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 13, 2011

Restoring prisoners to competency in Yuma County.

I'd rather see more programs diverting the seriously mentally ill from prosecution altogether...but this has an interesting design that includes education about the legal process and seems worth posting. Hopefully they won't take as long with folks as Maricopa County (MCSO) does (9 months seems the norm here) - that's a long time to lock a person up in a place like that who hasn't even been to trial, and seems only to coerce too many into pleading guilty as soon as they're deemed competent to in order to get out of MCSO custody, the jail's treatment of the SMI is so bad.

We wish the best to Dr. Falcon with this program - we hope it serves Yuma County's vulnerable prisoners well. Anyone who has direct experience with this program and thoughts on it is invited to contact me (Peggy) at I'd love to hear how it's going. Same with any of the restoration to competency or mental health programs in Arizona's other county jails.

---from the Yuma Sun---

Jail starts program to restore suspects to competency

After months of planning, the Yuma County Detention Center has implemented its own restoration to competency (RTC) program.

YCDC recently held an open house to show local judges a newly renovated mental health pod and to explain how the RTC program works.

When a person who is charged with a crime is determined by a judge to be incompetent, the judge places him or her into a mental health program so treatment can be administered until the person is capable of standing trial.

“Before we sent everyone who couldn't stand trial to the Arizona State Hospital or to another county with an RTC program,” said Lt. Joe Lackey. “Now instead of sending them away, everything is going to be performed here at the local jail. (Often times,) it would take a year before a person was restored...and that is very expensive. So this will definitely save the county money.”

Yuma County's RTC program focuses on both teaching the person what will happen during the trial and treating the person's mental illness.

“One of the things we emphasize is that it's a process,” said Dr. Elizabeth Falcon, the program's head forensic psychologist. “They first go through intake assessments, which allows us to target the areas they need to work on. Once we identify those, they begin the other critical part which is the education piece. Also during this time, they are receiving the treatment that they need.”

Falcon said the education component is divided into a series of 12 modules and the inmates must pass each one before advancing in the program.

“The modules are curriculum-based and are multi-modal so they are not just doing the same lesson,” she said. “Some (modules) include exercises or role-playing while others are more traditional.”

After inmates finish the modules and complete their therapy, they partake in a mock trial which prepares them for the actual courtroom.

“We try to simulate every aspect of a trial,” Falcon said. “Everybody who participates has a script and then we act out the trial just as it would in the courtroom.”

Two people have been admitted to the program since its inception in early November, with one person successfully completing it.

“I think it's wonderful that we have this program in Yuma,” said Yuma County Superior Court Judge Maria Elena Cruz. “It expedites the process so we can quickly identify those that can be restored and those that can't. So it's a cost savings not only financially, but on the human side of it because we won't have someone who is mentally ill without the possibility of being restored being held for months and months in jail.”

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