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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Monday, April 7, 2014

MCSO Deaths in Custody: the homicides of John Klatt and Douglas Walker.

As some folks out there are well aware, cops and prison guards often collaborate with gang leaders to set up people they want to see shut up or executed  - often by celling them with a likely assailant/killer, then looking the other way long enough for the deed to be done. 

Last week a prisoner was killed in a case I think is very much related to the murder of an accused child predator, John Klatt, in MCSO's jail in January by similar means - except this time, I think the intended victim is the one who survived the confrontation.  

In the January killing, it looks like the MCSO placed Klatt in minimum security with a ton of child molestation charges against him - an obvious attempt to have him executed by other prisoners before trial. 20 yo. Nike Black likely did the deed under order of one of the gangs, leaving him no choice but to kill the guy and be the hero, or or die as a coward himself. All the gangs police and punish the members of their own race in prison, whether or not those prisoners are gang members. That kid had a fresh charge that would have forced him to either seek protective custody in prison or do the gang's dirty work. The gang and yard leaders usually tell guys with domestic violence charges (or any offense against a woman) that they can only clear their own name by taking out some prisoner whose crime is worse than their own. What would most guys in similar shoes choose - and how much of a real choice is that, anyway? The MCSO helped force Black into that position, too, by celling him with Klatt.

The community has a lot to do with these extra-judicial execution of prisoners, as well - just look at the comments after this news article about the first of these two killings. Friends and family of both suspect and victim are there, and lots of people are giving the killer props for a job well done. For those of you who think accused pedophiles deserve to be executed, do you also think their killers deserve to have their lives destroyed as well? Because that's part of the collateral damage of extra-judicial executions and vigilantism - someone else then has to be punished for doing that job. Your champion, Nike Black's life will now be spent in prison and most likely shortened by violence and trauma, heroin addiction, or Hepatitis C (which most prisoners in this state contract during their incarceration...). In the meantime, you will all forget his noble sacrifice and he will become like all the other faceless, dehumanized prisoners you like to know are suffering.

Arpaio insisted in January that nothing could have been done to prevent Klatt's killing (How about segregating your sex offenders and child molesters from the rest of the population, as the AZ DOC does?) I think they have the right to be safe in custody, be they pre-trial or post-conviction. For those to whom guilt and innocence matters in prisoner rights cases, you're wrong. Let one be abused, and all are at risk - justifying punishments above and beyond those already sanctioned by the court, like rape of child predators, puts everyone in prison at greater risk, even the "good guys". But you should also be aware that up to 15% of convicted sex offenders may actually be innocent. What might the innocence rate be among those who have simply been accused? Sadly, all are condemned as soon as the news of their charges hits the media. Look at Courtney Bisbee.

So now we come to the current killing - a convicted prisoner awaiting sentencing on a violent crime who fears for his own safety is celled with an accused (and confessed) seriously mentally ill child killer awaiting trial, also fearing for his safety. If I was Walker's family's attorney, I'd look closely at Arpaio's refusal to take responsibility for re-visiting policies around celling people with crimes the rest of the prisoner population would find repugnant as the very reason that Walker ended up dead, even if Ward claims self-defense. As I observed earlier, the public was so pleased that the victim of the January attack was an accused pedophile that the MCSO wouldn't have felt much pressure to keep any other child predator in their custody safe from similar treatment. They were outright encouraged to set it up, in fact. It was ordained by that decision to cell those two together that one of the two parties would leave in a body bag - that was a reasonably forseeable event after the January homicide of John Klatt. That spells major liability.

In this more recent homicide,  I wouldn't be surprised if Walker was celled with Ward by folks at the MCSO wagering on whether or not he would kill him. Walker did time before and was on his way back to the joint - I guarantee the gangs would have put a green light on Ward to "discipline" him for the way he killed his 12 year old younger brother; his celly would be the most likely person they'd order to do it, regardless of whether or not the guy was in a gang. If Walker didn't follow those orders he'd be hitting the prison gates as a target himself in a short two weeks - he was expressing fear for his safety as it was, according to this report. I think everyone just underestimated Ward's determination to stay alive, and his capacity for fighting back.

Really, all of these men's families need to sue, with Arpaio's name at the top of the list. MCSO complicity will likely not be proven in criminal court, of course - the investigators handling these cases will never even try to hold officers or Arpaio accountable in their reports. Only the prisoners will appear to be the violent ones in all this - that's consistent with the way the good Sheriff Joe implements justice in the community, too: he subverts it and ducks responsibility every chance he can.

I'm sure I'll have more to say about this case down the road, as more is learned about what community-based psychiatric help, if any, Ward and his family got before he killed his brother. For now, though, I think the real story is about the proclivity of law enforcement officers to act as judges, juries and executioners (or their accomplices); moreover, the willingness of their adoring public to accept it. 


Phoenix man accused of killing brother now accused of killing cellmate

Vianka Villa, The Republic |  
 April 4, 2014

A Maricopa County inmate charged in the fatal stabbing of his 12-year-old brother in Phoenix now stands accused of killing his cellmate in a frenzied attack on Wednesday night.

Andrew Ward, 27, was arrested early Thursday on suspicion of killing Douglas William Walker, who was awaiting sentencing on an armed robbery conviction, according to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
Sheriff's officials said Walker was found "beaten, stabbed with a golf pencil and smeared with peanut butter over his head." He was discovered at about 7:30 p.m. when inmates notified detention officers on a security walk of a fight inside the cell.

Phoenix fire paramedics pronounced Walker dead on scene. Paramedics also determined that a plastic bag had been placed in Walker's nose and throat and obstructed his breathing.

Ward reportedly admitted to a play-by-play of the attack in an interview with detectives and told investigators that he had "no regrets," according to a sheriff's statement.

Ward relayed that he had cut Walker's throat with a plastic playing card, stabbed him in the eyes and throat with a golf pencil and finished the assault by stuffing a plastic bag down Walker's throat, according to a sheriff's statement.

Sheriff's Office spokesman Chris Hegstrom said Ward has been re-classifiedd and housed by himself in the Fourth Avenue Jail.

Both Ward and Walker were placed in segregated custody in the county jail system after each told jail administrators they feared for their safety, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Ward was arrested March 12 on suspicion of stabbing and killing his 12-year-old brother in a north Phoenix home last month, and pleaded not guilty to the allegations in a brief court hearing.

Walker pleaded guilty to armed robbery charges last month and was due to be sentenced, and likely transferred to the Department of Corrections, on April 11.

In September 2013 Walker and an accomplice robbed a man in a McDonald's parking lot on Indian School, threatening him with a knife and an Airsoft gun, a type of replica toy gun that fires plastic BB's, according to court documents.

Walker and his accomplice demanded money from the man and took his iPhone, which they later tried to sell after they fled the scene, court documents show. He was charged with armed robbery.

It is the second murder Ward has been accused of in the past three weeks.

Police said Ward called 911 on March 12 from a convenience store and reported he had stabbed someone at a house off 35th Avenue south of Deer Valley Road.

Officers found Austin Tapia with multiple and fatal stab wounds when they arrived at the home at about 5:30 p.m.

Ward had blood on his clothing and was believed to be carrying a knife in his pants pocket when he was taken into custody at the convenience store, said Sgt. Steve Martos, a Phoenix police spokesman.

Police said Ward was alone with his brother, whose mother and two sisters were out to dinner.

Austin had decided to stay home.

Detectives said that when they asked Ward why he killed his brother he told them, "Honestly, I just felt like killing."

Court records suggest Ward struggled with drugs and alcohol.

In filing the probable-cause statement, police suggested Ward may be an addict and mentally ill and had asked to "go to (a) mental hospital" instead of jail when he called police.

The report said Ward's family reported that he suffered from depression and had a history of domestic violence in the home.

The family also said Ward had threatened them in the past and that his siblings had called the police on him before.

Ward's previous convictions included DUI, assault, marijuana possession and resisting arrest, according to court records.