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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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Casslyn Welch: Pleading guilt v. taking responsibility.

Below is the Washington Post's coverage of Casslyn Welch's guilty plea for her role in this summer's Kingman Prison escape, along with the comment left at the end by private prison expert, Frank Smith. He's right on the money about the whole bungled affair (and reporting - don't take this article at face value). And really, though she may not have intended things to unfold as they did, for her part Cassie should have foreseen the probability of violence and injury to someone as a result of her actions, given who she helped spring.

That said, I should add that Cassie's articulated that she accepts responsibility for the hurt and grief she's caused, regretting that it can't be undone. That will probably get me hate mail for saying, because of how profound that injury is, but I think the government put out sufficient propaganda compromising her due process from day one of the escape by sensationalizing the extent of an Aryan Brotherhood connection with Charlie, and their supposed romance-between-first-cousins, that I'm not giving her an undue PR advantage. The worse she looks, the better ADC Director Chuck Ryan looks - he can divert attention from the fact that he let Kingman prison get so bad on his watch.

Cassie didn't initiate the contact with me, anyway, or ask me to print anything on her behalf. She was writing in response to my letter to her expressing concerns that I'd heard she wasn't getting her mail. I observed that it also appeared as if she wasn't getting as vigorous a defense as the US Constitution requires, but it turns out th
at she just doesn't want to put up a fight. I actually gave her an open door, a loaded cannon, and the ACLU's address to lodge a complaint about the conditions of her confinement or the quality of her defense, if she wanted to, but she politely declined any help, and is planning to quietly do her time; I expect to see a guilty plea in New Mexico, too.

This woman wasn't offering her remorse for media consumption, nor do I want to contribute to the frenzy - and glamour - around this case. My bet is she'd rather I leave it alone, frankly. I think she honestly feels she can't justify that what she did led to the murders of the Haas couple, and is ashamed that anyone tries to defend her; it's as if arguing for a "fair" trial seems inappropriate to her.

A few days after writing me back saying she didn't need my help, though, Cassie took the time and postage to refer another prisoner to me - a young woman who's actually facing even worse trouble for the actions of an abusive partner...I'll probably be posting on that soon. That was right before she entered this plea below.

So, thanks for looking out for the others there, Cassie. There will be more women in need along the path you've taken, so take care of yourself; you owe the community and grieving families your service, at the least, anyway. There are people who have lost their loved ones in prison recently, due to violence or neglect, who will appreciate what you did for the most reviled mother in this state - as will the families of our prisoners who are still living. You'll have your hands full if you plan to help other women like her in prison - let me know if you think I can help.

That goes for the rest of you in there, too. Cassie stood up for a woman accused of a pretty hideous crime, inviting further animosity from the public and prosecutors at potential risk to herself. That lack of self-interest tells me she's probably sincere.

Don't mistake your plea of guilt for taking responsibility for having harmed others, if you have, folks: let go of the pettiness of prison's minor inconveniences, and do something to help someone else in greater need - including stepping in the line of fire in a losing battle, if it's the right side, and in some cases defending your own rights yourself. In prison, if you don't fight back against the oppression, chances are you'll die waiting for someone who will. How far we advance human rights in the prisons in the next few years will depend a lot more on prisoners like Cassie Welch taking risks than on agitation by free women like me...

So, if you really want to fight power, prisoners,
don't just take a swing, run away, or tell them where to go -
grieve it it right, and
write to me instead.

Peggy Plews

Arizona Prison Watch

PO Box 20494

Phoenix, AZ 85036


Woman accused of aiding inmate trio escape, NM couple’s deaths pleads guilty to Ariz. charges

Washington Post
April 12, 2011

By Associated Press, Tuesday, April 12

KINGMAN, Ariz. — The cousin of an Arizona inmate pleaded guilty Tuesday to state charges of helping him and two other men flee a state prison, but she still faces federal charges in the deaths of an Oklahoma couple who authorities say were killed during the escapees’ run from the law.

Casslyn Welch, 44, entered her plea before Mohave County Superior Court Judge Steven Conn, who said he would sentence her after she resolves the pending federal charges. The judge ordered the sentence to be served concurrently with any federal sentence if Welch is convicted.

Under a plea agreement with Arizona prosecutors, Welch will receive 20 years in prison on an escape charge and two counts of armed robbery. Prosecutors agreed to drop kidnapping and aggravated assault charges stemming from the prison break last July, and also dismissed six drug charges in a separate case.

“That’s a good resolution,” said prosecutor Victoria Stazio.

Welch’s attorney declined to comment following the hearing.

Welch is charged in New Mexico on federal carjacking and murder counts relating to the deaths of the couple, whose remains were found in New Mexico. Welch was expected to be transported to that state, where she has an initial hearing Monday in Albuquerque.

Welch previously pleaded not guilty to the Arizona charges from the escape, which sparked a nationwide manhunt. On Tuesday, she acknowledged throwing cutting tools onto the grounds of the medium-security prison near Kingman, which allowed John McCluskey, Tracy Province and Daniel Renwick to break through a perimeter fence and flee into the desert.

Welch, who is McCluskey’s fiancée and cousin, also admitted to supplying them with guns and money, and Renwick with a get-away vehicle.

Province, McCluskey and Welch found themselves without transportation and hijacked a semi-truck at gunpoint near Kingman, forcing the drivers to take them to Flagstaff. Prosecutors say the three also targeted Gary and Linda Haas, of Tecumseh, Okla., at a rest stop in New Mexico for the couple’s camping trailer. The Haases were taken to a remote ranch where they were shot.

Renwick was captured first after a police shootout in western Colorado, followed by Province. Welch and McCluskey were arrested later at an eastern Arizona campsite.

Welch and Province have pleaded guilty to armed robbery. Neither is listed as witnesses in the Arizona trial of McCluskey, who has pleaded not guilty.

Welch’s drug charges arose from a prison visit last June. Authorities said she lost her visitation rights, but not her phone privileges, when a vehicle search turned up marijuana, heroin and drug paraphernalia.

Welch wasn’t immediately jailed after the search because sheriff’s officials said she agreed to be a drug informant. She was charged following the prison escape with six counts of narcotics violations.

Province was sentenced to more than 38 years on the escape charges, but a judge acknowledged it meant little because Province already was serving a life sentence for prior crimes.

Renwick, who was serving time in Arizona for murder, faces three counts of attempted murder in Colorado.

(Here's the real story...)

fsmith3 wrote:

"The prison corporation, the prison builder and the state of Arizona are being sued by the bereaved family of the Oklahoma victims, for $40 million.·

How can the reporter fail to mention that this escape was from a for-profit prison, operated by Management and Training Corporation of Salt Lake City, Utah?

After the escape, the MTC founder, Bob Marquardt, claimed that this was the corporation's "first major glitch."

Apparently the dozen or more prior escapes they'd experienced, the frequent riots and murders, don't count as "major glitches." Anyone who cares to can watch the YouTube video of two of those murders during a riot at an MTC California prison.

Google: Eagle Mountain/Private Prison Riot gone bad
The AP reporter in this case has chronically repeated mistakes of fact.

This couple was not "taken to a remote ranch and shot." They were shot in their trailer alongside I-44. When the carjackers drove their truck and camper to a filling station they realized blood was running out the door, so they drove to Santa Rosa, NM, then on to rural Colonias, 25 miles north. On a remote ranch, the trailer was detached from their pickup, doused with alcohol, and their remains were cremated inside the trailer after their dogs were freed and watered.

The escapees and their accomplice, Welch, did not "force the drivers to take them to Flagstaff." Welch and McCluskey drove the semi themselves. They voted on whether or not to kill the east Indian drivers, and Welch and Province spared their lives.

The real story is prodigious incompetence, which the AP reporter, Felicia Fonseca, somehow avoids.

The killers never should have been moved to the cracker box Kingman for-profit prison in the first place. They were clearly incapable of handling such security risks. Two were lifers, the third had two fifteen year sentences and a Pennsylvania parole hold. At least two were white supremacists, "security threat group" members who were again well beyond the capacity of the high turnover, poorly trained, paid and chosen staff to manage.

The state also ignored the blatant malfunctioning of the alarm system which never worked well and hadn't been repaired in years. The state's monitors ignored such obvious problems, it's hard to imagine that they were not doing exactly as they had been expected to do. The alarms, for instance, went off scores of times during the 16 hours before the escape, so the green employees ignored them.

The Governor has been trying to shift the blame to her predecessor and director of corrections who preceded her appointee. That simply won't wash. She has taken substantial campaign funding and support from the prison industry which explains the failures of oversight.

The for-profit staff couldn't count properly, so didn't know the escapees were gone for about 2 1/2 hours, were still unable to identify the fugitives, gave inadequate notice to the Mohave County Sheriff's Office and finally delayed notice to the state Department of Corrections for another 80 minutes. The media may not have been alerted until 12 hours after the escape.

The Mohave Sheriff never should have released Welch. Her arrest was widely known, as was her release. Because of that, her cousin would have been quickly marked for a hit by her suppliers. He was almost forced to escape.

The pursuit was lackadaisical. Close relatives and friends of the escapees were not contacted until five days after the escape, in clear disregard of professional correctional policy. By then one had been captured in a Colorado shootout, the other three had gone to Texas, reversed direction to Billings, Montana, and finally the cousins went all the way to Pennsylvania before returning to Arizona."

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