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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Friday, January 8, 2010

Arpaio Better Clean Up That Jail...

No matter how the MCSO wants to make the loss of accreditation last year out to be a problem of just Correctional Health Services, it goes way deeper than that - right to the heart of how much contempt Arpaio and his gang of thugs treat prisoners and families with, as well as those who advocate for them. 
This article is kind of suspicious for what it lacks: more info on the atrocious care people received because of gross medical negligence and incompetence, indifference among guards when prisoners have been sick and begging for help, and the overall environment in the jails creating life-threatening emergencies. This version of this report would have us thinking that the only thing causing Correctional Health Services’ to fail in providing even the basic constitutionally mandated standards of medical care to prisoners, in fact, is their lack of modernization and efficiency. 

Wake up, Arizona Republic! How can you swallow that without a question?

If it weren’t so criminal it would be almost comical to watch MCSO make themselves out to be the victim who was left out of the loop, here - they were really trying to improve health care services and championing prisoners’ rights in there, I’m sure. Sheriff Joe has staked his reputation on how cheap he be, how cruel he can be, and how racist and misogynistic he is in a way that so bizarrely appealing to some people that even a handful of Latinos and a whole lot of women adore him.

Adore him. Hmm. He’s as sweet and cuddly as a slave holding minister who pays someone else to do the whipping while he and his buddies Thomas and Pearce figure out how to rein in the ones they can’t enslave - especially us women...hmm. Criminalization and mass incarceration seems to have been working pretty well for them – why veer from that plan? That “Safe Cities” thing Pearce has got going on - It’s scary. Kind of Red Scary. Read about it a couple of posts down.

All this about the communication problem, by the way, is smokescreen: the real problem at the jail across the board is the dehumanization of prisoners and the county's unwillingness to provide people with the medical care they need despite being so quick to deprive them of their freedom. They don’t even provide them with basic daily necessities, in fact, if they don’t feel like it. 

Here’s dinner conversation from the women’s jail, to give you a good sense of just how dehumanized they are over there. Not long ago a firend went to visit her daughter there, and found her wearing clothes that had been blood-soaked for two days. She didn't have money in her jail account to buy personal hygiene supplies, so she was at the mercy of guards (who undoubtedly mocked her) as to when she received even a napkin, a shower or fresh clothes. Guess she pissed the wrong one off. Or maybe they really just collectively didn’t give a shit, or do that kind of thing for entertainment. Toilet paper is rationed and must then be paid for, too. And, of course, you get a bill for your room and board as you leave.

That kind of humiliating treatment sounds like the rule there, not the exception - if you're a poor woman, anyway. How can they treat women that way and there not be outrage in this community? Is it really ignorance? If so, then I think it is by choice, and the media has played along. Something is wrong with the women in power, here – with all of us - to be letting this happen to our sisters every day without lifting a collective voice in resistance to it. That’s a fundamental violation of basic human rights - leaving a prisoner that way, without the resources to even keep herself clean. We would be outraged and calling the US State Department if they did that in Burma to our comrade Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. They're doing to our sisters and moms and daughters right here.

Then there's the fact that such gross neglect also puts every single guard and prisoner in there at risk. If this is standard operating procedure for the MCSO, public health had better expect more of a HEP C problem than they already know about. What exactly is the jail policy about disinfecting and containing areas affected by blood and bodily fluids? Surely they have one. Surely it is also in their policies that “women prisoners should have unrestricted access to personal hygiene items as needed to prevent risk of bloodborne disease transmission when menstruating.” Simple enough. Feel free to use that, Joe, if you don’t quite know how to word it. You’ve got about a week to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

As for the rest of this article – of course the county bureaucrats and administrators don’t care about those of us who are really struggling out here. Except Mary Rose Wilcox. She gets credit for kicking Sheriff Joe’s ass even though he’s trying to imprison her. 

Anyway, we bought medical care for prisoners on the cheap because the feds made us, otherwise they’d get no care at all. The same with the state (actually, they pay far more than they should for what they get, but you know how important it is to let business turn a little profit - who cares at whose expense they make it?). So, we got what we paid for, and we were just fine with people dying it until the program was disaccredited. I guess that increases the probability of a lawsuit. 

MCSO tried to shut prisoners up when they complained before it got that bad, but there’s still a mile long trail of grievances and lawsuits reflecting a pervasive pattern of neglect and recurrent, avoidable injury and deaths. MCSO has been party to it all along - as has the rest of county government, it appears. They knew exactly what was happening to our prisoners, and they let it happen anyway, as if once we're criminalized - or even just accused - we're all suddenly disposable people. They should all take responsibility for changing that. We are also human.


Information on inmates not gathered, stored or shared properly, report says
by Yvonne Wingett and JJ Hensley - Jan. 7, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic .

Maricopa County jail workers don't have the tools to collect and manage health-care data for inmates, according to a report from a consulting group the Sheriff's Office brought in last summer.

The report from the National Institute of Corrections found the same systemic problems that have plagued the jail health-care system for more than a decade: Detention officers and health-care workers have a difficult time communicating with each other, and their reliance on handwritten medical records and a patchwork of computer systems can lead to medical problems for inmates.

The report, which the county released to The Arizona Republic in response to a public-records request, also noted the system struggles because there are no contracts or working agreements between sheriff's personnel and employees of Correctional Health Services, the agency that provides health care in the jails.

The Sheriff's Office requested the report to ensure employees were gathering the health-care data they needed from the 130,000 inmates who move through the system each year, Deputy Chief MaryEllen Sheppard said.

The consultant's recommendations likely will fall by the wayside, just as other expert advice has, until Sheriff's Office officials and health-care workers resolve their legal battles over control of the jail health-care system.

Sheppard said the consultants, from a governmental group that assists correctional agencies, did not charge for the review and were brought in after Correctional Health Services lost accreditation last year.

"To have accreditation be pulled, that was a blow. We didn't want to be in that position again," Sheppard said.

The lack of accreditation is at the heart of a lawsuit Sheriff Joe Arpaio filed in the fall, requesting that a judge take responsibility for inmate health care from Correctional Health Services and give it to the Sheriff's Office.

The report was compiled using documents, interviews, data and visits to the jails from June 15 to 18. Several of the findings mirror those in a Republic investigation of Correctional Health Services.

With a budget of about $49 million, Correctional Health Services treats the sick and injured, tracks medical conditions, and prevents diseases inside of the county's six jail facilities.

The National Institute of Corrections' report cited the lack of an electronic-records system to centralize and manage patient paperwork as a key problem. The county Board of Supervisors has not acted on repeated recommendations to install such a system, even when faced with hundreds of lawsuits involving inmate health care, the loss of accreditation and consultant recommendations.

Top county officials this week said that they continue to explore ways to come up with the millions of dollars needed to buy and maintain an electronic system.

Poor communication between the Sheriff's Office and Correctional Health Services also is identified in the report as a key problem.

The Republic investigation found that the same communication breakdown has led to persistent miscues and errors in treating patients in a timely manner, accurately diagnosing conditions and adequately treating inmates as required under the Constitution. Health-care-related lawsuits and settlements from inmates and their families have cost taxpayers more than $13 million in the past 10 years.

Sheppard said the lack of communication also left sheriff's officials feeling blindsided when they learned last year that the National Commission on Correctional Health Care had stripped the county's jails of accreditation.

Sheppard said she asked the National Institute of Corrections to review the system to ensure sheriff's administrators wouldn't be caught off-guard the next time the system's supposed shortcomings were exposed.

"It shouldn't be a surprise to get an evaluation that says standards aren't being met. In my opinion, we should have the data systems in place to monitor our own practices," Sheppard said.

Correspondence from Betty Adams, the director of Correctional Health, indicates that she reapplied in August for accreditation from the National Commission on Correctional Health Care. On Dec. 24, Adams submitted paperwork to the state Department of Health Services, saying that an outside agency, CorrectHealth, reviewed jail health-care operations to comply with state law.

Wade Swanson, director of the county's civil-litigation department, said the county would not release a full copy of the CorrectHealth report, saying it is not a public record: "That is information we believe is protected."

Adams said she was unavailable for an interview; she did not respond to a request to make another health-care official available for questions.

While improving communication holds the key to improving health care in the jails, according to the report, those efforts are complicated by the sheriff's pending lawsuit.

Sheppard said the two sides had improved information-sharing, but the information flow to the Sheriff's Office has dried up following an audit the county commissioned in November.

"Is it 100 percent where we want to be? No," Sheppard said. "But to suggest that there hasn't been improvement, I don't think that's fair."

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