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)


ANTICOLONIAL zines, stickers, actions, power

Taala Hooghan Infoshop

Kinlani/Flagstaff Mutual AID


The group for direct action against the prison state!

Black Lives Matter PHOENIX METRO

Black Lives Matter PHOENIX METRO
(accept no substitutions)



PHOENIX: Trans Queer Pueblo


AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

ICE to investigate CCA Eloy Detention Center over suicides.

They'll investigate, alright, but they aren't about to give CCA the boot. Let's just shut down ICE - and all these houses of detention, while we're at it. It would save a lot of anguish, families, and lives.


Suicides at CCA-run ICE Detention Center Spark Investigation

October 2, 2013
by Derek Gilna

Human rights organizations monitoring complaints regarding conditions of confinement for prisoners held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities were likely not surprised when they received news that two detainees had committed suicide at the Eloy Detention Center outside Phoenix, Arizona. The April 2013 deaths of Jorge Garcia-Mejia, 40, and Elsa Guadalupe-Gonzalez, 24, both Guatemalan nationals, three days apart at the Corrections Corporation of America-operated facility, focused attention on for-profit companies housing immigration detainees.

According to Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, "Suicides are a red flag. They usually signify a much larger problem. Sometimes it's because of ineffective mental health treatment, but often times it's caused by poor staffing issues."

Prison Legal News has reported extensively on human rights abuses in private immigration detention facilities, as well as the fact that private prison firms lobby on immigration-related issues and have been implicated in Arizona's enactment of a harsh anti-immigrant law, SB 1070. [See, e.g., PLN, July 2013, p.1; Nov. 2010, p.1]. Around half of the approximately 34,000 immigration detainees held in ICE custody at any given time are housed in privately-operated prisons.

Unfortunately, the rapid expansion of the immigration detainee population, including asylum-seekers and other detainees who are not criminally charged, has not been accompanied by a commensurate increase in the number of mental health professionals or resources available at detention facilities.

Garcia-Mejia hung himself at the Eloy Detention Center on April 30, 2013, while Guadalupe-Gonzalez committed suicide on April 28, also by hanging.

Silky Shah with Detention Watch Network, which has often criticized the federal government's use of for-profit prison contractors like CCA, stated, "Clearly, these two individuals, sadly, weren't getting the care they needed."

The problem is not confined to the 1,596-bed Eloy prison and also extends to medical care in addition to mental health services. According to the federal government, 131 prisoners died in federal immigration custody from October 2003 to December 2012 as a result of strokes, cardiac arrest and asphyxia, including ten who died at Eloy. One of those deaths was that of another Guatemalan detainee who died after undergoing treatment for diabetes complications caused by untreated hyperglycemia. Many detainees have complained of substandard medical care at ICE facilities.

The ACLU sued the Department of Homeland Security in 2008, alleging a refusal on the part of that agency to produce thousands of public documents setting forth details related to the deaths of ICE detainees, and the policies and procedures that contributed to those deaths, which ICE had failed to adequately disclose. [See: PLN, Nov. 2009, p.26; Sept. 2008, p.30].

When private prison companies seek government contracts, they usually tout their ability to cut costs. Unfortunately, however, the brunt of those cost savings is often borne by the detainees. One of the ways that private prisons reduce costs is by cutting staff – and not just in the medical or mental health areas. Further, they are not forthcoming about immigration detainee deaths; notably, as private companies they do not have to comply with the Freedom of Information Act as federal agencies must. [See: PLN, Feb. 2009, p.10].

ICE spokesperson Amber Cargile said ICE would perform an audit of the Eloy facility's policies and practices related to suicide prevention. "ICE Health Service Corps is conducting a thorough assessment of these incidents. The agency is also assessing Corrections Corporation of America's staffing model to ensure it provides appropriate supervision and monitoring of detainees at the facility," she stated.

That assessment comes too late, according to Victoria Lopez, an ACLU attorney in Arizona, who said, "We have been calling for a number of years now that ICE take a look at their contracts in Arizona including CCA. One of the criticisms, for many years now, about the way that ICE manages these detention centers is that there isn't adequate oversight and inspection. It's either ICE doing the inspections themselves or they contract with private auditors. There's no independent oversight of these conditions in these detention centers."

Until there is greater oversight, more preventable deaths of immigration detainees at for-profit facilities are likely to occur.

Sources:,, Associated Press

Prison Legal News is only $30/year for prisoners - it's well worth it, so send it to your loved one if you can.