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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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dead Man Walking: the prisoner with Hep C.

This is a thoughtful article about a prisoner dying from hep C. This is why early treatment intervention is so important.

The paper is out of Denton, Texas. They did a nice job showing this guy's humanity.


Death at his back

As his body succumbs to hepatitis C, inmate spends last days trying to warn others
11:33 PM CDT on Saturday, August 14, 2010
By Donna Fielder / Staff Writer
Denton Record-Chronicle

This is a cautionary tale from a dead man walking.

Michael Mabry doesn’t have a lot to be proud of.

He’s been in and out of prison all his adult life. He’s been a speed fiend and a cokehead most of that time.

He’s been busted for drugs and burglarizing buildings and tried two jailbreaks, and he has a criminal record in three states. He has eight children “scattered around,” he says, but he’s mostly alone now.

He’s a dead man, he says.

He won’t leave the infirmary at the Denton County Jail alive. Hepatitis C attacked his liver before he knew anything was wrong. By the time it was diagnosed, he was in the final stages of cirrhosis of the liver, and there’s nothing anyone can do for him, in jail or not.

So the 49-year-old Denton man sits on his cot in a medical cell, with a commode in the open a couple of feet away and the only decoration a roll of toilet paper and some graffiti scratched on the wall, and he thinks about his life and what he’s done wrong. He wonders what he could do to maybe get one small mark on the right side of his sheet.

DRC/Barron Ludlum
DRC/Barron Ludlum
Michael Mabry shows some of the tattoos he’s received while in prison. He says the tattoos are to blame for his contracting hepatitis C, which medical staff at the Denton County Jail believe will soon lead to his death.
“I don’t think I’ve done anything to warrant going to hell,” he says. “But you never know. It sure wouldn’t hurt to get a few points in with the Man up there.”

He doesn’t have much time. He’s a con man, he admits. But he can’t con his way out of the trouble he’s in.
The only thing Mabry can offer is his life experience and its consequences as a warning to others. He got hepatitis C from jailhouse tattoos, he says. Everybody in prison gets tats; many contract hepatitis C from the methods they use.

But it’s the youngsters he’d like to help now, he said. Tattoos also are popular with the general population. Most adults go to tattoo parlors that are licensed by the state and have strict guidelines to hold down the chance of contracting a disease from infected implements. But those younger than 18 must have parental permission to legally obtain a tattoo. Many young people turn to more informal — and more dangerous — methods of inking up.

Gang wannabes use homemade devices to ink in their gang affiliations. Other kids get a friend to help them render forever their girlfriends’ names or symbols that have meaning to them. If they knew, Mabry says, if they understood that dirty needles, shared tattoo devices made of paper clips, safety pins — the myriad other unhealthy, sharp things — can kill them, maybe they wouldn’t get started down that road.

According to medical information provided by a website devoted to hepatitis, 4 million Americans now have hepatitis C.

It is more prevalent in Europe, but it emerged in the U.S. in the 1960s, related to blood transfusions and intravenous drug use. A reliable test for it was developed in the 1990s, and it was revealed to be a much larger problem than anyone knew. It causes cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.

When casual users share a needle to inject drugs or an instrument to inject ink under the skin, blood can be transmitted from one person to another. Hepatitis C is one of the diseases that can be transmitted in blood. It attacks the liver — and left untreated, destroys it.

The liver has many functions, including filtering harmful substances from the blood, breaking down fats, storing vitamins and producing urea. The body cannot survive without it. Cirrhosis inflames the liver and ultimately causes it to fail. Caught early, the symptoms can be treated. But it is incurable.

Jailhouse prevalence of hepatitis C

Doug Sanders supervises the medical staff at the jail. He believes that Mabry is within weeks of death. Since Mabry’s disease is only communicable by bodily fluid exchange, there’s no reason to isolate him, he said. The staff manages his medication to try to keep him comfortable.

Since Mabry also injected drugs, he could have contracted hepatitis from a dirty needle. But he is convinced it was a tattoo needle, and since he has so many tattoos, it is reasonable to think that he is right, Sanders said.
“It’s alarming. It’s extremely prevalent in jail populations. You might think the HIV virus would be more prevalent, but the greatest risk exposure in jails and prisons nationwide is hepatitis C.”

Jail administrators try hard to keep inmates from finding ways to make jailhouse tattoos, Sanders said. Guards seize anything that could be used to make them.

“We are absolutely discouraging it. We confiscate it. But they have so many ways of engineering a machine. They find ways around it,” he said.

Mabry’s isn’t the first advanced case that the jail medical staff have treated. They are preparing him as best they can for the suffering he’s about to endure, Sanders said. “He has some very difficult days ahead.”

A dim future

Death is becoming real for Mabry. He spends a lot of time talking to chaplain Bobby Ayers. He’s working on a bill he’d like to become a law. He knows he’s not going to finish it, so he offers advice.

DRC/Barron Ludlum
DRC/Barron Ludlum
Michael Mabry, 49, sits on his cot in a medical cell at the Denton County Jail on Friday.
“Kids are knuckleheaded, you know,” Mabry says. “If I could save one kid ...”

Perched on his cot, his longish black hair slicked down, his orange jumpsuit covering the numerous tats on his back, chest and legs, he thinks about that for a minute.

“It ain’t just the needle you get it from. It’s the ink they reuse,” he said. “You know, I studied the law and I beat it one time. I slicked out of a charge I did on a technicality. They wrote on my paperwork that I’m a master manipulator of the law. I studied this disease. I’m not stupid. I studied to find a way to beat it, but you can’t.”

He pulls up his shirt to display drug- and gang-related tattoos. He has a bandito tat on his chest, a large dagger with a snake wrapped around it — he says it’s related to Rex Cauble and the Cowboy Mafia — on one leg, and a fairly good rendering of the Grim Reaper on his back.

“He’s coming for me, by God,” he said. “It’s day by day now.”

Mabry demonstrates how a tattoo machine can be made with things not considered contraband in the jail and some that are. A decent jailhouse tattoo machine can be constructed with a ballpoint pen, a paper clip, some string and the tiny motor from a Walkman, he says. Ashes and shampoo can be combined to make ink.

Walkman tape players are no longer available at the county jail. Mabry said an inmate can always figure out another way.

“We say you can put one prisoner on one roof with a match and another one on another roof a mile away with a cigarette, and before you know it both of them have half a match and half a cigarette and they’re both smoking,” he said.

Mabry says his liver no longer functions. It swelled, he said, until it broke his ribs. He said he’s had eight heart attacks since he was diagnosed less than a year ago, and his aorta burst because his veins and arteries thinned out. He also has diabetes. He’s in pain, which the medical personnel in the infirmary try to lessen with drugs.

He’s a poster boy for staying away from casual tattoos. If you have to get them, go to a licensed tattoo shop, he says. They have rules to keep things clean.

Mabry often loses his train of thought. He rambles and forgets.

“The worst part of this disease is your brain goes,” he said. “They tell me that when it gets that far, it’s the best thing for me. But I don’t want my brain to go and just be lying here.”

He thinks a minute and then laughs.

“I have a million dollars worth of medical bills right now. But they ain’t never gonna get it. Maybe somebody will read this story and it will save them. It’d be good if I could at least do that.”

DONNA FIELDER can be reached at 940-566-6885.
Her e-mail address is

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