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

Mental Illness in Maricopa's CJ System: FEB SMI Commission meeting.

This would be a good place to come talk to decision-makers about the high rate of suicide and homicide among state prisoners with serious mental illness in Arizona these days. I asked them to investigate this the last time they met, which was apparently last May. I don't think they looked into a thing all this time, but we'll see. it's not on the agenda, but Mary Lou Brncik of David's Hope will be there talking this time, so she will also hopefully prod them to take a look at the prisons. Also note that the Director of the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections, Charles Flanagan, will be there too.


Maricopa County Commission of Justice System Intervention for the Seriously Mentally Ill

Commission Meeting Agenda

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

10:00 a.m.
Meeting Location
125 W. Washington Street (Old Courthouse)
6th Floor Central Conference Room

  1. Call to Order (Sup. Stapley)
  1. Approval of minutes from May 10, 2011 meeting
  1. Mental Health and Co-occurring Disorder Needs
         for ADJC population (Director Charles Flanagan) – 25 min 
  1. Changes in Maricopa County crisis system (Justin Chase) – 10 minutes
  1. H3 effort update (Nick Margiotta) – 5 min
  1. Legislative update (Emily Jenkins) – 5 minutes
  1. Roundtables sponsored by David’s Hope (Mary Lou Brncik) – 5 min
  1. Additional SMI Issues for Discussion (Sup. Stapley)
  1. Next Meeting (Sup. Stapley)
  1. Call to the Public – Commission Member Comments on current events
  Interested persons may address the Commission, up to three minutes each.

------------Minutes from the last meeting-----------

MINUTES of the Maricopa County Commission of Justice System Intervention for the Seriously Mentally Ill
Tuesday, May 10, 2011 – 10:00 a.m.
125 W. Washington St., Phoenix
Old Courthouse – 6th floor Central Conference Room

Commission Members in Attendance
: Supervisor Max Wilson, Co-Chair; Senator Nancy Barto; Lee Ann Bohn; Dr. Carlos Carrera; Shelley Curran; Elizabeth Evans; Lynne Lagarde; Judge MaryAnne Majestic; Nick Margiotta; Barbara Marshall; Judge Rosa Mroz; Jeremy Mussman; Dr. Laura Nelson; Dr. Dawn Noggle; Dr. Carol Olson; MaryEllen Sheppard; Therese Wagner

Other Persons in Attendance: Karen Hellman – AZ Dept of Corrections; Paula Collins – Maricopa County Superior Court; Tammy Wray, Fredrica Strumpf, Josephine Jones – Maricopa County Public Defender; Anne Ronan – AZ Center for Law in the Public Interest; Arely Benitez, Jessica Wright – Save the Family; Dianna Kalandros – Pinal County Superior Court; David Gallagher – AZ Addiction Treatment Program; Tresa Floyd – Maricopa County Health Care for the Homeless; Barb Lukeman – People of Color Network Outreach; Jessica Berg, Laura DiTroia – Lodestar Day Resource Center; Mary K Reinhart – AZ Republic; Amy Schwabenlender – Valley of the Sun United Way; John Gallagher – Dept of Behavioral Health Services; Margaret Plews – Arizona Prison Watch; Wayne Hochstrasser – Triple R Behavioral Health; Tom McKelvery – New Arizona Family Inc; Steve Carter – NOVA; Vicki Helland – Community Bridges; Michael Donnelly – REN; David Bridge – Human Services Campus; Laurel Rettle – Cenpatico; Sherrie Fraley – MIHS; Amy Rex - County Manager’s Office/Staff to Commission

1. Call to Order

Supervisor Max Wilson, Co-Chair, called the meeting to order at 10:10am. He stated Supervisor Stapley was not able to attend but asked that he welcome two new members from Adult Probation – Therese Wagner and Steve Lessard. He also extended sincere thanks to the two previous Adult Probation members – Penny Stinson and Rebekah Trexler.

2. Approval of minutes from December 7, 2010: 

There were no changes or additions noted. A motion was moved by Shelley Curran, seconded by Jeremy Mussman, and unanimously passed by the Commission to approve these minutes.

3. Budget Impacts for Nontitle XIX:

Supervisor Wilson welcomed Dr. Laura Nelson to review budget impacts. She reviewed FY11 activities, then explained actions taken since July 1, 2010 to monitor the impact of the budget reductions. DHS/DBHS has identified trigger points for evaluating impacts on Non-Title XIX/XXI SMI, including fiscal tracking, complaint tracking, quality of care concerns, and mortalities. There have been no significant spikes in complaint tracking
although a recent increase in quality of care concerns is being investigated. Various aspects related to crisis services also are being watched; call volume has seen a very slow increase while complaint tracking is up and down. Crisis services facility diversion is nearly zero.

Looking ahead to FY12 and Medicaid Reform, there is uncertainty as the State waits for approval on certain requests. Discussion took place regarding these various options that may be implemented (freeze enrollment, mandatory co-pays, no-show penalties, 25 day inpatient limit – although does not apply to behavioral health – and 5% rate reduction).

4. SMI services on the Human Services Campus:

Supervisor Wilson invited David Bridge to discuss the Human Services Campus. David offered a brief background and introduced a variety of people who help provide services on campus. They each provided an overview of what their organization offers:

Ken Curry with Southwest Behavioral Health
Brandi McBride with People of Color Network
Vicki Helland with Community Bridges
Steve Carter with NOVA Safe Haven
Michael Donnelly with REN (Recovery Empowerment Network)

5.Permanent Supportive Housing:

Supervisor Wilson asked Amy Schwabenlender to discuss permanent supportive housing. Amy explained that while United Way is excited to lead the effort, they do need help and partnerships to be successful. The goal is to have 1000 units of housing by 2015. She discussed current and upcoming projects to meet that goal.

6. Additional SMI Issues for Discussion: None were mentioned.

7. Next Meeting: Tentatively August 2011.

8. Call to Public/Commission Member comments:

Jeremy Mussman – property is often destroyed when an inmate is sentenced to DOC. Jessica Burg with Human Services Campus will talk with him about holding this property.

Peggy Plews – asked that the Commission look at what is happening in prisons; many who are abused are mentally ill.

Tracy Floyd – with MC Healthcare for Homeless. Need to address gaps, especially the lack of enough Non-Title XIX psychiatric services on campus.

9. Adjourn: Supervisor Wilson declared the meeting adjourned at 11:30 a.m..

Presented to the Commission by Staff:
Amy A. Rex, Criminal Justice Project Mgr
Approved by the Commission:
Supervisor Don Stapley, Commission Chair

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