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, May 15, 2011

Toersbijns: Plausible deniability, neglect, and abuse at the AZ DOC

What follows is a former Az Department of Corrections' Deputy Warden's response to:

(read that first, folks)

ACLU-AZ: "Demolish the Prisons"
Prisoner Names Project
April 25, 2011

---stolen from Carl Toersbijns' blog. Read it daily to keep up on the ADC---

Open Letter to Arizona Prison Director Charles L. Ryan

By Carl ToersBijns

May 13, 2011

In writing an open letter addressing the abuses of inmates by employees working for the Arizona Department of Corrections, you, as the prison director omitted much information during your recent attempt to illustrate compliance with guidelines and responsibilities already in policies and procedures and still not being followed. You are obviously failing as you are trying to reinforce your position on this matter but appear to be falling on the deaf ears of your own wardens. An obvious attempt to cover your own administrative weaknesses and shifting the blame of these abuses to others, you are continuing a strategy of plausible deniability and credibility within your own agency and expectations of subordinates.

According to Wikipedia, "plausible deniability" refers to the denial of blame in loose and informal chains of command where upper rungs quarantine the blame to the lower rungs, and the lower rungs are often inaccessible, meaning confirming responsibility for the action is nearly impossible These positions of "power" and "authority" must stay "clean" and be in a position to denounce any unethical approaches or innuendoes that impacts their own sovereignty and domain. Such is the case where you point the finger at someone else and act like you condemn their actions but in all reality, you endorsed it through several means provided in a chain of command that is intact by careful grooming and selection of those individuals hand-picked for such tasks. In other words, you must "walk the talk" to be a solid role model and it appears your rogue wardens are doing their own walking and talking behind close doors contrary to your expectations of program delivery and soundness of operational issues. Because they work for you, I, along with many others, blame you for failure to supervise issues.

In your most recent open letter paragraph titled Abuse of Inmates and dated May 9, 2011, I find it curious that it states that '"Abuses of inmates by anyone in the Arizona Department of Corrections is never acceptable or justified." You opportunely avoid the subject of unusually high prison deaths that are listed either as natural, suicide or homicides yet they are the highest ever. You also avoid mentioning the private prison contractors who do not report any statistics on such events and are not obligated via contract or any other means to collect such data for statistical purposes available to the ADOC and the public. I am sure that if there was a level of transparency here, your words would be more trustful regarding their operational status and efficiency to the taxpayers. You go on by writing "It is the responsibility of all employees to ensure that the inmate population is managed and controlled in a manner that is both professional and requires the minimal force necessary to maintain control. You wrap this deniability approach by stating that "It is not acceptable or reassuring that a supervisor's or manager's response was they "did not know" what was going on in their unit when you stated the very same comment when the Kingman prison escape security report was released and identified so many security deficiencies right under your direct command.

More generally, "plausible deniability / credibility" can also apply to any act that leaves little or no evidence of wrongdoing or abuse. In a prison setting, this could range from physical and psychological abuses through misguided management practices, tacit approval for excessive force. You also deliberately omit other known inmate abuses in this letter as you cite a case out of ASPC- Florence and another out of ASPC-Lewis to strengthen your position on the "good job" closing.

It is true that many of the agencies employees are doing good or great work and that is important to be recognized. However, although strong and driven to excel, they are getting their most of their work done through multi-tasking and forming shortcuts to be in compliance. This achievement is not without hindrance from you administrators and their lack of support to do a good job. Your circle of influence that surrounds your decision making mechanism is flawed as many have their own agendas and not in step with your policies or expectations. You can deny this all you want but recent security audits revealed that even after your "stricter" controls and oversight of the Kingman prison, two of your own state prisons reflected the same problems found in Kingman nine months after your directive to correct these "flaws." This falls on the wardens and deputy wardens for not following your orders to make prisons safer for the public.

Clearly an attempt to circumvent the horrific events such as "preventable suicides" in ASPC Tucson and ASPC Eyman and less than acceptable medical conduct that contributes to "natural deaths" within the prison, I am appalled that you continue this crusade to blame everybody else but yourself for the agency's shortcomings. Plausible deniability is a legal concept. It refers to lack of evidence proving an allegation. In civil cases, the standard of proof is "preponderance of the evidence" whereas in a criminal matter, the standard is "beyond a reasonable doubt."

It is highly likely because of so many incidents of staff mistakes [misconduct] and poor decision making by command staff , the agency will continue to pay out court settlements to inmates who have been subject to these acts considered "abused" and sue for the agency's mistakes and misconduct. Your letter only incited more fear and more intimidation into the workplace. You have shown by selective enforcement methods and through careful dissection of the facts you do not care if your wardens don't follow your words to provide proper custodial care and operational soundness. Your sanctions imposed to these administrators are mild compared to line staff and illustrates a desire to protect them as they protect you. In fact, I suspect you are facing several lawsuits at the moment that will embarrass you and your administration when it gets aired on the media evening news in due time.

Disclaimer: this article does not reflect the opinions of the web site Thunder Rolls Inc. where this link is located.

Link to open letter from Charles Ryan to ADC Employees dated May 9, 2011:

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