the hirings were not necessarily a mind-boggling oversight attributable to the chaos of the occupation's early days, but perhaps indicative of a decision to contract the roughest, toughest prison people around regardless of their histories. 

AlterNet has learned that two more corrections advisors sent by the Justice Department to Iraq, former Arizona Department of Corrections director Terry Stewart and his top deputy Chuck Ryan, have controversial pasts as well. 

In 1995, the year Stewart was appointed to head the Arizona DOC, the Justice Department began an 18-month investigation of alleged sexual abuse of female inmates. A subsequent report found "an unconstitutional pattern of practice of sexual misconduct"; documented the cases of 14 female inmates who were raped, sodomized or assaulted by guards; and criticized DOC officials for not dealing with the problem. 

In response, Stewart wrote a letter to then Attorney General Janet Reno claiming the report represented isolated incidents, but in 1997, the Justice Department sued Arizona for failing to protect its female inmates from guards and DOC staff. The suit named Stewart as one of the defendants and accused him and other DOC officials of knowing about the abuses but doing nothing. (Eventually, despite never admitting any wrongdoing, the DOC agreed to further protect female inmates from sexual abuse and the suit was dismissed.) 

Stewart could not be reached for comment before we first published this story, but he later sent us an e-mail saying he was not the director when the alleged abuses occurred and that he "fashioned the mutually agreed upon corrective measures" which led to the Justice Department suit being dismissed.

Ryan, a 25-year Arizona DOC veteran, became Stewart's deputy director in 1996 and was seen by some as an integral part of his regime, which also drew criticism for the long-term, intense segregation of high-risk inmates, and for a failed effort to build a private prison exclusively for the state's foreign inmates, who happened to be overwhelmingly Mexican. 

Dan Pochoda, a New York civil rights lawyer, was assigned by the federal government to monitor the conditions in the Arizona prison system just prior to Stewart's taking the reigns. "Even in the spectrum of corrections administrators, they are uniquely hard line, and in my opinion, acknowledged proponents of conditions that are damaging on a human level," he said of Stewart and Ryan. 

"There was an absolute brutality in the way the Stewart regime saw the correctional purpose," added Caroline Isaacs, criminal justice program coordinator for the Arizona American Friends Service Committee, which advocates for prison reform. "The prison system was taken from a place that cared at least a little about rehabilitation to a dictate that was all about control and security and nothing more." 

In a May 20 Justice Department press release, Stewart was listed as one of the corrections advisors who was sent to Iraq. In a subsequent interview for an online magazine, The Corrections Connection, Stewart, Lane McCotter and Gary DeLand – another former Utah Corrections official – discuss their trip there. 

DeLand told me that Chuck Ryan was part of a second shift of corrections advisors, along with John Armstrong, that came to Iraq to replace Stewart, McCotter and himself after they'd left. A Feb. 3 Asia Times story, referring to Ryan as the Coalition Provisional Authority's deputy director of prisons, confirmed what DeLand told me. Ryan could not be reached for comment. 

And while it's unlikely any of the corrections advisors in question were part of the unfolding abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib, their presence in Iraq is causing a gathering storm. Over the past two weeks, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has written two letters to Attorney General John Ashcroft demanding answers to why and how McCotter and Armstrong were hired and calling for an investigation into the role of civilian contractors in Iraqi prisons. 

So far, the feds have been tight-lipped. Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo would not return phone calls, and a Defense Department spokesman refused comment. In an email, Coalition Provisional Authority press officer Shane Wolfe noted the corrections advisors were not interrogating any inmates but training police and correctional officers and assessing the needs of Iraqi civilian prisons. 

Meanwhile, as more information is unveiled, prison reformists are increasingly aghast at why an agency responsible for keeping America's correctional system humane has been hiring people whose own prisons, they allege, were anything but. 

A May 21 New York Times story quoted an anonymous senior Justice Department official as saying its contractors "were all vetted in the normal process" and came highly recommended. Such a revelation, coupled with the resumes of McCotter, Armstrong, Stewart and Ryan, suggests that perhaps the Justice Department actually sought out perceived hard-nosed corrections types that they thought could bring order to an Iraqi detention system in shambles. 

"It makes you wonder what kind of criteria they were using," said Brooklyn-based prison reform consultant Judy Greene. "It's hard to imagine the Justice Department were looking for candidates with a proven track record of tolerating or condoning abusive treatment of prisoners, but that's what they got." 

Dan Frosch is a freelance journalist based in New York City. He's been on staff at the San Gabriel Valley Weekly section of the Los Angeles Times, The Source magazine, the Pacific Palisadian Post and most recently the Santa Fe Reporter.