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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AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Deliberate indifference to addiction: AZ DOC treats only a fraction of their prisoners.

According to the AZ Department of Corrections, of the roughly 60,000 people who were cycled through our state prison system last year, only 3,175 got any kind of substance abuse treatment. How is that something to brag about, when the DOC themselves say that 75% of new arrivals come due to substance abuse problems? That's a treatment enrollment rate of something like 5% of prisoners, and there's no indication of what their success rate is for those who go through their programs. I mean, really: that's supposed to be some kind of "great achievement"?

I really feel for all the folks who develop new heroin and meth addictions behind bars due largely to the despair and tedium, with the lack of any meaningful activity. DOC knows about their drug epidemic behind bars, but simply puts prisoners in the hole when they get busted with dirty urines or need to leave a yard due to a drug debt - never offering them treatment options. This press release below, I suspect, is actually a response to my repeated criticisms of the AZ DOC's lack of treatment for addictions, and their waning support for even allowing 12 step groups to come in and help. 

Below is an example of one of my recent complaints to AZ DOC Director Charles Ryan about a young mentally ill/addicted prisoner who needs protective segregation due to being targeted for extortion after he got into trouble with drug debts and chased off a yard. I was pretty angry when I wrote it...

"Director Ryan:                                                                                              July 24, 2014

I have written to you previously about XX. According to Ms. Crabtree's email below, the AZ DOC is knowingly returning this dually-diagnosed young man to a hostile situation where he will likely be again victimized, his family having already been targeted for extortion that clearly is organized across the prison system, and extends beyond collections on the original drug debts. That's deliberate indifference to this prisoner's safety, as well as to his mother's.


Based on Ms. Crabtree's report alone of this guy's issues (my own assessment as emailed to you June 17 was much more thorough),  the DOC has a duty to at LEAST provide this young man with meaningful substance abuse treatment and a relatively clean and sober living environment - are folks you capable of doing that much? Is there ANYWHERE in the DOC system where this kid has a real chance to make it? Or do you plan to house him on a yard where he can more easily obtain heroin than a job or psychiatric and substance abuse treatment? What will you do to assure X is able to get the support he needs to resist or avoid the proliferation of drugs, despair, and gang violence in your system? And what has your Criminal Investigations Unit done to investigate the extortion attempts his mother has reported? X's mother is in the CC line and I believe she at least deserves a reply to those concerns. So do those legislators in the cc who are supposed to represent her interests.

Thank you for your time and attention to this prisoner's safety and welfare.

Margaret Plews"

(Ryan ignored this email, needless to say - but his media people sure didn't! 
Gotta make it look good, now, because the above email was cc'ed to some legislators...)

---------from the AZ DOC website----------


(602) 542-3133


For Immediate Release

      For more information contact:
Doug Nick
Bill Lamoreaux
Wednesday, August 13, 2014


PHOENIX (Wednesday, August 13, 2014) - More than three-thousand inmates successfully completed addiction or DUI treatment programs provided by the Arizona Department of Corrections in the most recent fiscal year, which ended June 30.

In that period, 2,052 inmates concluded various substance abuse treatment programs, and another 1,123 inmates finished Level I and Level II DUI treatment programs.

“Addiction treatment programs are vital to the work of the Department of Corrections,” said Director Charles Ryan.  “Typically in recent years, more than 20 percent of the inmates incarcerated in ADC facilities have been committed for a drug-related offense.  Many other crimes can be traced to some involvement with illicit substances.  And we are all familiar with the tragic consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  Therefore, it is very important that substance abuse treatment programs are made available, and that they are effective.”

Arizona is among a small number of states in which all inmate addiction treatment groups are provided by licensed substance abuse counselors.

Karen Hellman, the department’s Counseling and Treatment Services Administrator, notes this is an essential component to the program’s success. “It’s essential to have professional counselors who can work through the treatment process with the inmates,” she said.  “In order for inmates to transition back to society, as we expect them to do, they need the best possible assistance, and using licensed counselors goes a long way to reaching that goal.  Having more than two-thousand inmates complete this important step for addiction treatment and another 1,100 for DUI programming in the past fiscal year is a great achievement.”

Addiction treatment programs operate on a six or 12 month timetable and require inmates to participate in two hour sessions twice a week.