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, December 7, 2011

CCA Eloy: Transgender prisoner sues over sexual assault by guard


Sadly, the following press release comes as little surprise...good for the ACLU-AZ for picking this case up and seeing the victim through - they've been busy with our state prisons of late, too.

For those who haven't been paying attention to all the glory and acclaim that Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) has brought to the prison town of Eloy, recall the lawsuits alleging torture of 18 Hawaiian prisoners, as well as the sexual assault of a prisoner by a guard (who was subsequently prosecuted). Then there are the problems with their California prisoners - and what happened in Idaho...

Needless to say, anyone thinking about having CCA move into their backyard (and take over their town council) should really think twice: their leadership clearly fails to set and demand professional - or even humane - standards of treatment for prisoners.


ACLU of Arizona Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Transgender Woman Sexually Assaulted By CCA Guard

December 5, 2011

CONTACT: (212) 549-2666;

PHOENIX – The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona today filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of a 28-year-old transgender woman who was intimidated, harassed, and sexually assaulted by a Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) guard while she was in immigration custody at the CCA-owned and operated Eloy Detention Center. CCA is the largest operator of immigration detention centers in the country and detains almost half of the 33,000 people in federal custody on any given day.

The lawsuit, filed against CCA, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, and the City of Eloy, charges that local and federal officials failed to protect Tanya Guzman-Martinez from abusive male staff members at the facility in Eloy, even after being notified about the sexual attack and ongoing harassment by staff and other male detainees.

“Tanya left Mexico to seek refuge from the persecution she suffered because of her gender identity, and was exposed to even greater trauma at the hands of immigration officials who failed to take appropriate measures to protect her while she was in their custody,” said ACLU of Arizona Immigrant Rights Attorney Victoria Lopez.

During her 8-month detention at Eloy, one of the largest ICE facilities in the country, Guzman-Martinez was sexually assaulted twice. One incident occurred on December 7, 2009 and involved a detention officer who after repeated harassment, maliciously forced Guzman-Martinez to ingest his ejaculated semen and threatened to deport her back to Mexico if she did not comply with his demands. Guzman-Martinez immediately reported the assault to detention staff and the Eloy Police Department and the detention officer was later convicted in Pinal County Superior Court of attempted unlawful sexual contact.

Despite this attack, immigration officials did nothing to protect her from further abuse. In a separate incident that took place on April 23, 2010, Guzman-Martinez was sexually assaulted by a male detainee in the same all-male housing unit where she was subjected to the first assault. She didn’t report the assault to local police until about a week later because she feared retaliation by detention staff and other detainees. Soon after she reported the second assault to the police, Guzman-Martinez was released from ICE custody.

Although Guzman-Martinez was released from detention more than a year-and-a-half ago, she still suffers from the emotional pain she endured while at Eloy.

“When we tout our country as a beacon of freedom, fairness, and individual liberties for all, the United States, as well as state and local governments, and the people and entities with whom they routinely contract, must live up to those values, especially for those people who seek refuge in this country because of those values,” added ACLU of Arizona cooperating attorney Kirstin Story of the law firm of Lewis and Roca LLP. “Unfortunately, that did not occur in the Tanya Guzman-Martinez case and in many others. We hope that this lawsuit is a step toward remedying these failures.”

Today’s lawsuit alleges that CCA, Eloy, and ICE personnel failed to take basic steps to protect Guzman-Martinez’s physical safety and emotional well-being, to properly train and monitor the staff at the center or to implement best practices to house transgender detainees and prevent the sexual assault of vulnerable populations.

Incidents of sexual abuse in immigration detention, particularly among vulnerable women and LGBTQ detainees, are widespread, the ACLU said. In October, the ACLU of Texas filed a federal class-action lawsuit on behalf of three immigrant women who were sexually assaulted while in ICE custody at the T. Don Hutto Family Residential Center in Taylor, Texas. The lawsuit was filed following the release by the ACLU of government documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act that confirmed 185 allegations of sexual abuse of immigration detainees jailed at detention facilities across the nation since 2007 alone. According to those documents, 16 allegations of sexual abuse were lodged in Arizona facilities – the third largest number of allegations after Texas and California. Of those 16 allegations in Arizona, 8 were from the Eloy Detention Center. In addition, the ACLU of Arizona documented five cases involving transgender or gay detainees who were sexually assaulted or treated in an abusive manner while in detention in Arizona facilities. The case examples are highlighted in the ACLU-AZ report entitled "In Their Own Words: Enduring Abuse in Arizona Immigration Detention Centers," which includes an entire section highlighting the array of problems confronting LGBTQ detainees.

Despite mounting documentation of widespread sexual abuse in immigration detention centers, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has proposed a rule that explicitly excludes immigration detention facilities from coverage under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). Congress enacted PREA to protect all persons in custody by setting standards for preventing, detecting, and responding to sexual abuse. “Without PREA's protection, immigrants in detention such as Tanya Guzman-Martinez, remain vulnerable to abuse,” added Lopez.

In response, the U.S. Congress will hold a briefing on December 7th titled: the Prison Rape Elimination Act and the Crisis of Sexual Abuse in Immigration Detention.

Lawyers on the case, Tanya Guzman-Martinez v. CCA, et al., include Daniel Pochoda, ACLU of Arizona Legal Director, and ACLU of Arizona Cooperating Attorneys Kristina N. Holmstrom and Kirstin A. Story of the law firm of Lewis and Roca LLP.

Click here to read the complaint.

The ACLU of Arizona’s detention report is available here.

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