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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Thursday, February 23, 2012

ASPC-Tucson deaths in custody: Christopher Rankhorn, 31.

Last May, four young Arizona state prisoners died under suspicious circumstances all within a week or so of eachother. One of those young men was 31 year old Christopher Rankhorn. The media never followed up on the cause of his death - from what his family told me, though, it sounds like he overdosed on his psych meds and the ADC ruled it "accidental". 

Christopher's medication at the time he died was Neurontin (aka gabapentin), an apparently increasingly common drug in the state prisons. Originally developed as an anti-convulsant and marketed to alleviate some kinds of neuralgia, Neurontin is also being used as a pain management tool where narcotics are restricted or prohibited, and as a mood stabilizer in the treatment of manic-depression. And, what I've been seeing of late, Neurontin is still a major drug of abuse in the prisons, even though it's got a very low abuse potential out here. 

Why is it still being prescribed for everything under the sun in there, then? It's even been pulled from other prison systems because of the dangers of its abuse behind bars. There's also an ugly history of increased suicide risk with Neurontin - something the AZ Department of Corrections should be especially careful about, given that they've doubled in the past 3 years. In fact, all the off-label use of that drug should be questioned.

Since it's pushed as a pain-reliever, some folks may have expectations for the high they should get from it, and when it isn't forthcoming they increase their dosage until they get the desired effect. Neurontin is not the drug to do that with, guys! They're giving it to you precisely because it doesn't work that way - and because I think it's being used to treat some of you for mental illness without your knowledge or consent. 

I also suspect that Neurontin is being increasingly prescribed in prisons to see how it works as a behavior management tool on a broader population, so if you don't need it or know why you're taking it, question your doctor about the need to be taking it at all - and don't waste your money or resources buying this shit on the yard like it's a narcotic or something. All the drugs in there serve primarily to manage you for the state - especially the heroin: it keeps you too high and stupid to organize collectively against the powers that really oppress you. Be a real revolutionary and stay away from that stuff if you want to be free.

Our condolences go out to Christopher's loved ones.  

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