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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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tough on Crime MCAO prosecutes William Franklin Hughes III.

Maricopa County Superior Court House (March 11, 2011)

Just so folks know, William Franklin Hughes III plead guilty last week to one misdemeanor charge of indecent exposure and one misdemeanor charge of criminal damage. He was originally up on 5 misdemeanors and 2 felonies, so I guess you could say that they cut him a deal. Considering that William was assaulted repeatedly in custody and has evidence of a serious mental illness, though, I think the Maricopa County Attorney's Office should have cut the guy loose after he took that beating. This stuff can accumulate on one's record and come back around again to haunt you, so it's never really a "favor" when they pursue prosecutions of people for the symptoms of their mental illness instead of divert them out of the CJ system altogether, though. They really stick it to people with a mental illness in this town, and they do it with a smile.

The folks I saw ten or fifteen years ago cycling in and out of county jails and shelters are now going to prison because they didn't get adequate
public mental health care and they racked up such a record of misdemeanors living on the streets, not because they became more hardened criminals. That's how they end up doing 27 months for prostitution, like Marcia Powell, in the first place. That's pretty pathetic; hardly a sign of an evolved society.

That's $20,000 a year we're willing to put into incarcerating each mentally ill citizen - more, since we tend to put them in high security settings - but we aren't willing to invest it in keeping them from suffering from the symptoms for their illness and poverty. William was having such a rough time the night before he was even assaulted that his judge didn't think he was competent to stand trial, though - if he had been, she probably would have released him on bail at that time. I have no idea why the MCAO thinks he was criminally competent the night he was arrested; I don't think people with mental illness are really getting due process in this place.

William, if you're out there, please sue the hell out of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, or they'll keep doing to others what they did to you. I wish I had the satisfaction of at least knowing that you managed to moon the cops or something while you were being taken down, too.

Let's see if the MCAO is really "tough on crime" or just on the people: will they let MCSO Detention Officer Kevin Gerster walk with misdemeanors now, after beating Hughes up? They already let the guy slide by not charging him with class 6 felonies under ARS 13-3623, which is supposed to protect vulnerable adults. And will Alan Keesee even get charged for his assaultive behavior? As far as I know, he's still on paid leave from the MCSO.

Stay tuned...Gerster's final pre-trial management conference is May 18 at 8:45am, in front of Judge Verdin. Trial is on May 25 at 8am.

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