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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Thursday, February 27, 2014

PUENTE hunger strikers undeterred by Phoenix Police violence and arrests.

I arrived at the PUENTE encampment Tuesday night just after the cops raided it - they waited until after the 10pm news was over and most witnesses had gone home, then shut down all the streets in the vicinity of ICE beofre moving in. There were still about 50 uniformed cops packing up the tents and other property (apparently being organized/directed by Sgt Mark Schweikert - he and his Red Squad were there, doing their dirty work). It was overkill, dear taxpayers.

I was particularly troubled to hear these two supporters' accounts of the raid. I hope the Phoenix Police are held to account for their violence.

PUENTE hunger strikers continue their vigil outside of ICE today, sans the tents. The Phoneix Police have done what they can to harass organizers and hunger strikers since the raid - following them to their homes, circling PUENTE's office in their cars, and taking photos of people supporting the strike at ICE. PUENTE members refuse to be intimidated into the shadows.

Please support their efforts by calling ICE to ask that their loved ones be released. One young hunger striking prisoner - Jose Valdez' son, Jaime, has been deported as punishment for his protest already. Other prisoners joining in this effort have been placed in solitary confinement.

Hunger Strike Encampment Evicted by Phoenix PD, 2 Supporters Arrested as Detainee Faces Immediate Deportation

Contact: Caroline Picker, 510-501-7276,, Puente Movement

At approximately 11 pm on Tuesday, February 25, 30 Phoenix police officers descended on the Not1More Hunger Strike encampment, confiscating the striker’s supplies and arresting two supporters, Carlos Garcia and Erika Andiola.  The police reportedly surrounded the sleeping hunger strikers and supporters, aggressively disrupting the peaceful encampment.

The arrests follow several days of threats from the Phoenix PD to evict hunger strikers exercising their right to peacefully assemble.  The group has been fasting since last Monday, President’s Day, in order to demand that ICE free their loved ones from detention and that President Obama take immediate action to halt deportations.

One of the hunger strikers, Jose Valdez, received a phone call from his son, Jaime, in Eloy Detention Center this evening, alerting him that ICE is planning to deport Jaime tonight as retaliation for participating in the hunger strike and organizing to stop his deportation and secure his release.  Jaime has an appeal pending with the 9th Circuit, and is therefore being illegally and unjustly deported before his immigration case has concluded. 

Endangered prisoners: listening to queer, undocumented detainees.

Those of you who haven't been around PUENTE ARIZONA  these past few years have missed a real evolution. I neglect to write about them precisely because they're doing such an incredible job confronting the criminalization of decent people and the brutality of detention and deportation. PUENTE and their allies in the migrant justice movement have deployed a diversity of tactics against the system:  helping families fight the detention and deportation of loved ones; documenting human rights abuses; engaging in civil disobedience by locking down to deportation busses and prison gates; and waging simultaneous hunger strikes on both sides of the prison walls , for example. The movement to resist the prison industrial complex's death grip on immigrant families and communities in this region is so  well organized that it just hasn't necessarily been a voice I thought needed my help in particular to amplify or echo - they speak well enough for themselves, that is.

Among other things, PUENTE has organized a youth media collective which has been documenting the struggles of migrant families torn apart by raids, detentions, and deportations. They produce incredible protest art through their collective, PUENTE INK. Their community room has a wall full of  books banned from Arizona's public schools when Attorney General Tom Horne was State Superintendant, and convinced the legislature to put an end to classes and curriculum that he believed taught youth of color "to hate white people" - it's Arizona's Underground Library. There's so much happening at the place and in the community that is PUENTE - check them out yourselves. Swing by ICE on Central (just north of McDowell) where the hunger strikers are camping out - they'll tell you what it's all about.

I bring up PUENTE's work as I'm posting this article because it's been my observation that a number of undocumented LGBTQ young people are not just marginalized victims, as one may infer from below, but are respected leaders in the local migrant justice movement- many even risking detention and deportation in their efforts to liberate us all from this abusive system. Thus, the narrative of resistance to brutality in Arizona is also not one that can be written without them.

PUENTE human rights Activist Chela Chelinski 
Mural by Amelec Diaz (Phoenix ICE Rally, 2012)

Left Out of the Narrative: LGBTQ Undocumented Detainees

Sunday, 16 February 2014 00:00 By Erika L. Sánchez,  
Truthout | News Analysis 

Undocumented LGBTQ people are caught in a double bind of belonging neither in white mainstream LGBTQ narrative nor in the mainstream immigrant narrative. The consequences can range from difficult to deadly.
On Halloween of 2011, Eddy (who, for his personal safety prefers his last name not be disclosed), an undocumented immigrant from Chiapas, Mexico, living in Texas, was stopped by a police officer for passing a yellow light. Eddy, who has lived in the United States for most of his life, never imagined he would be in custody for 61 days because of a routine traffic stop.

Eddy says that he passed the sobriety test. But when he was asked for his license, he could not provide one because he was undocumented. When they reached the headquarters, he also demanded a blood test to further prove he was not driving under the influence.

After his arrest, Eddy says he was transferred to Harris County Jail, where he was held for 45 days. He was then taken to an immigration detention center in Houston. During the intake process, he says one of the questions was "Are you gay?" Because he answered yes, he says he was put in isolation for one week. The detention officials claimed it was for his own safety.

Other people were placed in solitary confinement because of aggressive acts or because they wanted to commit suicide. Eddy was placed there only because he was gay. "I think they put me there out of fear. That was unjustified," Eddy says. "It was the hardest moment of my life. I thought I was really going to go insane."
After his attorney contacted the warden, Eddy says that they removed him from isolation, and the warden warned him against having sex with anyone. According to Eddy, the warden said to him: "If you do get in trouble, we can't guarantee that we're going to protect you."

He remained in general population for three weeks until his blood tests came back and cleared him of driving under the influence. At that point, he was released on bail.

Eddy's experience, unfortunately, is not unusual. A 2013 report by American Progress found that many facilities place lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ) immigrants in administrative segregation, or solitary confinement, supposedly in response to concerns of sexual assault and harassment. LGBTQ immigrants held in immigration detention facilities are 15 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than their heterosexual counterparts.

According to the report, solitary confinement can lead to a variety of psychological problems, including hyper-sensitivity to external stimuli, hallucinations, panic attacks, obsessive thoughts and paranoia.
Clement Lee, an attorney at the Immigration Equality Center who provides representation for LGBTQ asylum seekers, says that in some extreme cases, trans women are placed in solitary confinement for months at a time.

"Many detention centers don't know how to house trans people. They almost always segregate them according to gender assignment given at birth," Lee says. "Many of our transgender women [housed in men’s prisons] face increased danger of sexual violence from both staff and detainees." Lee says that the detention centers address these problems by putting people in administrative isolation.

These hostile environments can lead to depression and other emotional issues. In 2011, Jonathan Perez, co-founder of Immigrant Youth Coalition, decided to be purposefully detained to highlight the injustice of the Secure Communities Program. While in a detention center in Louisiana, he says he witnessed some of the more "feminine" men being harassed by fellow detainees. Perez says this experience caused him to become depressed and stay in bed all day. "I didn't want to face it," he says. "Whether we realize it or not, we experience out oppression all the time. In general, I think it's scary because you don't know what you're going to face in these places. It's inhumane to be detained."

In addition to harassment and isolation, another obstacle many LGBTQ-identified detainees face is lack of access to HIV medication. The National Immigrant Justice Center has found that HIV-positive individuals detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were harassed and mistreated and had a difficult time accessing HIV medication.

Lee says that sometimes people who have HIV hesitate to disclose it out of fear, which can lead to a lapse in medication. These lapses can be deadly. In 2007, Victoria Arellano, a Mexican HIV-positive transgender woman, died after being denied her medication and medical attention at the detention center in San Pedro, California.

Some trans detainees are also not allowed to receive hormone therapy while in custody, particularly when they don't have a previous prescription. Immigration Equality has found that medical staffs at detention facilities don't screen for or evaluate the need for transition-related care. According to the group's web site, "Due to the increased stressors that detainees live under, even if an individual did not take hormones or struggled with their GID [Gender Identity Disorder] before entering detention, their experience in detention may lead them to experience more intense feelings of gender discordance and necessitate treatment."
"Hormones are integral to expressing their gender identity, and that's something they should be able to receive," Lee says.

Rachel Ann Lewis, assistant professor in the Women and Gender Studies Program at George Mason University, says that when it comes to asylum petitions based on LGBTQ identity, there is a real emphasis on visible performance of sexuality, which can also be dangerous while in detention. Many have to make the difficult choice to "perform" their gender identity or sexuality for their petition for asylum and risk being harassed in detention.

Collecting evidence of their membership to particular group can be dangerous and difficult for some LGBTQ detainees, Lee adds. Many asylum-seekers, for instance, lack evidence because they've made efforts to conceal their sexuality out of fear of persecution in their home countries.

In addition to the danger faced in detention centers, Lewis points out that asylum seekers cannot work, which forces many to be homeless. As a result, Lee says, many have to resort to criminalized conduct, such as shoplifting and sex work, to survive.

Lulú Martinez, who immigrated from Mexico City at the age of 3, also infiltrated a detention center as an act of civil disobedience. She says that queer undocumented people there are caught in a double bind of belonging neither in white mainstream queer narrative nor in the mainstream immigrant narrative. When it comes to immigration reform, she believes legislators should be "acknowledging a broader language that allows for more inclusion."

While immigration reform hangs in the balance, the issue of detention abuse is just as relevant as ever and LGBTQ activists must continue to fight for visibility. According to The Center for American Progress, the Department of Homeland Security currently holds more than twice as many immigrants in detention each day as INS did during the entirety of 1998.

Marcela Espinoza, an undocumented lesbian woman who participated in Dream 30, fled her home in Michoacán and petitioned for asylum in October 2013. She was detained in El Paso. She is requesting asylum due to "credible fear" because of her sexuality and the violence she witnessed in her home state.
"Sometimes we don't have visibility in these spaces," she says. "There's always a heteronormative way of talking about immigration," she says. "We need that visibility. We need to be talking about these things. That's what we're trying to expose.

Monday, February 24, 2014

PUENTE Hunger strike spreads through detention center.

Please support the hunger strikers by calling to have their loved ones released: 

Call Eloy at 520-466-4141 x 23200 ask for the warden's office to demand that the hunger strikers be released from solitary confinement, and that CCA recommend to ICE they be released from detention altogether:

Jaime Valdez (A# 201-288-309)
Elder Gomez-Lopez (A# 087-455-416)
Rosy Gallego (A# 205-930-728)
Margarita Gallego (A# 205-936-572)
Arturo Castaneda (A# 205-942-830)
J Cruz Lopez (A# 205-920-821)

Also call  AZ ICE 602-766-7030 and DC ICE at 202-732-3000 to tell them that the community demands the above prisoners be freed!

If you're in Phoenix, pay close attention to what's going down at ICE (2035 n central Phoenix), even try to make your support known there today - the cops have threatened to arrest people if they don't clear out. The hunger strikers and their supporters have every intention of staying, so this will be a show-down. Prepare to do some jail support, next.

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE: Defying the anti-camping ordinance in the City of Phoenix.
PUENTE's Encampment at ICE,  as day 6 dawns. 
Photo by PUENTE

for immediate release // excuse cross-posting/
Contact: Caroline Picker, Puente Movement,, 510-501-7276
Carlos Garcia, Puente Movement,, 520-648-1697
Families on Hunger Strike at ICE React to CCA Punishment, Enter 7th Day with Reportedly 9 Detainees in Solitary Confinement

Monday marks the seventh day on hunger strike for six families with loved ones in detention in the Eloy Detention Center.  Since they began their fast on President's Day, they've received countless visitors at their encampment in front of the Phoenix ICE field office, including several hundred undocumented youth from the national United We Dream Network, pledging their support.

Yesterday, Sunday February 23rd, the hunger strikers travelled to Eloy to hold vigil outside of the Eloy Detention Center, in order to draw attention to what their loved ones are facing inside.  (see attached photos) Lourdes Hernandez, whose husband has been detained in Eloy for over 1 year after being racially profiled by the Phoenix Police Departmemt, says, "Without my husband home, my whole family has suffered.  My 20-year-old daughter has dropped out of school and taken two jobs to support us.  We are here to send strength to my husband and all the rest of the detainees to keep their hope alive: we will continue to fight until they are home with us."

By the end of their first week, the hunger strike by those within the detention center had reportedly spread throughout the facility prompting Corrections Corporation of America, the private company that runs the facility, to retaliate against the fasters by placing them in solitary confinement.  Despite multiple phone calls expressing concern for the detainees, the company reportedly has placed nine of them in "the hole" as a disciplinary measure to prevent further participation in the hunger strike.

The detainees, some of whom have been in detention for over two years, are seeking their release so that they can fight their deportation orders from the outside instead of from continued incarceration in the hazardous conditions of the CCA facility.  

To schedule interviews with hunger strikers, please call Caroline at 510-501-7276

All photos by Barni Axmed Qaasim

 Photo 1: From Left to Right, hunger strikers Hermina Gallego, Jose Valdez, Lourdes Hernandez, and Anselma Lopez hold vigil outside of Eloy Detention Center.  Hermina's daughter and sister-in-law, Jose's son, Lourdes's husband, and Anselma's son are all detained inside.
 Photo 2: Anselma Lopez and her granson

Friday, February 21, 2014

AZ DOC Race war update: Battle at ASPC-Lewis/Stiner sends ten to the hospital; one is critical.

UPDATE: MAY 27, 2014: This is actually what appears to be what was behind the race riot at Stiner. We arent just seeing a few fights here and there. It's a war.

--------------original post (2/21/14)----------

Very troubling, but not surprising. Look up the other racialized fights and riots at Yuma/Dakota, Tucson/Santa Rita, Tucson/Whetstone, and Kingman since Jan Brewer's man Chuck Ryan took over AZ Department of Corrections. 

 AZ DOC Director Charles Ryan

Hate and fear are rampant, too many officers are corrupt or indifferent, and racialized gangs are running those places, making a killing of of their own prison drug trade. Almost no one is given any kind of access to substance abuse treatment, despite the widespread heroin addiction and Hep C epidemic behind AZ bars. In fact, get busted with drugs in prison - or seek protection after being beaten down five times for owing a debt or flushing the drugs the gang threw in your bed during a search - and I guarantee that "help" for your problem will not be forthcoming - you can just look forward to sitting in the hole and losing contact with loved ones. 

Not offering critical care for addictions  is one of the ways that Corizon stands to profit from their AZ DOC prison health care contract, of course. Unfortunately, while judges seem to think they're doing some folks a favor by getting them off the street to where they supposedly get three meals a day and "help" for their problems, addicts are among the most vulnerable people we throw in prison just to become collatoral damage and target practice for the bad guys on both sides in the battle for power between the DOC and the gangs...

Sorry, folks I don't know who was injured or how badly - contact ASPC-Lewis  if you are concerned about your loved one. Check out Prison Talk for the chatter from families of those imprisoned there. And please contact me now or a year from now if you have more information about what went down here (Peggy Plews 480-580-6807 or PO Box 20494 PHX 85036 or


Several inmates injured after fight at Arizona prison 



Video report by Steve Ryan

Posted on February 20, 2014 at 5:45 PM

Updated yesterday at 10:50 PM

BUCKEYE, Ariz. -- Several inmates were injured Thursday after a fight broke out at the state prison in Buckeye.

Arizona Department of Corrections spokesman Doug Nick said fewer than 100 inmates at the Stiner Unit of the Lewis complex got into a fight about 4:15 p.m.

"This was because of some racial tensions that had been recently exposed and ... came to a boil," Nick said.

Ten inmates were taken to local hospitals, one of whom had critical injuries, according to Nick.

Authorities said the fight in the medium-security dormitory area was quickly brought under control with the help of distraction devices.

"Those distraction flashes ... are non-lethal rounds," Nick said. "They are very disturbing and they get people's attention very quickly."

No prison staff members were injured trying to break up the fight.

The prison was on lockdown Thursday night and the Stiner Unit will remain on lockdown until at least next week, according to Nick.

He also said the investigation is ongoing, and any inmates identified as instigators will be moved to a higher level of custody. They could also face additional charges.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Monday, February 17, 2014

PUENTE: Fasting for Families at ICE - NOT1More DEPORTATION!

For immediate release // excuse cross-posting //
Contact: Sandra Castro, Puente Movement,, 323-493-2844

Phoenix Parents with Children in Detention Begin Hunger Strike for their Release, 
Call for Not1More Deportation
What: Not1More Deportation Hunger Strike Launch
When: TODAY, Monday February 7 at 5:00pm 
Where: In front of Phoenix ICE Field Office, 2035 N Central Ave
Who: Parents, Spouses, and loved ones of five people currently being held in the Eloy Detention center, members of Puente Arizona, supporters.   

Today, President’s Day, as faith leaders, immigrants, and supporters are praying for an end to deportations in front of the White House, 5 mothers are beginning a hunger strike, having exhausted all other routes to see their children released from the detention centers they're held in pending imminent deportation unless ICE uses its discretion in their cases as it's instructed to do.

Hermina Gallego, a hunger striker and participant in the civil disobedience prayer vigil in Washington, says, "I'm fasting for my daughter because she has been in detention for over 5 months. "My daughter is sick and she is not getting the proper treatment she needs. I am fasting because every day that my daughter is in detention is a day that her health is in danger.  If I don't do anything, she could die."   

Hermina’s daughter’s case highlights the urgent need for the President to take immediate action and stop record deportations. While it is undisputed that the President has the legal authority to expand the deferred action for childhood arrivals program and suspend deportations for all undocumented people, he has chosen not to do so thus far. Recent polls show the majority of Americans believe that the government's main focus should include the undocumented, not deport them.

Lourdes Hernandez, a fast participant whose husband has been detained for over a year after being racially profiled by Phoenix PD, says, "Most undocumented families in the United States have already lived through the risks of getting here and the dangers of the work we do. We've lived through days of unplanned hunger and now accept it willingly."    

Anselma Lopez, another fast participant whose son has been detained for almost 3 years, says, "If there is not room for us, mothers who miss our sons, at the center of this conversation, than we hope our empty stomachs change that conversation. Our sons' imprisonment hasn't been enough to get them to act. We hope our hunger strike will. If not, what happens to us will be on their hands."   

Hunger Striker bios available at

Lourdes Hernandez was on her way home from a evening Christmas party with her husband and three children when they were stopped by the police. Her husband, J Cruz, was wrongfully arrested for a DUI, without so much as a breathalizer test, an act of racist injustice that her daughters witnessed and have not forgotten. Lourdes and her two eldest daughters have done everything they can to defend J Cruz and bring him home: working extra hours to pay hundreds of dollars for lawyers, speaking out against the wrongful arrest, going door-to-door in their neighborhood for petitions to ICE. Seeing her 19 year old daughter working 80-hours a week and fearing that her youngest son will grow up without a father, Lourdes has now decided to fast for 14 days to bring her husband home. Lourdes explains, “My husband has been in detention for over 13 months. My children suffer every day that they are apart from him. My family is not complete without him, I need him home now. I am fasting so that everyone knows that I will put my body on the line to keep my family together.”

Maru Martinez is fasting for her  “big bear”, her eldest son and best friend, Arturo, was arrested for working, taken to jail, and threatened with deportation. She couldn’t sleep and after a few days, told her husband she thought she wouldn’t make it, thinking of taking her life. Coming to the Puente Movement, Maru has found hope, standing side-by-side other mothers in struggle fighting to bring home their children. Maru took her petition to the County Prosecutor, declaring that “working is not a crime”. She has made videos and petitions about her son, spoken at rallies not only for her son, but for all mothers to be reunited with their children, and demonstrated outside of ICE on Christmas, mourning a holiday without her son. When Maru goes to visit her son, they joke together, because they fight hard to keep each other’s spirits high, but in truth, Maru cannot accept seeing her son behind bars any longer. For the next two weeks, she will sit in front of ICE, hungry for justice, hungry to see her family reunited again. “We have to fight”, she says, “we will only win by taking the risk”.

Hermina Gallego and her family, including her daughter Rosy and her sister Margarita, left Mesa for Mexico when Hermina’s father was given one month to live. Hermina couldn’t abandon her father on his death bed. But in Mexico, the family faced violence and persecution, the reason they left in the first place. Returning across the border, Rosy and Margarita were detained. Rosy, a 20-year old DREAMer, is now in Eloy Detention Center, where lawyers say she could be for years. Hermina can’t wait that long. Rosy hasn’t even had the opportunity to finish high school, disrupted by her father’s death. The family has been through too much already, and Hermina is ready to take a daring move to defend her daughter’s life. Hermina explains, “I’m fasting for my daughter because she has been in detention for over 5 months. My daughter is sick and she is not getting the proper treatment she needs. I am fasting because every day that my daughter is in detention is a day that her health is in danger, if I don’t do anything she can die.”

Alejandra Sanchez has been living in Arizona for 13 years. She is a mother of 5 children, 4 of them DREAMERS and one a United States Citizen. Alejandra is a DREAM Mom in Arizona which is a national organization dedicated on organizing undocumented mothers and families. Alejandra  has actively been organizing undocumented mothers and supporting the organizing efforts of her children for the last 3 years. Sanchez is a representative of the national DREAMERS Mothers.  Alejandra and her husband were stopped and arrested in by Border Patrol last month where they exercised their rights and were released within 8 hours. Alejandra has chosen to participate in the hunger strike because she is representing all the mothers who have children in detention centers and are too afraid to come out and fight for their freedom.

Anselma Lopez has been fighting to bring her son, Elder Gomez-Lopez, home from detention since he was picked up near the border two and a half years ago. Elder, the father of two young children, has several serious health conditions that are rapidly deteriorating and he is being denied appropriate medical care while in detention.  In 2000, he was shot in the stomach by gang members while living in Guatemala, leaving him with a colostomy bag.  He has severe and ongoing health issues, including gastritis, ulcers, and a stomach infection, all of which leave him unable to swallow solid food.  Anselma’s fight has been a dramatic and seemingly endless struggle to save her son’s life and ensure that her grandchildren have a father. Anselma has filed applications for asylum, plead for help from the Guatemalan consulate, told her son’s story, marched and protested and gathered thousands of signatures on her son’s petition over the last year and a half. Yet, Anselma still doesn’t know if she will ever see her son outside of detention again, knowing that he will be killed if he is deported to Guatemala. She is tired of seeing her son slowly die in detention without medical treatment, and is willing to risk her life to save her son. “Elder has been in detention for almost 3 years, I am fasting to bring him home. He should not spend another year in detention, his children and family need him home.”

Jose Valdez already lost one son when he was deported to Mexico and killed upon return. Now, Jose is afraid for the life of his youngest son, Jaime Arturo Valdez Reyes. For over a year, Jose has been struggling to bring his son home from detention after he was arrested for a DUI charge. Jose, his wife, and his brother have been marching, protesting, gathering signatures, and supporting other families, but ICE still won’t let Jaime return to their home. Jose’s wife is beside herself with the grief of losing one son and fearing the loss of another, “Do you understand what it’s like for a mother to lose her son? I go to work, I’m thinking about Jaime; I come home work, I’m thinking about Jaime.” Twice a month, Jose and his brother, Luis, visit Jaime in detention, and often worry when they notice his weight dropping and his energy slipping.  Jose says, “I am fasting for my son who is in detention. I am also fasting for the other men and women who sit in detention everyday awaiting to return to their families.”

Jovana Renteria is the legal director for the Puente Movement. Jovana has been a staff of Puente for over 5 years and has been committed to helping reunite families. Jovana is going to fast for 14 days because she has witnessed the suffering that families and detainees endure due to the broken immigration system. As an ally, Jovana believes that she must fast with the families to show her support and let the families know that they are not alone and to reaffirm that the community stands with them.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Valentine's Day SURPRISE! Men join Women in Hunger strike: Arpaio's prisoners demand food justice.

( Solidarity Action outside Estrella Jail: circa 2012)

This is really remarkable, what's been taking place at the county jail - 
the prisoners are organizing and being heard!!!

Here's my initial blog post about the hunger strikers at Estrella Jail. If anyone has any updates, hit me here: Peggy Plews or 480-580-6807.
Where the hell is the County Health Department and all the right-to-lifers who love Sheriff Joe? A woman lost her unborn child to this man's rotten food - that's what this is about. Rocks, hair, spit, mold, and disease that gets ignored by medical staff - that's what people get in their hot meals, and why they're protesting. Check it all out below:

(email from a friend of prisoner Rebekah Mellon's on SAT AM 02/15)
 "The Ladies in Cell Block C100 continued on with their Hunger strike until Thursday night. They told me they weren't even feeling all that hungry. They were sad that they took Rebekah away and were very grateful to have someone to just listen and believe them about the food. The ladies were just fighting for safe food because their are a lot of people in there who can not afford canteen so they have to eat the jail food and when it's moldy and makes you sick that is not right.

Rebekah is still in solitary confinement and she ended up accepting her food Wednesday Night. The Guards just through her food in her cell through a slot... She says it's so quiet and completely closed off from everything. 23 hours of dark quiet isolation from everyone. All because she took a stand and said I refuse to eat moldy food. Rebekah even spoke to ----- who told her that over the weekend the carrots missed there rotation causing contamination of all the food on the plate because the carrots were touching the other food on the plate. So they had a reason for their Hunger Strike, rotten carrots. No one should be forced to eat unsafe food.

So when I spoke again to the ladies in C100 cell block they were just so happy to hear that someone really believed them. That's all they wanted was someone to look past what they have done and say they are in fact Human Beings and they deserve the right to have food that is not rotten and moldy.

So the last I heard is Rebekah is still in solitary confinement. That was Friday Morning around 8 am. The other inmates I last spoke to Thursday Night and that was when I found out they were still going strong with the Hunger Strike and I told them If they felt the food was safe they should accept it so maybe Rebekah could get placed back with them again. They miss Rebekah and like I said they just wanted safe food to eat and someone to listen about the deplorable conditions of Sheriff Joe."


Then I found that this was posted to AZCentral on Friday, Valentine's Day: HOORAY!!! Execpt for this part, at the end of this article: 

"Arpaio said Friday that he now has another idea for what to do with the rejected food — he will give it to the inmates in the veterans wing."

What's the deal with giving the rejected, spoiled food to the Veterans, Sheriff Joe? I think it's time you retire.

In any case, keep it up everyone! You have people out here behind you - friends and family, spread the word!

The Arizona Republic-12 News, Breaking News Team 

Fri Feb 14, 2014 9:59 PM
Some male inmates at a Maricopa County jail are joining in a food strike initiated by their female counterparts earlier this week.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced Wednesday that nine women at Estrella Jail were refusing to eat dinner, and he attributed the fast to a new all-vegetarian menu. Officials on Friday said women are still protesting the food.

Then, on Thursday evening, a reported 90 men from the Durango Jail on Gibson Lane protested their evening meal.

Of the 90 who didn’t eat dinner, Arpaio said, 89 did accept brunch, which included a peanut-butter sandwich. The same trend was reported in the women’s facility, as well.

One Durango inmate who joined the protest said the menwant better quality food.

An inmate who identified himself as Mathew Hardy said that he and various inmates have been to several other jails in Arizona and that they’ve never encountered such bad food.

“My dogs eat better food than what we’re fed here,” Hardy said. “We’re not asking for great food, just better than we get.”

Hardy said there have been isolated incidents of rocks in food and a clump of hair found in a peanut-butter packet.

Hardy said that he plans to continue the strike and that a higher quality or quantity of food would make him eat again. The inmates are restricted to two meals a day.

Hardy denied that he took his early meal on Friday and said that he knows of at least a few others who didn’t.

After Hardy’s interview, jail officials reconfirmed that only one man refused his brunch packet.

That man identified himself as Prentis Bey, although jail officials say his last name is James.

Bey said the motivation for his hunger strike was in solidarity with the women: “If a woman does it, I’m gonna do it. That’s what men are supposed to do.”

Bey said he was unaware that he was the lone inmate who didn’t accept the brunch.

Arpaio said that the hot meal of the day consists of soy, oil, a vegetable, potatoes, cookies, bread and powdered milk and that the daily intake is 2,600 calories.

Arpaio said Friday that he now has another idea for what to do with the rejected food — he will give it to the inmates in the veterans wing.


Friday, February 14, 2014


PUENTE means bridge in Spanish, which is what these folks build - bridges to help eachother be more empowered and liberated. They've done amazing work recently helping community members get released from detention, stopping deportations, and publicizing the injustices of immigration raids, laws, and prosecutorial practices, particularly in Maricopa County.They have taken on the prison industrial complex most impressively, even locking themselves down in front of busses and to the gates of a detention center. Responding to the concrete needs of families, too, they did a fundraiser and purchased a van to make sure people can visit their imprisoned loved ones when detained in Florence pending hearings. THe art that comes out of PUENTE is moving and powerful, and they do their own silkscreening.

PUENTE can speak for themselves, though - below is their latest press release. I plan to be there to support them Monday - I hope other readers will turn out as well.  Below is the facebook link for the action.

 from their site:

"PUENTE Arizona is part of the global movement for migrant justice and human rights. As a grassroots community-based group Puente promotes justice, non-violence, interdependence and human dignity. Puente Arizona works to empower the community and build bridges by working collaboratively with various organizations and individuals."

-----from PUENTE (2/14/14)---
español abajo

Sometimes tactics and strategies are planned far in advance, developed and premeditated, other times it comes from a place that cannot be designed. In this case it comes from a mother’s will and community desperation, an expression of suffering and willingness to do anything to keep families together.

Most undocumented families in the United States have already lived through the risks of getting here and the dangers of the work we do. We’ve lived through days of unplanned hunger and now accept it willingly.

Starting on Monday February 17th on Presidents Day, members of our communities will have our last meal and start a hunger strike, to demand Not One More Deportation. We will be in Front of the Phoenix ICE office 2035 N Central Ave Phoenix to demand the release and halt the unnecessary deportation of our loved ones.  We also wish to expose the most important piece missing from this debate, the human cost caused by the extraction of members from our community.

RSVP on Facebook to stay updated about ways you can support our hunger strike in person and from wherever you are

We’ve watched the debate in public and suffered in private. We have gone to bed with our arms empty, aching for our loved ones, and now it is time to make that suffering known to the world.  Anselma’s son, Elder, has been in immigrant detention for two years and is at the brink of deportation. It was her who in a community meeting said she had nothing else left but to sacrifice herself and her health for her son and to end all the suffering in our communities.

It will be a joint effort from families on the outside and detainees on the inside, detainees who not only risk their health by not eating but the punishment they will receive by guards while on Hunger Strike inside detention.

We have no one but ourselves to look too, this immigration debate continues to be a political game in which both parties are content with the status quo that they take to the polls for elections, cements a permanent underclass and creates a constant flow of profits.

Politicians may tell us to be patient. Advocates may say that our tactics threaten the debate. But if there is not room for us, mothers who miss our sons, at the center of this conversation, than we hope our empty stomachs change that conversation.

As long as we keep our suffering to our kitchen tables and half empty beds, they will keep their policies the way they are.  Our sons’ imprisonment hasn’t been enough to get them to act. We hope our hunger strike will. If not, what happens to us will be on their hands.

Join us, and support the Hunger Strike for Not1More Deportation!

Thank you,

 The Hunger Strikers: Lourdes Hernandez, Hermina Gallego, Anselma Lopez, Jose Valdez, Jovana Renteria, and our loved ones currently in detention


Hay situaciones cunado tácticas y estrategias son planeadas por adelantado, desarrollado y premeditado, en otras situaciones viene de un lugar que no puede ser diseñado. En este caso viene de la voluntad de una madre y la desesperación de nuestra comunidad, es una expresión del sufrimiento y voluntad de hacer lo que sea para mantener nuestras familias juntas.

La mayoría de familias indocumentadas en Estados Unidos ya han vivido los riesgos al venir aquí y el riesgo del trabajo que hacemos. Nosotros hemos vivido por días si hambre no planeada y ahora la aceptamos por nuestra propia voluntad.

A partir del lunes 17 de Febrero  el Día de los Presidentes, miembros de nuestra comunidad van a tener su última comida y comenzar una huelga de hambre, exigiendo Ni Una Más Deportación. Vamos a estar en frente de la oficina de ICE en Phoenix 2035 N Central Ave, para exigir la liberación y parar la deportación innecesaria de nuestros seres queridos. También queremos exponer el pedazo más importante que falta en este debate, el costo humano causado por la extracción de los miembros de nuestra comunidad .

RSVP en Facebook para mantenerse informado acerca de las maneras en que puede apoyar nuestra huelga de hambre en persona y desde donde se encuentre

Hemos visto el debate en público y sufrimos en privado. Hemos ido a la cama con los estómagos vacíos, sufriendo por nuestros seres queridos, y ahora es el momento de hacer que el sufrimiento se conozca por todo el mundo . El hijo de Anselma, Elder, ha estado en detención de inmigración por los últimos dos años y está en el borde de la deportación. Fue ella quien en una reunión de la comunidad dijo que no tenía nada más, sino sacrificarse ella y su salud para su hijo y para poner un fin a todo el sufrimiento en nuestras comunidades.

Será un esfuerzo conjunto de las familias en el exterior y de los detenidos en el interior, los detenidos que no sólo arriesgan su salud al no comer, pero el castigo que van a recibir por los guardias, mientras que participan en la huelga de hambre en detención.

No tenemos a nadie mas que a nosotros mismos en que depender, este debate sobre la inmigración sigue siendo un juego político en el que ambos partidos están satisfechos con las cosas como son, beneficiándolos en las urnas, asegurando una subclase de personas permanente y creando un flujo constante de ganancias.
Los políticos pueden decirnos que seamos pacientes. Los que dicen hablar por nosotros en Washington pueden decir que nuestras tácticas amenazan el debate. Pero si no hay espacio para nosotros, las madres que pierden a nuestros hijos en el centro de esta conversación, entonces esperamos que nuestros estómagos vacíos cambian esta conversación.

Mientras mantenemos nuestro sufrimiento a nuestros hogares y camas medio vacíos, van a mantener sus políticas tal y como son. El encarcelamiento de nuestros hijos no ha sido suficiente para que ellos actúen. Esperamos que nuestra huelga de hambre lo hará. Si no es así, lo que nos sucede estará en sus manos.

Únete a nosotros, y apoya la huelga de hambre para Ni1Mas Deportación!


 Los huelguistas de hambre : Lourdes Hernández, Hermina Gallego, Anselma López, José Valdez, Jovana Rentería, y nuestros seres queridos en detención.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

HB 2474: De-felonizing MJ possession reduces harm, but doesn't go far enough.

Marijuana needs to be legalized altogether, before more lives and communities are destroyed by these laws. I think most Arizonans would be astonished to know how many people we have locked up in prison today just for smoking pot on probation - often the probation they were put on for smoking pot so they wouldn't go to prison in the first lace, because Arizonans have long felt prison was inappropriate for MJ possession or use.  With this campaign to legalize, there should be a chance next election for people to fight back against vicious laws and penalities altogether.

Thank you, Represenative Cardenas, for having the courage to do this much, however.


Lawmaker: Remove felony charge for simple marijuana possession

Posted: 02/11/2014
PHOENIX - Saying harsh penalties for marijuana use do more harm than good, a state lawmaker wants to remove felony charges for possession without the intent to sell.

“I don’t believe they should go away to prison and face hefty fines and possibly have their civil rights taken away,” said Rep. Mark A. Cardenas, D-Phoenix. “We shouldn’t have people that are being sentenced to long prison terms for simple possession of marijuana.”

Cardenas authored HB 2474, which would subject those carrying less than 1 ounce of marijuana without intent to sell to a civil penalty of no more than $100. Possession of less than 2 pounds without intent to sell would be a petty offense, while possession of greater amounts would be a misdemeanor.

Currently, possession of up to two pounds is a class six felony, punishable by up to two years in prison and a $750 fine.

The bill would reduce the charge for growing marijuana from a felony to a misdemeanor if the amount is less than 2 pounds.

Cardenas said he was against legalization when he served in the Army and National Guard but that his views changed after taking an Arizona State University class on drugs and justice.

“It took being willing to learn from facts and figures to say, I was wrong,” he said. “Let’s change that. Let’s try to change my corner of the world.”

His bill was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee but hadn’t been scheduled for a hearing.

Cardenas also signed onto a bill that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana. HB 2558, authored by Rep. Ruben Gallego,D-Phoenix, had yet to be assigned to a committee.

While Cardenas is for marijuana legalization, he said “the next best option would be to decriminalize small amounts.”

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said reducing marijuana possession penalties would undermine efforts by counties to rehabilitate first- and second-time offenders who aren’t facing other charges. Those successfully completing the diversion program avoid criminal records.

“The irony is that if you try to reduce those penalties, you are going to wind up with people who are going to have maybe an ostensibly lower level offense, but they’re going to have more of a conviction record than people who could initially be charged with a felony and be offered diversion and have no record,” he said.
Montgomery said that in 2013, 63 percent of the diversion cases in Maricopa County were for marijuana possession, and 85 percent of those in the program successfully completed it.

Nine other counties have similar diversion prosecution programs, according to the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council.

Montgomery said the idea that Arizona’s prisons are full of marijuana-possession offenders. According to the 2011 Arizona Sentencing Report from the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council, about 95 percent of inmates in Arizona’s prison system have committed multiple or violent felonies.

“If that’s the motivation of this bill, it’s a solution in search of a problem,” he said.

Carolyn Short, chairwoman for Keep AZ Drug Free, a committee that opposed the 2010 medical marijuana ballot initiative, said the idea of reduce sentences for marijuana possession isn’t rational and ignores scientific fact.

“It’s just another way of communicating to kids that its not that big of a deal and it really is a big deal,” she said. “We already have two substances now that are legal, alcohol and tobacco, that are creating damage economically and socially to our society.”

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

AG Holder: restoring civil life for ex-felons part of ending racial disparities.

It's going to take a lot more than this to really respond to the consequences of felonization for people once they leave prison and try to start a new life. But it's impressive how aggressive Holder has been about fighting racial disparities, now in the last year of his likely stay in office. Every week he's talking about ending harsh drug sentencing, telling prisoners in for drug crimes to apply for clemency this year, and so on. He really seems to be trying to address racism, classism, and injustice in the system he administers, where for the longest time there has only been silence or denials when confronted. That's way overdue.


AG urges restoring voting rights to ex-inmates

KTAR.COM (2/11/14)

WASHINGTON (AP) - Attorney General Eric Holder called on a group of states Tuesday to restore voting rights to ex-felons, part of a push to fix what he sees as flaws in the criminal justice system that have a disparate impact on racial minorities.

"It is time to fundamentally rethink laws that permanently disenfranchise people who are no longer under federal or state supervision," Holder said, targeting 11 states that he said continue to restrict voting rights for former inmates, even after they've finished their prison terms.

"Across this country today, an estimated 5.8 million Americans- 5.8 million of our fellow citizens- are prohibited from voting because of current or previous felony convictions," Holder told a symposium on criminal justice at Georgetown University.

Now into his fifth year as attorney general and hinting that this year might be his last, Holder survived political controversies that, early on, placed him on the defensive. Now, he is doubling down on the kinds of issues that have long held his interest during a career in law enforcement- prison overcrowding, overly harsh mandatory drug sentences and school disciplinary policies that he says push kids into street crime.

Congress used to be the place that highlighted Holder's problems, including a plan to try terrorists in New York City and the failed Justice Department investigation of gun smuggling in Arizona that ended in the death of a border patrol agent.

Now, Holder is talking about partnering up with conservative lawmakers like Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who shares concerns such as mandatory minimum prison sentences that can put away low-level drug offenders for decades. On Tuesday, Holder took note of the fact that Paul was to be a participant in the criminal justice symposium later in the morning.

On a topic with racial overtones, Holder said 2.2 million black citizens, or nearly one in 13 African-American adults, are banned from voting because of these laws, and he said the ratio climbs to one in five in Florida, Kentucky and Virginia.

"Although well over a century has passed since post-Reconstruction states used these measures to strip African-Americans of their most fundamental rights, the impact of felony disenfranchisement on modern communities of color remains both disproportionate and unacceptable."

The 11 states identified by the Justice Department as restricting voting rights of former inmates are Arizona, Florida, Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, Wyoming, Tennessee and Virginia.

In Iowa, action by the governor caused the state to move from automatic restoration of rights following completion of a criminal sentence to an arduous process requiring direct intervention by the governor in every individual case, Holder said.

"It's no surprise that, two years after this change- of the 8,000 people who had completed their sentences during that governor's tenure- voting rights had been restored to fewer than 12," the attorney general added.
Reaction was swift. In Iowa, the governor's office disputed Holder's figures, saying that in 2013, the voting rights of 21 individuals were restored. No applications were denied, and seven applications are pending, the governor's office said.

Iowa Republican Gov. Terry Branstad "believes that when an individual commits a felony, it is fair they earn their rights back by paying restitution to their victim, court costs, and fines," said Jimmy Centers, the governor's spokesman. Centers said Branstad has no plans to change the current process and that too often, victims are forgotten.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said if a prisoner has served a sentence and is a productive citizen, "I believe the people should have their rights." Those convicted of most felonies in the state can apply to the parole board to get their voting rights restored once they have finished their sentences and probation and paid all fines and restitution.

If Holder has been on an aggressive streak, it's by design.

A year ago, he ordered up a review to find areas in the Justice Department's mission that needed change.
The first results became public last August, when Holder instructed federal prosecutors to stop charging many nonviolent drug defendants with offenses that carry mandatory minimum sentences. He said long mandatory terms have flooded the nation's prisons with low-level drug offenders and diverted money away from crime fighting.

A month ago, Holder joined Education Secretary Arne Duncan in pressing the nation's schools to abandon disciplinary policies that send students to court instead of the principal's office. The two Cabinet officials said "we have found cases where African-American students were disciplined more harshly and more frequently because of their race than similarly situated white students."

Then over the weekend, Holder applied a landmark Supreme Court opinion to the Justice Department, declaring same-sex spouses cannot be compelled to testify against each other, should be eligible to file for bankruptcy jointly and are entitled to the same rights and privileges as federal prison inmates in opposite-sex marriages.

His call for restoring voting rights for ex-prisoners are part of what the attorney general calls his "Smart On Crime" program.

On Tuesday, Holder said that because of state laws that restrict former inmates' right to vote, about 10 percent of Floridians and 8 percent of people in Mississippi are disenfranchised. Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said it would require voters to change the state's constitution.

On the positive side, Holder said 23 states, including Nebraska, Nevada, Texas and Washington state, have enacted recent improvements and Virginia has adopted a policy that automatically restores the voting rights of former prisoners with nonviolent convictions. The Virginia policy was carried out by order of the governor, but Holder said legislation is needed to make permanent change.

Kentucky is studying a proposed constitutional amendment that would put on the state ballot the question of whether to automatically restore voting rights for certain felons who've completed their sentences and probation. Championed by a Democratic lawmaker, the proposal also has drawn support from Republicans, including Paul.

A measure introduced in the Wyoming Legislature would allow restoration of voting rights for non-violent felons at the end of their parole and probation or sentence. State law lets people who have been convicted of a single nonviolent felony seek restoration of voting rights once they've waited five years after they served their sentence.

Nebraska restores voting rights to felons automatically, two years after they've finished their prison sentences and any parole or probation.
AP reporters Catherine Lucey in Des Moines, Iowa, Brett Barrouquere in Louisville, Ky., Ben Neary in Cheyenne, Wyo., Phillip Rawls in Montgomery, Ala., Jack M. Elliott in Jackson, Miss., and Grant Schulte in Lincoln, Neb., contributed to this report.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Estrella women on hunger strike over Arpaio's moldy, sickening food.

"Indict Arpaio"
Veterans' Day Parade (Phoenix 2012)

Those folks familiar with Joe Arpaio's jails know that the food is notoriously bad. About six weeks ago, however, I began hearing that the food isn't just tasteless or bad-tasting, there is at least one highly suspect, horrifically tragic case of food poisoning as a result. Hopefully mainstream media will be investigating and reporting on that soon - I'm really troubled about the things I've been hearing ever since Graves v Arpaio wrapped up and the judge let him slide without a monitor to stay o top of the fixes he did. In any case, it came as no surprise today to hear that some of the prisoners are complaining to loved ones about their food being spoiled and moldy, not just bland or bad-tasting.

The really remarkable thing about what I heard today, however,  is that the women are organizing resistance in the form of a hunger strike - today was day two. Specifically, the women on Estrella's Cell Block C100 are refusing their meals until they no longer receive moldy, disgusting, dangerous food. They are demanding to be treated like human beings. YOU ALL ROCK!!!

(NOTE: This is what happens, Sheriff Arpaio, when you don't let prisoners file grievances and deal with constitutional violations "appropriately"...)

By the time this hits the rest of the media, it may have been broken up. Already they've apparently placed Rebekah Mellon in administrative segregation (solitary confinement) for "instigating" this collective act of defiance and courage. That woman is already facing serious charges for the murder of the man she says was her abuser - she's not about to sit down for rotten food now, I guess. GOOD FOR YOU!!! Hooray for all of the women who are fighting back now, however they are showing their resistance.

It's so under-reported when woman in prison and jail organize against their keepers and the conditions of their confinement, so anyone with direct info about this action, PLEASE contact me, no matter how far after this occurs it is - especially if you participated. My name is Peggy Plews; call me at 480-580-6807 or email me at Also, send postcards to loved ones with my address on it: AZ Prison Watch PO Box 20494 PHOENIX AZ 85036.

For more about the history of women's resistance to the oppressions of incarceration, read some of Vikki Law's work - she wrote the book. If you have a loved one in Estrella or Perryville Prison, please order the book for them - the women need to know that history!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Suing the AZ DOC? Judicial Watch, Arizona Corrections Association seeking assault records.

This is interesting - Judicial Watch is typically right wingers going after liberal judges and bureaucrats - it sure would be fun to see them come out after Chuck Ryan. Anyway, for all you wrongful death and personal injury attorneys out there suing the AZ DOC, I'm posting it exactly as I got it tonight. Subpoena the ACA's records of this matter for more details about falsified documents and ghost posting of rosters at the AZ DOC.

------------from Donna Hamm at Middle Ground-------------

From: Middle Ground Prison Reform
Date: Mon, Feb 10, 2014 at 7:41 PM
Subject: Investigation Required

The below letter was sent to me by an anonymous source.  The underlining is mine, as well as the spelling out of what "ACA" means.  The letter was authored  and distributed to the membership by Anthony Spears, President, ACA.  Please scroll downward to read the letter.

The portions I underlined  strongly suggest the need for an independent investigation, audit  and/or hearings.  Middle Ground Prison Reform is a prisoner rights organization, but we certainly understand the perspective of staff who believe they are being lied to, asked to cover-up liability issues, falsify records,  and to risk their own safety while Department administrators sit at their comfortable Central Office desks.

It is time for the Governor and the Legislature to conduct comprehensive hearings and an unbiased, INDEPENDENT investigation into the claims made by the "boots on the ground."  If any of these individual allegations are credible, then the seriousness of the allegations demand a serious and formal investigation.

As we see it, the CORE of the problem is the reference to  "ghost" posting rosters, which implies that the DOC is  short-staffing shifts of guards, and later -- when reporting is required for some reason (such as a lawsuit or a request from a legislator who has received a complaint) -- someone is deliberately altering the rosters to indicate that more guards were on duty than were actually on duty on a certain shift or day.  Hence, this would explain why inmate-on-staff and inmate-on-inmate assaults are occurring and increasing.  It would also suggest illegal tampering with public records documents and other liability for the DOC, not to mention a host of other serious issues.

Mr. Spears has made some serious claims.  Investigation into these claims would clearly expose him either as a crackpot or a responsible leader of his organization.  The allegations he makes are so serious, it would be almost criminal not to investigate -- the Legislature must not be complicit in these matters.  The pubic needs to know.

Middle Ground Prison Reform stands ready to support the efforts of ACA to obtain a resolution to these serious problems and accusations. Even if it involves wrong-doing at the highest levels, llegislators have a responsibility not to turn a blind eye to these matters.

Donna Leone Hamm, Judge (Ret.)
Executive Director, Middle Ground Prison Reform


Fighting for the Safety of DOC Officers

As the membership is well aware, the officers at the Department of Corrections are being subjected to serious safety concerns resulting in numerous officers being viciously attacked, injured, and abused without a blink from the AZ DOC's management. Our research has revealed shocking and disturbing patterns of poor staffing, alarming increases in prisoner on prisoner and prisoner on staff assaults, increase in officer disciplines for officer's compliance with DOC policy which conflicts with ostensible unlawful managerial directives, discipline/administrative reprisals for reporting deficiencies or wrong doing, request from management to rewrite official documents skewing the facts and the truth to avoid liability, ghost posting rosters which are deceptive and seemingly unethical in violation of public records laws, and a complete lack of transparency and accountability on behalf of the AZ DOC managerial staff. The corruption bubbling, slithering and oozing down the chain of command from the top is alarming.

Despite our best efforts and desires to work through these serious personnel and safety issues with management, the ACA  (Arizona Corrections Association) has exhausted all of the internal methods to resolve problems brought to us by our membership. Unfortunately, the internal methods have been met to no avail, leaving the ACA with no other option than to seek resolution through other means. The ACA, through its President and Board, have enlisted the assistance of our State organization, the Arizona Police Association (APA) and Judicial Watch. The ACA has requested that the serious safety issues be taken directly to the Governor's Office. We believe that only an external examination of the policies, staffing model, actual staffing schedules, disciplinary policies and managerial retaliation upon employees reporting wrong doing, the lack of availability of post orders and other governing policies, managerial accountability, in concert with investigations into the reasons for staff and prisoner assaults are examined with great care and that an unbiased, external review will see beyond the veneer of deceptive, "sound good" vernacular and self-preservative explanations currently promulgated by the director and managerial staff in an attempt to cover-up the serious mismanagement occurring at DOC and have now caught the attention of the legislature and the media.

As usual, the ACA is staying engaged in these issues and will keep you posted on the progresses made.

Anthony Spears
Arizona Corrections Association President

Arizona Corrections Association, 1102 West Adams Street , Phoenix, Arizona 85007

Now, back to me - Peggy, that is - this is what this is all about...

From the ACA's website 
as of 02/10/2014

Judicial Watch

The ACA has listened carefully to your concerns regarding staff safety. When those concerns appeared to fall on deaf ears within the department, the ACA along with APA Executive Director Levi Bolton brought your concerns regarding staff safety and staff assaults to the attention of the Legislature and the Attorney General’s office. Now your concerns are the concerns of the Judicial Watch. 

Judicial Watch 
Because no one is above the law!
October 18, 2013
Mr. Charles Ryan, Director Arizona Department of Corrections 1600 W. Jefferson Phoenix, AZ 85007
Re: Arizona Public Records Request

Dear Mr. Ryan:

Pursuant to the provisions of the Arizona Public Records Law (APRL), AR.S. 39-101 through 39-221, Judicial Watch is requesting from the Arizona Department of Corrections and copies of the following public records be made available for inspection pursuant to the Arizona Public Records Law, AR.S. § 39-121, et seq.:
  1. Copies of any Incident Reports, reports, memos, notes, and/or any documentation of the assault of COIl Boykin at Kaibab -Cell Block 2.
  2. Statistics on how many Correctional Officers I, II, III, Sergeants, and/or Captains have been assaulted by inmates throughout the State of Arizona in Department of Corrections from January 1,2011 through October 16,2013.
  3. Statistics regarding the level of security for the inmates who have assaulted Correctional Officers I, II, III, Sergeants, and/or Captains, including but not limited to, if the inmates were from SMU and designated as "1-5, MH 3+ inmates", from January 1,2011 through October 16,2013.
  4. Statistics on how many Correctional Officers I, II, III, Sergeants, and/or Captains have been assaulted when the "posts" have been "collapsed" from January 1,2011 through October 16,2013.
  5. Copies of any Incident Reports, reports, memos, notes, and/or any documentation of the assault of Lopez which occurred on or about July 24, 2013 during swing shift in CB2.
  6. Documentation on why the Arizona Department of Corrections is allowing staff at SMU to escort unrestrained level 1-5, Mental Health 3+ inmates.
These records are considered public under AR.S. 39-101 through 39-221. For purpose of this request the term "record" shall mean: (1) any written, printed, or typed material of any kind, including without limitation all correspondence, memoranda, notes, messages, letters, cards, telegrams, teletypes, facsimiles, papers, forms, records, telephone messages, diaries, schedules, calendars, chronological data, minutes, books, reports, charts, lists, ledgers, invoices, worksheets, receipts, returns, computer printouts, printed matter, prospectuses, statements, check, statistics, surveys, affidavits, contracts, agreements, transcripts, magazine or newspaper articles, or press releases, (2) any electronically, magnetically, or mechanically stored material of any kind, including without limitation all electronic mail or e-mail, meaning any electronically transmitted text or graphic communication created upon and transmitted or received by any computer or other electronic device, and all materials stored on compact disk, computer disk, diskette, hard drive, server, or tape; (3) any audio, aural, visual, or video records, recordings, or representations of any kind, including without limitation all cassette tapes, compact disks, digital video disks, microfiche, microfilm, motion pictures, pictures, photographs, or videotapes; (4) any graphic materials and data compilations from which information can be obtained; (5) any materials using other means of preserving thought or expression; and (6) any tangible things from which data or information can be obtained, processed recorded, or transcribed. The term "record" also shall mean any drafts, alterations, amendments, changes, or modifications of or to any of the foregoing.

Judicial Watch, Inc. also requests that copies of the above-referenced public records be mailed to it promptly pursuant to AR.S. § 39-121.01(D)(1).

For purposes of this request, the term "record" shall be given its broadest possible meaning and shall include, but not be limited to, any and all materials coming within the definition of the term "records" set forth in AR.S. § 41-151.18. It also shall include any and all electronically, magnetically, or mechanically stored material of any kind, any and all electronic mail or e-mail, meaning any electronically transmitted text or graphic communication created upon and transmitted or received by any computer or other electronic device, and any and all material stored on compact disc, computer disk, diskette, hard drive, flash drive, or other electronic storage device. The term "record" also shall mean any drafts, alterations, amendments, changes, or modifications of or to any of the foregoing.

If any responsive records or categories of records are withheld from inspection and copying, please provide an index of the records or categories records that have been withheld and identify the reasons that each record or categories of record has been withheld, pursuant to AR.S. § 39-121.01(D)(2).

Judicial Watch, Inc. is a not-for-profit, public interest organization. It does not seek copies of the requested records for any commercial purpose, as that term is defined by AR.S. § 39-121.03(D). In addition, Judicial Watch, Inc. requests a waiver of any copying or postage fees. Should its request for a fee waiver be denied, Judicial Watch, Inc. agrees to pay reasonable fees associated with the production and mailing of the requested records. If any fee is to be charged, please notify Judicial Watch, Inc. in advance if the expected fee is likely to exceed $350.00.

Please note that, pursuant to AR.S. § 39-121.01(E), access to a public record is deemed denied if a response to a request for inspection and production of a public record, or an index of any record or categories of records withheld from inspection and production, is not provided promptly. Pursuant to A.R.S. 39-121.01.3.D, these records related to these requests must be furnished promptly. Please provide us a prompt written response and records.

If you do not understand this request or any portion thereof, or if you feel you require additional information or clarification in order to respond to this request or any portion thereof, please contact me immediately at (602) 510-7875 or
Very truly yours,

Mark Spencer
Southwest Projects Coordinator 
Judicial Watch
Information contributed by: ACA and Mark Spencer
Last updated: 02/08/2014