Video by Sallydarity / set to Comin' up from Behind ( Marcy Playground)

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. collective@phoenixabc.org

until all are free -

MARGARET J PLEWS (June 1, 2015)
arizonaprisonwatch@gmail.com



AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:


Saturday, June 21, 2014

ASPC-Eyman/Meadows: DOC minimizes stabbing, rape of teacher, and duty to protect staff.


What happened to this teacher at Eyman a few months back seems highly avoidable, but it was also quite predictable. In fact, I wonder why it didn't happen sooner. 

DOC staff and contract workers have been saying that they aren't getting what they need to do their jobs safely for a long time. Here's one officers' union's 2011 letter of no confidence in Charles Ryan's leadership...sadly, though, Jan still stands by her man. The folks at Judicial Watch are also investigating the high incidence of  staff assaults at the AZ DOC after receiving complaints from the unions about the failure of the DOC to curb the violence or improve basic security measures.  

Moreover, the AZ DOC isn't ever able to substantiate rape when it happens to prisoners, so they don't have a lot of good experience preventing rape or helping the victims of sexual assault.  In fact, they tend to blame them and do everything they can to punish and muzzle them if they try to hold administration responsible for their negligence. It's no wonder that they're trying to do that here, too.

The consequences of a politic which prioritizes the rights of corporations to profit over basic human rights end up being felt not only by prisoners, but by staff and community members as well, as this poor teacher found out. The misogyny and patriarchy pervasive throughout the department produced the typical administrative response to this woman's rape - which is to deny and dismiss any responsibility the AZ DOC had to keeping her safer than they did.

This all really makes you wonder where the 1 $billion AZ DOC budget is going to if these prisons are always short-staffed and prisoners are going hungry, never getting the medical care they need, being taken off their psychiatric meds and buried in isolation cells instead, living in condemned facilities, and not being provided with meaningful employment or rehabilitation opportunities - in fact, only 4% can access any kind of substance abuse treatment in the course of a year.

Despite claiming to have too few resources to invest in crime-reduction and prevention strategies that work, like addictions treatment often does,  the incarceration industry is  making a killing off charging the state a fortune for feeding prisoners things not meant for human consumption, denying critical health care to the seriously ill, under-staffing essential medical and security positions, obstructing efforts by prisoners to grieve or sue, and simply warehousing people in the least-constitutional settings and circumstances they can get away with...and the DOC enables it all...


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Teacher left alone with sex offender at Arizona prison before she’s stabbed, raped: report 


New York Daily News 
Thursday, June 19, 2014, 7:47 AM

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

PHOENIX — A teacher at an Arizona prison was alone in a room full of sex offenders before being stabbed and sexually assaulted by a convicted rapist, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press about an attack that highlighted major security lapses at the facility.

The attack occurred Jan. 30 at the Eyman prison’s Meadows Unit, which houses about 1,300 rapists, child molesters and other sex offenders. The teacher was administering a high school equivalency test to about a half-dozen inmates in a classroom with no guard nearby and only a radio to summon help. The Department of Corrections issued only a bare-bones press release after the attack, but the AP pieced together what happened based on interviews and investigatory reports obtained under the Arizona Public Records Act.

After the last of the other inmates left, Jacob Harvey asked the teacher if she could open the bathroom and then attacked her, records show. Harvey is accused of stabbing her in the head with a pen, forcing her to the ground and raping her.

The teacher told investigators that she screamed for help, but none came. Afterward, Harvey tried to use her radio to call for help. It had apparently been changed to a channel the unit’s guards didn’t use, so Harvey let the woman use a phone, according to the reports.

Carl ToersBijns, a former deputy warden at the prison, said the assault highlights chronic understaffing and lax security policies that put staff members at risk.

“Here you’ve got a guy that commits a hell of a crime ... and he’s put into an environment that actually gives him an opportunity to do his criminality because of a lack of staffing,” said ToersBijns, who was deputy warden at the Eyman prison in Florence until retiring in 2010 and oversaw the Meadows Unit for 19 months.
State prison officials, however, dismiss the concerns. They say the assault at the prison about 60 miles southeast of Phoenix is a risk that comes with the job of overseeing violent prison inmates.

Harvey was in the first year of a 30-year sentence for raping a Glendale woman in November 2011. Just 17 at the time, he had knocked on the woman’s door in the middle of the day, asked for a drink of water, then forced his way inside, where he repeatedly raped and beat her while her 2-year-old child was in the apartment. He fled naked when the woman’s roommate arrived home.

He was arrested after DNA evidence connected him to the crime, and he pleaded guilty.

Harvey was initially classified as a “Class 4” security risk, one notch lower than the highest level. Six months later, despite violating prison rules at least once, he was reclassified at a lower level.

Department of Corrections spokesman Doug Nick said classrooms at prisons across the state are having cameras installed. But he said no administrative investigation was launched because there was no need, and no one was disciplined. He said all prisons are dangerous places and staff are trained accordingly.

“This is an assault that reflects the fact that inmates in our system often act out violently, and it is the inmate suspect who is responsible for this despicable act,” he said.

Nick also said that not having a guard in classrooms or nearby “follows accepted corrections practices nationwide.”

That’s not the case, said Carolyn Eggleston, a professor at California State University, San Bernardino, who started her career as a prison teacher in several states and now is director of the university’s Correctional and Alternative Education Program.

“I have to say, I don’t find that consistent with standards,” Eggleston said. “In a sex offender unit, especially, they should be counting the people leaving the classroom. They just should. And there should be somebody, not in the class ... but there should be somebody in proximity so they can help monitor that.”

The woman, who was not critically injured, has filed a worker’s compensation claim against the state and did not want to comment on case. The AP does not usually identify sexual assault victims.

Internal emails obtained by the AP show that prisons Director Charles Ryan ordered all non-corrections officer staff at prisons statewide to be issued pepper spray and trained in its use just days after the attack. And an internal memo sent the day after the assault ordered guards at a nearby prison to begin checking on civilian staff every hour.

Nick said the pepper-spray order was in the works before the assault. And he said that, despite the internal memo from a major that ordered hourly checks, the actual practice is unpredictable and more frequent, with staggered checks three times an hour.

ToersBijns, who is an advocate for prison safety and believes understaffing has put state prison staff at risk, said multiple errors likely led to the assault, including not having video cameras in the classroom, a lack of checks on civilian staff and use of an outdated classification system for inmates that led to a violent predator being misidentified as a relatively low-level threat.

After the attack, Harvey was calm when confronted in the classroom, refused to talk to investigators and asked for a lawyer. He was charged last month with sexual assault, kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon. A public defender was appointed, and he pleaded not guilty at his arraignment. The public defender assigned to his case, Paula Cook, declined to comment.

Harvey was convicted in a prison administrative hearing of sexually assaulting the staff member. Three weeks after the rape, he assaulted another prison employee, although records don’t show any details. His security classification was raised two levels, to the highest, nearly three months after the teacher was assaulted.