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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AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Chuck Ryan testifies on execution drugs.

I believe this is being held in the Sandra Day O'Connor Federal Courthouse on W. Washington, for those interested in following it.

---------as reported on

Lawyers say Arizona not following execution rules

by Associated Press (December 5th, 2011 @ 9:09pm)

PHOENIX - Lawyers for Arizona death-row prisoners said Monday the state is using unvetted personnel to administer lethal injections under a sheet, away from witnesses' view, despite promises to a judge that those practices would stop.

U.S. District Judge Neil Wake, who signed off on the constitutionality of the state's step-by-step execution protocol two years ago, is now being asked to impose restrictions because of how the state is actually implementing key provisions.

Wake ruled in 2009 that lawyers in a different case hadn't shown that inmates' constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment were substantially jeopardized by execution processes that the attorneys argued might cause pain or other suffering.

During opening statements in the new trial that began Monday, inmate attorney Cary Sandman told Wake that previous assurances by Corrections Director Charles Ryan that the state would follow its protocol have proved unreliable.

With promises made and not kept, ``you've misled this court, the parties and the public,'' said Sandman, a federal public defender.

Ryan, who was the first witness to testify, acknowledged that his department failed to conduct required criminal background checks of execution team personnel. The failure, he said, was not intentional.

But Ryan said it's hard to recruit qualified injection-team personnel so he used his discretion to select a member, a department sergeant who was a military medical corpsman years ago but who doesn't have current experience in starting intravenous feeds.

The protocol requires that injection-team members have that experience as a primary part of their current job responsibilities.

Similarly, Ryan also testified that he used his discretion to let a physician who has been the injection team's leader for the past five executions to decide to use groin-area injections instead of injections in a limb such as an arm, as called for in the protocol.

Arizona, like many other execution states, previously used injections in inmates' arms, but the doctor said groin-area injections are more reliable, Ryan said.

And it's enough that the warden in the injection room could see the injections and alert the injection team to any problems, while a sheet draped over most of the inmate's body blocked it from the view of witnesses in an adjacent room, Ryan said.

Ryan said he didn't intentionally mislead Wake in a 2009 affidavit in which Ryan said the state would comply with the written protocol's terms.

The corrections director said the protocol itself authorized him to alter implementation. ``So I don't see that as requiring a need to advise the court that discretion may in fact be used,'' he said.

Wake did not comment during the beginning of the trial on the argument by the attorneys for the inmates that he'd been misled when he considered the protocol in 2009.

Initial testimony also focused on the state's acquisition of a formerly widely used but federally unapproved execution drug from a seller in Great Britain.

Inmate attorney Dale Baich said the state's willingness to skirt accepted procedures in getting the drug ``does not give confidence that executions will be carried out in a humane and safe manner.''

Assistant Attorney General Jeff Zick said in his opening statement that all the allegations hadn't resulted in any proof that inmates were actually subjected to substantial risks, whether from drugs or procedures used.

``Some deviations were intentional, some known and some were simply done by oversight,'' the government lawyer said.

During cross-examination by Zick, Ryan testified that no inmates complained of pain or discomfort before the past five executions conducted since Wake's 2009 ruling.

In fact, the director said, the inmates appeared comforted by the injection team's leader explanations of what he was doing. ``I believe he instilled confidence in the inmates who were to be executed,'' Ryan said.

The identity of the injection team leader and others participating in executions are confidential under state law.

Sandman asked Wake to order the state to either follow the protocol or provide details on deviations before an execution is conducted. He also said the court should appoint a monitor to ensure compliance and that the state should be barred from acquiring unapproved execution drugs.

The trial is expected to continue Wednesday and Thursday, and Wake said he try to rule in the next week or two.

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