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, September 11, 2011

Cop-Court Watch: Montgomery on Gerster & Keesee

"Indict Arpaio" Rally - Wells Fargo,
June 7, 2011

For those of you following the cases of the MCSO detention officers (Kevin Gerster and Alan Keesee) who assaulted their prisoners in the psychiatric unit of Lower Buckeye Jail, I'm writing to try to set the prosecutor's side of the story straight - or at least give you a piece of it. I guess it's more a clarification than a correction, so I didn't rewrite my earlier posts - just redirected folks here. I wrote to County Attorney Bill Montgomery last week because it appeared from court records as if the assault case against Alan Keesee had been dropped at the initiative of his office. My confusion, I guess. Montgomery got back to me pretty quickly asserting that the prosecution is moving forward nonetheless, and re-iterated the reason he didn't proceed with prosecuting either of those guys for abusing "vulnerable adults," as I'd been urging.

Frankly, I think if this had occurred in any other kind of institution treating psychiatric patients, the vulnerable adult statute would be invoked to raise the felony level and broaden the sentencing possibilities. But I honestly don't know the law well enough to ferret this all out myself, so I figured it was best to just let you hear the explanation straight from the county attorney.

My apologies for attributing anything less than professionalism to the folks working hard on these detention officer's prosecutions.

--email from Bill Montgomery's office, Thursday September 8, 2011--

From Bill Montgomery:

We were able to resolve the case by filing a Direct Complaint/Plea proceeding without having to go through the entire Preliminary Hearing/Trial process. So, while it looks like charges were dropped, we still proceeded with prosecution.

I can assure you that the resolution leads to the defendant no longer working in law enforcement, let alone detention.

I would also appreciate it if you would acknowledge that the goal of holding people in positions of responsibility for safely and securing handling inmates accountable when they break the law is being met. We may disagree about the best way to accomplish that but my commitment to that goal remains. Also, I previously explained to you that the basis for the crimes committed was not the mental status of the victim but the fact that he was restrained. That was the direct set of facts. If we had charged the Class 2 Felonies there is a high likelihood that we would have failed to secure convictions. It was more important to me to charge the appropriate crime so we could ensure convictions.

Thank you for your continued advocacy,

Bill Montgomery

Maricopa County Attorney

301 W. Jefferson, 8th Floor

Phoenix, AZ 85003


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