Retiring Arizona Prison Watch...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

until all are free -

MARGARET J PLEWS (June 1, 2015)


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Saturday, April 26, 2014

DOJ to Ohio: Abuse of Solitary Confinement harming mentally ill youth.

This practice is far too common with kids in Arizona, as well...


Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Justice Department Seeks Temporary Restraining Order to Stop Ohio Department of Youth Services from Excessively Secluding Boys with Mental Health Needs
Today, the Justice Department sought a federal court order temporarily restraining the Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS) from unlawfully secluding boys with mental health needs in its juvenile correctional facilities.  The requested order would require DYS to abide by safeguards in its use of seclusion until a final ruling on the claims that DYS’ seclusion practices violate the constitutional rights of boys in DYS custody.  In conjunction with its request for a temporary restraining order, the department sought to expand its existing complaint regarding the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility, to include claims of unlawful seclusion at all of the DYS facilities.
The department’s request for a restraining order detailed the state’s excessive use of seclusion, including the following information:  

·          In the second half of 2013, the state imposed a total of almost 60,000 hours of seclusion on 229 boys with mental health needs;
·          One boy spent 1,964 hours in seclusion over six months; the state gave another boy 21 straight days of seclusion;
·          Ten boys at one facility spent over 10 percent of their time in custody in seclusion;
·          While secluded, several boys were on suicide watch, had suicidal thoughts or hurt themselves.  

“The Ohio Department of Youth Services must stop violating the rights of youth in its custody through unlawful seclusion,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  “The way in which Ohio uses seclusion to punish youth with mental health needs, victimizes one of the most vulnerable groups in our society.”
“Ohio’s juvenile correctional facilities must comply with the Eighth and 14th Amendments,” said U.S. Attorney Carter Stewart for the Southern District of Ohio.  “We will remain vigilant in protecting the constitutional rights of all our citizens, particularly young people and those with mental illness.”
“The facts in this case reveal a serious disregard for the rights of young people with mental health needs in Ohio’s custody,” said U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach for the Northern District of Ohio.  “The Ohio Department of Youth Services has a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of these young people, including providing appropriate mental health treatment, so that they can overcome challenging behaviors and return to the community to become successful adults.”
Following an investigation under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), the Justice Department issued findings in May 2007 detailing significant constitutional deficiencies regarding use of physical force, grievance investigation and processing and use of seclusion.  In June 2008, the department entered into a consent decree with the state to correct these deficiencies at the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility.  However, the recent discovery that DYS continued to unlawfully seclude boys with mental health needs at Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility and had moved boys to other DYS facilities also using unlawful seclusion prompted the department today to seek a temporary restraining order and an order allowing it to add the remaining DYS facilities to its complaint.
This case is being litigated by attorneys from the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio.  Copies of both motions and additional information about the Civil Rights Division will be available on its website.