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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Friday, November 18, 2011

Wrongfully imprisoned? Don't sue the state.

This is truly confusing - never mind if the state sends you to prison for three years by mistake: destroying your life, impoverishing your family, and so on - it isn't responsible to pay you for damages. Perhaps he should have sued the judge and agents of the court instead of the state?

----------from Cronkite News--------------

Appeals court says wrongly jailed man cannot collect damages from state

A federal appeals court said Friday that a man who wrongly spent three years in an Arizona prison cannot recover damages from the state.

The ruling upholds a lower court decision for Alan Stein, who pleaded guilty to attempted sexual contact with a minor in 1997, was given lifetime probation, then sentenced to 10 years in jail after violating that probation in 2006.

Stein, 53, had served three years of jail time when the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that he should actually have been off probation long before he was sent to jail.

He sued the state, the Department of Corrections and various state employees over his imprisonment, but a U.S. District Court judge dismissed the suit.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court Friday. It said that while the state “had a duty to ensure that his prison sentence was calculated correctly, it had no duty to review the legality of his sentencing order” and does not owe him damages.

Stein’s attorney did not return a call seeking comment Friday. State lawyers also declined comment.

The case began Aug. 1, 1997, when Stein pleaded guilty in Maricopa County Superior Court to attempted sexual contact with a minor between October 1995 and October 1996. He was ordered to spend a year in jail and given lifetime probation. After he violated probation in February 2006, he was ordered to prison to begin a 10-year sentence.

The legality of Stein’s sentence came into question in November 2008, when the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in an unrelated case that laws in effect at the time of his original sentence only permitted lifetime probation for “completed offenses against children.”

Both sides agreed that, under that ruling, Stein’s “attempted child molestation” conviction should have merited no more than five years of probation. That means he should have been off probation in 2002, long before he was sent to jail for violating it.

Stein’s prison sentence, therefore, was recognized as illegal. He was released in February 2009, four months after the Supreme Court ruling.

Stein claimed that because the Arizona Department of Corrections was responsible for his prison time, it was duty-bound to make sure that he was sentenced legally. He sued, claiming violations of his Eighth Amendment right to freedom from cruel and unusual punishment and 14th Amendment right to due process.

But the appeals court said he “received all the process that was due to him,” according to the opinion by Circuit Judge Clifford Wallace.

The ruling emphasized that the legality of a sentence is a court’s responsibility; the Corrections Department is obligated to carry out that sentence.

“The department has no authority to refuse to enforce a sentence issued by a competent court,” Wallace wrote.

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