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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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

World AIDS Day: Punitive Laws Threaten HIV Progress

From Human Rights Watch, on global criminalization of People with HIV/AIDS:
World AIDS Day: Punitive Laws Threaten HIV Progress
Focus on treatment as prevention requires respect for human rights
November 25, 2009

There is increasing evidence that antiretroviral treatment can be an important part of comprehensive prevention strategies. But if human rights abuses are unaddressed and punitive laws target people vulnerable to or living with HIV, the potential of treatment as prevention isn't going to be realized.
Joe Amon, Health and Human Rights director at Human Rights Watch
(New York) - HIV prevention efforts - and the promise of antiretroviral therapy as prevention - are being undermined by punitive laws targeting those infected with and at risk of HIV, Human Rights Watch said today on the eve of World AIDS Day.

This year's World AIDS Day theme is "universal access and human rights," tying together goals for universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, and care with recognition that respect for human rights is critical in the global response to AIDS. Achieving universal access to treatment has also been a key theme in debates over the past year around the use of antiretroviral treatment (ART) as a part of comprehensive HIV prevention strategies. Mathematical models have proposed that early initiation of universal antiretroviral treatment combined with HIV prevention programs could lead to the eventual elimination of HIV infection. "There is increasing evidence that antiretroviral treatment can be an important part of comprehensive prevention strategies," said Joe Amon, Health and Human Rights director at Human Rights Watch. "But if human rights abuses are unaddressed and punitive laws target people vulnerable to or living with HIV, the potential of treatment as prevention isn't going to be realized."
In many parts of the world, legislation effectively criminalizes populations living with HIV or vulnerable to HIV infection, such as sex workers, drug users, and men who have sex with men. These laws fuel stigma and discrimination, increase barriers to HIV information and treatment, and contribute to the spread of disease, Human Rights Watch said. Elsewhere, laws criminalizing HIV transmission discourage HIV testing, potentially subjecting those who know their HIV status to criminal penalties while exempting those who are unaware of their infection.

In early November, Human Rights Watch released a 10-page critique of a proposed Ugandan HIV/AIDS law, which includes mandatory HIV testing, forced disclosure, and criminal penalties for the "attempted transmission" of HIV to another person. The Ugandan Parliament is also considering a bill that allows for a seven year prison term for any person or organization who supports or promotes lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender people's rights. It would jail for up to three years anyone who fails to report a person they suspect of being lesbian or gay. A person living with HIV who has consensual homosexual sex would face the death penalty, regardless of risk of HIV transmission and even if their partner is also HIV-positive.

Since 2005, 14 countries in Africa have passed HIV-specific laws that potentially criminalize all sexual behavior among HIV-positive individuals, including those who use condoms, regardless of disclosure and actual risk of transmission. In a number of countries, maternal-to-child HIV transmission is a criminal offense, even where antiretroviral treatment may not be available. In Uganda, the draft legislation exempts HIV transmission before or during birth but allows for the prosecution of women whose infants acquire HIV from breast milk.

"HIV prevention has failed in many countries not because we don't know how to design effective prevention programs, but because governments have been unwilling to implement these programs and ensure that they reach everyone," Amon said. "The potential of HIV treatment in comprehensive prevention programs will be similarly sabotaged if governments continue to pass punitive laws and trample upon human rights."

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