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, October 2, 2013

9th Circuit on the ADA: Important AZ ruling for disabled prisoners

This ruling is really signifigant, since prisoners have virtually no rights afforded most laborers otherwise.
Discrimination in Prison Job May Cost Arizona
Courthouse News

     (CN) - A private tomato farm that failed to accommodate a prisoner-worker's ankle injury may leave Arizona liable, the 9th Circuit ruled Tuesday.

     The Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) provides convict labor to Eurofresh Inc., a huge greenhouse operation that grows about 200 million pounds of tomatoes every year. In exchange the company pays inmate-pickers about $2.25 per hour, much more than they can make from a job inside the prison.

     William Castle, who served time for theft and fraud but has since been released, secured a Eurofresh job in 2008, but soon found that the hard labor aggravated a previous ankle injury. He says he asked his supervisors to allow him to take breaks during his seven-hour shift, but they allegedly refused and later fired him.

     Castle sued Eurofresh, the ADC and several officials under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.

     A federal judge rejected the claims against Eurofresh because Castle was not an actual employee of the farm. As for the other claims, the court found that state officials had accommodated Castle's injury by giving him a job in the prison motor pool where he made about 50 cents an hour.

     The 9th Circuit partly reversed Tuesday, finding that the state may be liable under the ADA. The three-judge appeals panel agreed that Eurofresh has no part in the action because Castle was technically not its employee. Rather, "his labor belongs to the state of Arizona, which put him to work at Eurofresh in order to comply with its statutory obligations."

     As such, the state cannot so easily escape the claims, according to the ruling.

     "The state defendants admit that ACI [Arizona Correctional Industries] contracts with Eurofresh to provide 'benefits' to state inmates, including paid labor and vocational training," Judge Marsha Berzon wrote for the unanimous panel. "The state defendants are free to enter into such contracts, and likely reap numerous benefits from such arrangements. But one benefit state defendants may not harvest is immunity for ADA violations: state defendants are obligated to ensure that Eurofresh - like all other state contractors - complies with federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability."

     The panel remanded the case for a hearing on whether the state defendants violated the ADA.

     In a concurrence, Judge Marsha Berzon wrote that, while precedent required her to agree to dismiss Eurofresh, she did so only reluctantly. She argued that whole system is less than ideal.

     "Permitting private employers to escape ... costs while profiting from the use of prison labor markets undermines the enforcement of the statutory requirements generally, by creating incentives for competing employers to shirk compliance with regard to non-prison labor - and thereby economically disadvantaging competitors of those employers using prison labor," she wrote.