Retiring Arizona Prison Watch...

This site was originally started in July 2009 as an independent endeavor to monitor conditions in Arizona's criminal justice system, as well as offer some critical analysis of the prison industrial complex from a prison abolitionist/anarchist's perspective. It was begun in the aftermath of the death of Marcia Powell, a 48 year old AZ state prisoner who was left in an outdoor cage in the desert sun for over four hours while on a 10-minute suicide watch. That was at ASPC-Perryville, in Goodyear, AZ, in May 2009.

Marcia, a seriously mentally ill woman with a meth habit sentenced to the minimum mandatory 27 months in prison for prostitution was already deemed by society as disposable. She was therefore easily ignored by numerous prison officers as she pleaded for water and relief from the sun for four hours. She was ultimately found collapsed in her own feces, with second degree burns on her body, her organs failing, and her body exceeding the 108 degrees the thermometer would record. 16 officers and staff were disciplined for her death, but no one was ever prosecuted for her homicide. Her story is here.

Marcia's death and this blog compelled me to work for the next 5 1/2 years to document and challenge the prison industrial complex in AZ, most specifically as manifested in the Arizona Department of Corrections. I corresponded with over 1,000 prisoners in that time, as well as many of their loved ones, offering all what resources I could find for fighting the AZ DOC themselves - most regarding their health or matters of personal safety.

I also began to work with the survivors of prison violence, as I often heard from the loved ones of the dead, and learned their stories. During that time I memorialized the Ghosts of Jan Brewer - state prisoners under her regime who were lost to neglect, suicide or violence - across the city's sidewalks in large chalk murals. Some of that art is here.

In November 2014 I left Phoenix abruptly to care for my family. By early 2015 I was no longer keeping up this blog site, save occasional posts about a young prisoner in solitary confinement in Arpaio's jail, Jessie B.

I'm deeply grateful to the prisoners who educated, confided in, and encouraged me throughout the years I did this work. My life has been made all the more rich and meaningful by their engagement.

I've linked to some posts about advocating for state prisoner health and safety to the right, as well as other resources for families and friends. If you are in need of additional assistance fighting the prison industrial complex in Arizona - or if you care to offer some aid to the cause - please contact the Phoenix Anarchist Black Cross at PO Box 7241 / Tempe, AZ 85281.

until all are free -

MARGARET J PLEWS (June 1, 2015)


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AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

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