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, February 1, 2012

UNSHACKLING Arizona: SB1184 makes it through committee.


---------from the AP via the Capitol Times---------

Committee approves pregnant inmates bill

By The Associated Press

Published: February 1, 2012 at 1:40 pm

A Senate committee unanimously approved a bill Wednesday morning that would ban state or county jails and prisons from shackling inmates or detainees while they’re being transported for delivery or during labor, delivery or postpartum recovery. The bill makes exceptions if medical staffers ask that the prisoner be restrained or a jail or prison official decides the prisoner or detainee might take off.

The bill follows a lawsuit that was filed last year against the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office by an inmate who says her rights were violated when she was shackled before and after her Caesarean section in 2009.

The Arizona Republic reported last December that the lawsuit claims Miriam Mendiola-Martinez was forced to leave the hospital with her hands and feet handcuffed. The lawsuit also claims Mendiola-Martinez was taken away without receiving pain medication. That was one impetus for the Senate bill, said Sen. Linda Gray, R-Phoenix, who sponsored the measure.

“To me, that was humiliating. She’s probably still in pain and that was unnecessary,” she said after the committee hearing on Wednesday.

Gray said the American Civil Liberties Union brought it to her attention.

The issue is something the organization has been tracking for a number of years, said Anjali Abraham, an ACLU lobbyist.

“We just want to ensure the safest delivery conditions for baby and mom. This is a population that often gets overlooked,” she said.

So far, 14 states have adopted similar restrictions, according to the ACLU. Bills to restrict shackling are being considered in Massachusetts and Florida this year.

The Arizona Department of Corrections, U.S. Marshals Service and Federal Bureau of Prisons have all adopted policies in the past decade that prohibit the shackling of women in labor.

The practice is “inhumane” and “Draconian,” said Imani Walker, the executive director of the Rebecca Project for Human Rights, a Washington D.C.-based group that lobbied the federal prison system to adopt restrictions on shackling pregnant prisoners.

Lawmakers in Arizona tried to pass a law restricting the practice last year, but the bill failed to make it out of a committee. This year, lawmakers from both parties have signed onto the Senate bill and a similar proposal that’s been introduced in the House.

Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Jeff Sprong said the agency is neutral on the bill after working on a compromise with lawmakers that allowed the use of a leg tether to be attached to an inmate’s ankle and the bed frame during postpartum recovery.

The bill stipulates that if restraints are used during the delivery process, they should be “done in the least restrictive manner necessary.”

Dr. Lisa Cookingham, who practices obstetrics and gynecology in the Phoenix area, testified at the hearing in support of the bill and said she cares for incarcerated patients on a regular basis.

In a recent case, she said one of her patients went into labor at six and a half months and needed an emergency delivery of the baby. Cookingham said officers initially refused her requests to remove shackles on the patient’s legs, which jeopardized the care of the mother and child.

“This unfortunately is not unique situation,” she said.

Cookingham said she appreciates the security measures, but feels they are often excessive and ignore health and safety concerns.

The bill advances to the Senate rules committee. From there, if it passes, the measure would move to the full Senate.

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