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:

Friday, September 25, 2009

AZ Prison Punishment Cages: SOP

Been hearing this all summer...

Outdoor confinements common

Inquiry: Officers regularly left unruly inmates in sun-exposed cages beyond 2-hour limit

Before Marcia Powell, there was Vanessa Griego.

Powell died from heat-related causes on May 20, a day after she spent nearly four hours exposed to the sun in an outdoor cage at Arizona State Prison Complex-Perryville prison in Goodyear.

Just three days earlier, Griego was confined to a similar cage at Perryville for 20 hours, an incident that alarmed staff members and fellow inmates but was not investigated until after Powell's death.

Griego, 24, endured her stay in the outdoor cage without needing medical attention.

But a Department of Corrections investigation showed that lengthy confinements in outdoor cages had become a common practice over the past two years as officers tried to "wait out" prisoners who, like Griego, were agitated or refusing to return to their cells.

"Waiting out" prisoners meant corrections officers did not have to use force to return inmates to their cells. But it also meant inmates were regularly left outdoors for longer than the two-hour maximum dictated by prison policy.

The practice has since been discontinued as part of a raft of reforms initiated in the wake of Powell's death. (Unlike Griego, Powell was awaiting transfer to a psychiatric unit when she collapsed; earlier, she had actually asked to be returned to her cell.)

A criminal investigation by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office is ongoing in the Powell case.

But friends and family members of Perryville inmates say they continue to worry about the safety of their loved ones, particularly in the wake of charges that corrections officers there have denied food, water and bathroom privileges to inmates confined outdoors.

"The bottom line is, they just don't care," said Michael Beam, whose fiancee is an inmate at Perryville.

"They're supposed to be professionals, but they're not."

Beam said the death of Powell - who would have turned 49 today - devastated many of the inmates at the prison.

"There but for the grace of God, one of them could been in that situation," he said.

Angelina Goodman regularly visits a close friend at Perryville. Some corrections officers there are very cordial and professional, she said. But others act like bullies and brag about how tough they are, she said.

"It's very unnerving to leave my loved one there, knowing that these are the people who are supposed to keep control, when their mentality is such a perverse type of bullying," she said. "We just pray a lot.

Griego was placed in an outdoor cell May 16 after blocking her window with a mattress. After searching her cell, corrections officers told Griego they wanted to return her to the cellblock, but she refused.

After initial attempts to get her to return, corrections officers appeared to give up. She was granted one bathroom break at 2 a.m. There is no record of officers asking Griego to return to her cell between sunrise and 8 p.m., when she was finally returned to her cell.

She had not been able to use the restroom for 18 hours.

The office of Gov. Jan Brewer did not respond to a request for comment on revelations in the Department of Corrections' investigations into the Powell and Griego incidents.

Middle Ground, a prison-reform group based in Tempe, called for an end to the use of outdoor cages nearly two years ago after inmates said they had been left in the cages for 12 hours at a time at Arizona State Prison Complex-Lewis.

Donna Leone Hamm, the group's director, said prison officials should take greater action to ensure that department policies are followed.

"Staff and administrators don't have any compunction to follow the rules," Hamm said. "They're completely absent any sense of responsibility. That has to be resolved."

Prison officials said policy changes instituted after Powell's death would ensure that inmates are no longer left outdoors for long periods of time.

Reach the reporter at casey

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