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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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Graves v Arpaio: MCSO jail health and mental health still under fire.

Thanks for this, Stephen. The next big wrongful death lawsuit to hit Joe Arpaio will be that of the unborn child spontaneously aborted at Christmastime after her mother got food poisoning and became septic in Estrella Jail...


Joe Arpaio's Jails Potentially Hazardous to Your Health, whether You're in Jail or Not

By Stephen Lemons
Published Tue., Mar. 4 2014 at 8:02 AM

According to one nationally recognized expert in correctional medicine, medical care in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's vast incarceration complex is not just potentially hazardous to the health of pretrial detainees and jail staff, but to that of the general public.

Dr. Robert Cohen, a member of New York City's Board of Corrections and the Board of the National Commission on Health Care, is expected to testify in federal court today on behalf of the plaintiffs in Graves v. Arpaio, a jails-conditions lawsuit in federal court that stretches back decades, long before Arpaio came to power.

The basis for Cohen's testimony during a hearing at the Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. Courthouse in downtown Phoenix is to be his November 2013 report on the care provided by the county's Correctional Health Services, which is scarier than some horror flick by M. Night Shyamalan.

Not only do county inmates "not receive adequate care," according to Cohen, deficiencies in the jails' medical system "continue to place patients at a major risk of serious harm -- which includes pain, deterioration of health, unnecessary morbidity and death."

Read Dr. Robert Cohen's recent report on medical care in Joe's jails.

Also, inadequate screening for tuberculosis unnecessarily exposes inmates, staff, and those who come in contact with them -- potentially you and me -- to infection.

MCCHS is a separate entity from the MCSO, yet the two county departments obviously work hand-in-hand.

Cohen finds the problems with health care in our jails "endemic to the entire system," and faults both the MCSO and the MCCHS for knowing of these inadequacies "for years," while not taking adequate steps to correct them.

Inmates are not properly examined for various medical conditions, do not have proper access to medication and doctors for emergency and chronic conditions, and are not properly treated for alcohol and drug withdrawal, Cohen finds.

For a public that often regards Joe's jails as hellholes for the deserving, the situation regarding tuberculosis in Arpaio's gulags should be alarming.

Cohen knocks the jails' "poorly designed screening and treatment program" for the disease as a direct threat to jail staff and other prisoners.

"By design," Cohen writes, "tuberculosis screening...does not begin until the initial health assessment is performed. This rarely occurs before 12-14 days after admission, often takes longer, and sometimes does not occur at all."

This "failure of the tuberculosis control program" affects "everyone in the jail and everyone who has contact with the men and women who live and work in the jail," observes Cohen.

Cohen cites specific examples of patients who were not properly screened and treated for TB.

For example, "patient 49," received his screening 17 days after being booked into jail. He tested "very positive," and yet, he did not receive a follow-up chest x-ray to determine if he actually had the disease until four months later.

The x-ray showed "a right lower lobe pneumonia, consistent with active tuberculosis," according to Cohen.
"If this was tuberculosis," Cohen notes, "a person with active tuberculosis would have been living, and coughing, in the MCJ for over four months without treatment.

"Tuberculosis is spread through droplets injected into the air by coughing. Tuberculosis screening is a critical component of medical care in a large urban jail where tuberculosis is known to be present."

In addition to TB, there are horror stories aplenty regarding poor or nonexistent care: untreated septic infections, diabetics, heart patients denied proper meds, inmates given ibuprofen for terrible pain, mentally ill people allowed to become increasingly psychotic, and prisoners in alcohol withdrawal who are inadequately treated, in one case, leading to death.

Even if you are inured to the suffering of others, such conditions have been found in the past to violate the U.S. Constitution. They often become the basis of lawsuits that have cost the county scores of millions of dollars over the years.

One of the more recent lawsuits involved the death of Deborah Braillard, the diabetic mom denied her medication by MCSO gendarmes until she was so sick, she was vomiting and defecating on herself, ultimately falling into a diabetic coma from which she did not emerge.

In 2012, her family's claim ended in a $3.25 million settlement with the county.

Dan Pochoda, legal director of the ACLU of Arizona, which is representing the plaintiffs, explained that Graves v. Arpaio began in 1977 as the lawsuit Hart v. Hill (later Hart v. Arpaio), and it involved general jail conditions, including medical and mental health care.

In 2008, U.S. Circuit Judge Neil Wake ruled conditions in Arpaio's jails unconstitutional for pretrial inmates, ordering a series of remedies, which Arpaio appealed to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Joe lost in 2010, with the Ninth U.S. Circuit's ordering Arpaio and the county to obey Wake's 2008 ruling.

Pochoda says the MCSO improved in the non-medical areas of the decree, and the court lifted those parts.
Now the county is attempting to get out from under the court's 2008 order, regarding medical/mental health care.

The court has experts assigned to monitor the progress of medical care. During the ongoing hearings, both sides in the lawsuit are offering their own experts' assessments of the situation in the jails.

"There's other experts being put on the stand by each party," Pochoda said. "With one side, ours, saying...there's inadequate care, systemically inadequate, and the other side saying everything is rosy."

Only thing rosy about the health care in Arpaio's jails is the color of the phlegm from TB-infected inmates.

Until that part of the equation is fixed, none of us is safe. Including those lucky enough to avoid doing time in Joe's dungeons.

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