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, July 27, 2010

The Governor's Reply and I: Correspondence with the ADC.

Some of you may remember that I wrote to the Governor a couple of weeks ago about Davon Acklin, William Macumber, and the other prisoners that she's leaving to die behind bars - regardless of their illnesses, crimes or innocence. Yesterday I received a reply to that letter from the Office of Constituent Services at the Arizona Department of Corrections. Below is that email, followed by my response to it. I doubt I'll be hearing from them again - I kind of hit "send" when I was trying to "save" and proof it. This gives you the update, though.

FYI: the people I cc'd my response to are Charles Ryan (the Director of the ADC) and his corporate counsel, Karyn Klausner (who was pretty cool when she was a criminal defense attorney, in my book, because she stuck up for that 8-year old St. Johns kid that prosecutors wanted to charge as an adult for killing his dad. Still, try to avoid messing with her.)


BETTY CASSIANO Mon, Jul 26, 2010 at 12:23 PM
Good morning Ms. Plews,

Your e-mail message to the Arizona Governor's office concerning Arizona Department of Corrections inmate was forwarded to me for response.

I sincerely appreciate your concern for both inmates and want to assure you that the Arizona Department of Corrections provides health care to incarcerated offenders consistent with community standards. Quality care and services responsive to the offender population include: medical services, mental health services, dental care, primary nursing care, and pharmacy services. Keeping offenders healthy is the basic platform from which the offender is prepared and supported to successfully complete basic education, work skills and experience, and recreational and leisure skills essential to building good citizenship and self-sufficiency. The Health Services Bureau also assists inmates in learning to develop and sustain personal wellness through ongoing education designed to augment healthy living while diminishing life-style habits that can lead to poor health and a decreased quality of life.

As you may know, medical information is strictly confidential and not available to inquirers in accordance with federal and state statutes.

Information about the Arizona Department of Corrections is available on the public website as follows: . I invite you to access the site for additional information about the Health Services Division and other areas of interest to you. The Constituent Services page provides access to a handbook which includes information about many areas of concern as well as a listing of applicable policies and contact numbers.

Betty J. Cassiano
ADC/Constituent Services Office

Peggy Plews Tue, Jul 27, 2010 at 4:42 AM
Dear Mrs. Cassiano,

Don't believe everything that Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) health services administrators tell you - they either don't know squat, or they have a propensity for lying. In fact, their department can't even keep their medical records straight or accounted for. Davon needs a liver biopsy for anyone to be able to say how ill he really is (or isn't) from Hep C, and he needs genotyping to determine his chances of surviving this thing with early treatment. Unfortunately, resources are instead being spent trying to deflect his mother and I in our attempts to help him.

These are just stalling tactics - as is being referred to you. She and I are both done with the games.

I suspect it's going to cost Arizona more to fight us than it would have to competently diagnose and treat Davon early in the course of his infection, because now we're out to change the whole system. We may not be able to bust him out of there in time to prevent further damage from the virus, but he's going to end up getting options for medical care either now or later - all we need to do is to escalate this issue enough that the visibility brings other ADC families to us wondering why their mentally ill kid wasn't offered Hep C treatment, too, and we have a class action suit. In the meantime, you have a lot of highly-paid people spinning in circles doing absolutely nothing for that boy. That's a pathetic waste of precious taxpayer money, and we already spend more on you than on our schools.

As for standard medical protocols - "we're just following the leader" is no excuse. You've been warned specifically that neglecting Davon's medical care because he has a serious mental illness is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and your algorithms giving you that out are based on research that's over a decade old. Did you realize that? Did Ryan or Karyn Klausner? They'd better not be counting on their dental staff for guidance about whether or not the ADC is following good medical protocol regarding Hep C. Given the advances in the areas of diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment in recent years, that's malpractice in my book. Furthermore, the argument that he's too close to his out date to begin treatment now (because you want to assure that he completes it) is pretty flimsy. You all know full well that Julie would make sure he continued his treatment once released - especially after all this. Few prisoners have as supportive a family to go home to as Davon does.

What the American Correctional Association has to say about your protocols and standards is the last thing that will impress me - they're paid off by prison profiteers and have elected as their president the man who's presided over Mississippi's DOC as their prisoner mortality rate has shot up to the second highest in the country. In any case, I think every entity that promulgates the same standards that the ADC uses to determine who and when to treat for Hep C should also be sued for violating the ADA and the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA). I'm sure to find a good attorney in each pertinent jurisdiction who will agree with me.

So, please don't bother writing to me again if you're just going to give me the standard line of ADC BS, as you do so well. It just pisses me off, and it disrespects those dying inside. Your people don't even know how sick Davon is because they refuse to do an adequate medical evaluation - lest a specialist finds something you have to treat (or get sued over for not treating) out of your grossly inflated budget. They apparently haven't even checked him out themselves, yet - for all the communication that Julie has had with you people all this time, now she's being told that unless Davon fills out a health request himself, he doesn't have any symptoms. That's very disconcerting - and the standard MO for departments of corrections trying to keep down health care/litigation costs by denying when prisoners are sick and putting up barriers to care in the first place. All of you are treating Julie like she's some kind of idiot - she probably knows more about Hep C now than most of your "experts". And she's learning fast where the money for Hep C + prisoners comes from and goes to (not to prisoners like Davon, clearly - the mentally ill, that is. They're apparently all a bad risk).

Don't bother trying to talk to Julie again either, by the way - all you seem to do is insult her.

As for disseminating info about funding mandates and ADA/CRIPA obligations (we're going to make new case law. Just watch): we have more than just Facebook and my blogs for public consumption. We see a whole lot of lives at stake here and are willing to put ourselves on the line over this - and our alliances now include the crew keeping a 24/7 watch at the capitol. They came to our vigil in May and cried as Julie told them about her son, while I passed out Spanish language literature about hep C. Then they blessed us with drumming and sage. Several former prisoners with Hep C came up to Julie to give her a hug and thank her for talking about it to fight the stigma; they always got the message that they're just criminals and therefore not worth saving. It was all pretty powerful. My brother has the video and is going to try to figure out how to put it on You Tube. I've also been contacted by a journalism student who does film editing and we discussed doing a project on Hep C in prison, using AZ as an example of what prisons do wrong. Especially to the mentally ill, who clearly aren't worth the expense or hassle of even finding out if they need treatment or not...

Unless you want to be the example of someone doing something right by the most vulnerable people in custody, instead. I kind of doubt Ryan will choose that route, though.

As for ADC's health services educating anyone, particularly prisoners: all Davon knows about his illness is what he feels and what his mother tells him. Clearly the people paid to "educate" patients and the public about Hep C aren't doing their job, or we wouldn't end up doing all this. I've read the literature they hand out on Hep C. After describing how ill one can get, one such fact sheet sarcastically concludes: "As you can see, it's better not to get this in the first place." Why am I writing a blog about Hep C and posting the latest research, not them? What did they do to recognize World Hepatitis Day in May? We want harm reduction programs in place both in and out of prison - this is absurd for this disease to still be killing people in 2010 when we know how to stop it. Prisoner health is public health, so don't think this starts and stops with you and no one else should worry about it. Remember ACT UP? You haven't seen anything yet. This (the first two photos below) was just to cheer Julie up - I staged it during AM rush hour in front of Fox News. Saving Davon is what this comes down to, not just freeing him.

Once we aren't competing with SB 1070, we're going to be out there raising hell and digging up more witnesses and claimants. We can be pretty creative; I'll escalate it as necessary to get local and national media on this, and I have a lot of friends who are sympathetic to prisoners and down for just about any kind of direct action that counters state violence - which is what I consider medical neglect of institutionalized persons to be. I have no fear left in me and very few inhibitions - I was already assaulted the night we did the candlelight vigil (hence my silence on the anniversary of Marcia's death - I was abandoning my home that day), and my car was vandalized two days later (nearly killed me on the highway when my tire went). All coincidence, I'm sure, that just knocked me off my feet for a little while - blessings in disguise to teach me that no matter what happens to me, exposing you people is the right thing to do.

As is exposing the Governor's brutality, who still has to answer for leaving Macumber to die. Even the New York Times is watching him (and now Liptak knows about Davon, as well), so please try not to kill him before he gets out of there. By the way, I can see the DOJ Googling your dead prisoners. I think they're on to you already for all those murders since Brewer/Ryan took over, aren't they? Maybe for the suicides, too - including that boy on the minors unit this spring. I have a packet to send off to them anyway, just in case they hadn't heard about everyone or didn't know that others cared out here.

Finally, rest assured that I know how to find everything I need on the ADC website now - I even notice what isn't there - and please don't ever refer me to your handbook of propaganda again for answers to serious questions like these.

Thank you for your time.

Margaret Jean Plews

(this email will be forwarded to the Governor's office and posted on my websites, lest it gets lost in the ether.)

Brewer Save Davon 719.JPG

Morning Rush Hour: July 19, 2010 (W. Washington St/7th Ave, Phoenix)

Brewer all signs 719.JPG

Morning Rush Hour: July 19, 2010 (W. Washington St/7th Ave, Phoenix)

ADC 716 Free Davon.JPG

Early Afternoon: July 16, 2010 (W. Jefferson St/15th Ave.; across from the ADC)

“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881)

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