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, September 23, 2012

ACLU: 2012 PREA Standards and LGBTI Prisoners.



New Federal Standards Offer Unprecedented Protections to LGBTI Prisoners

May 21, 2012
Last week, the Department of Justice released the long-awaited Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) regulations, representing the first time that the federal government has issued national standards to help end sexual abuse in correctional facilities. The regulations are two years late and a lot of harm has been done in their absence, but now they will help protect important constitutional and human rights and ensure safe and fair correctional facilities that assist prisoners in rehabilitation rather than needlessly brutalizing them. This is the final of three blogs marking the occasion.

Yesterday the Department of Justice (DOJ) released the long-awaited National Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Prison Rape. These standards – the first of their kind—create an historic opportunity to put an end to the epidemic of sexual abuse in prison, which disproportionately affects prisoners who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or have intersex conditions (LGBTI).
Sexual abuse in prisons is so common that it’s a subject of jokes, but it causes severe and lasting harm to thousands of people each year. A report just released by DOJ shows that almost one in 10 former state prisoners were sexually abused during their incarceration. For gay men, it was nearly four in 10. A separate survey reported that 15 percent of transgender people in prison were sexually assaulted; for transgender African-Americans, the number was 35 percent.
The new standards aim to prevent sexual abuse from occurring in the first place, and to detect and appropriately respond to it when it does happen. We are thrilled that DOJ adopted several recommendations we made as part of a coalition of LGBTI advocacy groups, including:
•  A prohibition against segregated units for LGBTI prisoners, which can stigmatize them and increase the risk of abuse. 
•  Requiring consideration of a prisoner’s actual or perceived LGBTI status or gender non-conformity in assessing the risk for victimization.
•  Staff training on effective communication with LGBTI and gender nonconforming prisoners, which will help prevent abuse and encourage reporting when it occurs.
•  Case-by-case determination of housing assignments for prisoners who are transgender or have intersex conditions – no more assignment based on genital status alone.  
•  Allowing prisoners who are transgender or have intersex conditions to shower separately from others, removing one of the most vulnerable situations for these prisoners.
•  A prohibition against physical exams of transgender prisoners and those with intersex conditions solely for the purpose of determining genital status, which can be humiliating and traumatic and also an opportunity for sexual abuse by staff.
•  Strict limits on the use of isolating protective custody.
These standards have the power to save lives and transform the way LGBTI prisoners are treated in prison. We now need to ensure that they are fully enforced.
The standards were adopted by DOJ to comply with the Prison Rape Elimination Act, a law enacted by Congress in 2003. They apply to all facilities operated by the federal Bureau of Prisons as well as adult prisons and jails, juvenile detention facilities, police lock-ups, and community confinement facilities that receive federal funds.
Unfortunately immigration detention facilities have been left out of the protection of the standards even though sexual abuse of immigration detainees is a pervasive problem. Indeed, a report issued last year by the ACLU of Arizona documented sexual abuse of gay and transgender immigration detainees, including a gay man who was raped by another detainee and then put in protective custody and left completely alone, where he kept reliving the trauma. A memorandum issued by President Obama requires the Department of Homeland Security to develop its own standards over the next eight months for immigration detention facilities. We will be urging DHS to adopt equally rigorous standards to protect immigration detainees.