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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Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Voice for AZ Crime Victims is not Steve Twist...

 Some of the  68 names of the AZ DOC's victims of violence, neglect and abuse over the past 3 1/2 years,  from the roof of Phoenix's Firehouse Gallery during the opening of "Patriotic Descent".
(June 9, 2012)

 The letter and video link below came to me as a response to the editorial in the Arizona Republic today by Mr. Steve Twist, titled: "Ariz. prisons are humane, secure despite criticism". As implied, the letter is a defense of the state-as-perpetrator, not an argument that human life and rights should be vigorously protected.

Mr. Twist is a founder of the conservative Goldwater Institute, and the former assistant attorney general who authored the AZ Victims Bill of Rights, a constitutional amendment passed in the early 90's which explicitly excluded anyone "in custody for an offense" (as well as their survivors, if the crimes perpetrated against them result in death) from the legal definition of victim - and thus from all resource the state allocates to help victims cope with the devastating consequences of assault, rape, murder and other such serious crimes.

The letter was composed for the occasion by a real-life survivor of the state's cruelty and neglect; she lost her brother to it. Michelle gave me her blessings to post it widely - this is one of the voices we can trust. Please pass it on.

---------------from Michelle Lependorf------------------- 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The recent articles written by Mr. Ortega in The Arizona Republic were primarily aimed at highlighting the deficiencies in health care provided to Arizona’s most seriously ill prisoners, those having severe mental and medical conditions.  It was fact-based, investigative reporting and not a media campaign or ACLU conspiracy aimed at generating sympathy and support for reduced prison terms or less restrictive environments within Arizona’s prisons.
The focus of the articles written by Mr. Ortega was not to question the housing protocol within the Arizona Department of Corrections.  Rather, it was to highlight the deliberate indifference shown to inmates who suffer from serious medical conditions wherever housed within Arizona’s prisons.  These inmates have been systematically, persistently and consistently denied or delayed meaningful and effectual medical care, the result being that far too many are dying, many of whom have not been incarcerated for violent, predatory crimes and who have not been perpetrators of inmate on inmate violence.
If officials within the Arizona Department of Corrections are, as is claimed by Mr. Twist, aware that “a significant percentage of those who live in Arizona prisons are in poor health when they enter prison,” don’t these same individuals have a heightened duty to ensure that an adequate health care system is in place to address the needs of these individuals?  This includes, at a minimum, ensuring that properly trained staff are in place and available to deliver the sophisticated health care required by such a high-risk prison population.  

Despite Mr. Twist’s assumptions to the contrary, there is a vast low-income segment of society that exists outside of the prison environs.  In that segment of society, there are a statistically larger number of individuals suffering from poor health conditions, as compared to more affluent segments of society.  This is primarily due to a lack of resources, high unemployment, low education levels, poor diet and nutrition, lack of health insurance and, perhaps, to some degree, genetic predispositions from the continuity of poor health conditions inherited by each successive generation.  That does not mean, however, that such individuals do not deserve adequate and effective medical care.  Should we deny or delay medical care for such individuals because they are born into and continually exist within a segment of society that renders them more susceptible to healthcare challenges?  Why can we not expect the same level of care for prisoners who enter Arizona’s prison systems with existing chronic conditions?  It may be true that many prisoners are entering into Arizona’s prisons “suffering from a litany of conditions.”  However, that does not mean that such individuals should not expect to receive or are undeserving of quality medical care – care that is delivered when it is needed and when it can make the greatest difference in the life of an inmate.  In fact, perhaps addressing the needs of such individuals would go a long way to improving conditions in the medically underserved communities from which these individuals come, as Mr. Twist claims. 
Given the threat it poses to public health in general, the failed healthcare system in Arizona’s prisons can no longer be denied, ignored or tolerated on the premise that prisoners, by virtue of their past misdeeds, are not deserving of adequate healthcare.  Although many in society believe that prisoners are not entitled to the same standard of medical care as individuals who have never been convicted of a crime, this view fails to take into consideration the high cost to society of substandard medical care provided to prisoners.  Inmates with serious illnesses or contagious diseases, who do not receive proper medical treatment while incarcerated, will eventually return to their communities.  When they do, they will likely be more unhealthy, unable to work and, more importantly, ineligible for health insurance.  This, in turn, will surely place a greater strain on the state’s already scarce resources.  So denying very ill prisoners adequate medical care is simply akin to being penny-wise and pound-foolish. 
What Bob Ortega’s articles make clear is that we have a failed health care delivery system in place within Arizona’s prisons.  It is a substandard, inhumane system that is responsible for the needless suffering and deaths of thousands of inmates.  For anyone who believes otherwise, the next time you or someone in your family becomes ill, by all means, opt for an exam with one of the paramedical professionals in Arizona’s Department of Corrections.  Mr. Twist, with his twisted notions, should be the first one to do so! 

For those of you who need further proof of just how inhumane healthcare is in Arizona’s prisons, you can get a first hand glimpse by clicking on the following link:
Michelle Lependorf is a NJ lawyer and the sister of Ferdinand Dix, a former AZDOC inmate who died while incarcerated in Arizona from undiagnosed, untreated metastatic small cell lung cancer.