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:

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Judge Wake re: Graves v Arpaio: jail medical care still sucks.

I heard some time ago that supervision of the MCSOs health and mental health care services for prisoners was going to be winding down due to their increasing compliance, though I kept hearing horror stories coming out of Joe's jails - like the young woman who lost her unborn child due to food poisoning last winter, soon before the men and women alike tried to launch a hunger strike to protest being fed garbage unfit for human consumption (Arpaio made it sound like they were just upset about going vegetarian - like they really wanted that green bologna and mystery meat back). 

The MCSO is also holding mentally ill children in solitary confinement - which has been shown to be devastating to such prisoners' mental health. I'd love to see the ACLU and Judge Wake take that one on next. Then again, maybe this current suit would cover solitary for those kids, if I can get evidence to the court that it's damaging already-compromised, mentally ill youth, and that their ultra-isolation isn't serving any penological interest. Hmm...

Also, check this link out in re the racial profiling lawsuit against Sheriff Joe and the MCSO, now under orders to reform by US District Judge Murray Snow:

"The ACLU of Arizona has launched a website, (in English)/ (in Spanish), so that the public can keep up with the court-ordered reforms of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office."

--------from the ACLU-AZ---------

Arpaio's Jails Ordered to Stop Endangering Prisoners' Health

Judge Finds Maricopa County Jails Fail to Provide Adequate Medical and Mental Health Care

September 30, 2014

Alexandra Ringe, ACLU national,
Steve Kilar, ACLU of Arizona, (602) 773-6007,

PHOENIX – More than four years after a federal judge put the Maricopa County jails operated by Sheriff Joseph Arpaio under court order for neglect of detainees, that same judge, Neil Wake, has ruled that the jails must remain under the order. Judge Wake found that the jails continue to provide detainees with inadequate medical and mental health care. The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Arizona showed during an evidentiary hearing that concluded in March that the scarcity and poor quality of the jails' medical and mental health care caused unnecessary suffering.

"Those in charge of Maricopa County's jails can no longer skirt their constitutional responsibility for detainees' health," said Eric Balaban, staff attorney for the ACLU's National Prison Project. "Judge Wake found severe problems with the jails' medical care, from intake to treatment. Detainees have had serious illnesses that the jails' staff missed or ignored, causing permanent injuries and even deaths. With today’s decision, every detainee at Maricopa County should have access to adequate medical and mental health care. At last."

In August 2013, Maricopa County commissioners and the Sheriff asked the court to lift the order placed on it in 2008 – an order which itself resulted from the jails' failure to provide constitutionally adequate health care and abide by the terms of a 1995 federal court order requiring improvements in health services.

As Balaban explained, "Last year, the Maricopa County jails requested an end to the 2008 court order, claiming that they'd done what was necessary for the detainees' mental and physical health. We said, 'Not so fast.' We investigated, bringing medical and mental health experts to the jail, and what we found showed Judge Wake that the jails have a long way to go before his order can be lifted."

In addition to the ACLU and the ACLU of Arizona, Osborne Maledon, P.A., has assisted on the case.

Read the ruling here:

Solidarity with the women of Perryville: Never Surrender.


(EDITED/UPDATED OCTOBER 16, 2014): Thanks for your prayers, people - the prisoner whose suicide attempt prompted this post survived and has recovered enough to return to Perryville's Special Needs unit, as of Oct 14th.

Last week, a dear friend of a dear friend was reported to have ended her life on Santa Cruz yard in Perryville prison. Over the weekend I learned a little about the kind of blessing this woman has been in the lives of  her friends and fellow prisoners, and determined to do something special to help remember her by.  As of 9/29 the DOC still hadn't posted her death notice, and her record on line only showed that she was sent out  to the hospital on  9/25. Sometimes the DOC is pretty slow on those, though, and I was pretty sure of my sources. So, first thing Monday morning I hit Central Office to build a memorial for her and the other women who have died by suicide or gross neglect under the Brewer/Ryan administration. There are quite a few, some whose names and stories I don't even know. Some stories  I am all too familiar with, though, like that of the beloved Gloria Rogers, whose suffering I'll write about more in due time...


Apparently none of this woman’s friends saw a suicide attempt coming, by the way - she had just been returned to prison in August, having relapsed since her parole last year. She had just done a decade behind bars, and was now looking a six more years in prison, away from her family, as was her partner in crime. But she was tough, and seemed like she could handle it. She was certainly plagued by her addictions, but those who contacted me about her didn't know of any serious mental health history that would suggest she was at risk for this. They felt completely blindsided, and devastated. Many successful suicides occur without clear warning, though.

Out of respect for her privacy and that of her family's, I'll defer naming this good soul until she recovers enough from this trauma to give her permission or tell her story herself - or until the DOC posts a death notice, if it turns out she passes away. Until then, those of you searching for what happened to your friend on Santa Cruz last week should just keep good thoughts in your hearts for her - she may yet be holding on. And be sure to take advantage of this time of uncertainty about her fate to tell those you love how much they mean to you - especially if they are struggling now, or in exile. You never know if you'll have the opportunity to do so tomorrow.

Finally, those of you who are  struggling yourselves with thoughts of ending your life because you're in or are facing prison: chances are, there are people in your life who need you nonetheless - they need you to make it through this, or your death will haunt them forever. And there may be others down the road you can help if you can figure out how to survive your ordeal now.  So, please don't take yourself out - study your rights, and become a thorn in the DOC's side instead. Whatever you do, don't do their dirty work for them.

My apologies to the working women from Perryville who received misinformation and probably had to clean up after me. I pray I never have cause to write that name on the sidewalk again. The Ghosts of Jan Brewer number far too many already…



Carpe Locus Collective  PO Box 7241 Tempe, AZ 85281

Helping prisoners assert their civil rights in custody, and survive their incarceration with self-help tips, copies of DOC policies and Jailhouse Lawyer Handbooks, and whatever else they can afford to mail. They meet every two weeks to answer letters.

“FREE VERSE” PO BOX 7241  Tempe, AZ 85281

The Carpe Locus Collective is also putting together a zine for distribution among prisoners, and are looking for art, poetry, essays, letters, etc. Right now they’re helping  transcribe a guide for new LGBT prisoners, written by my own correspondents as they were battling the DOC for their own survival. So think about what kind of collaboration you might want to have with these folks, and help them amplify the prisoner’s voice!

PS - TO PERRYVILLE PRISONERS: No matter who you are, or what kind of hell you’re going through, you don’t have to do it completely alone. If you need help dealing with feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and the thought that the world would be better off without you - or you without the rest of us, don’t surrender to your shame or your fear. Talk to someone who loves you to anchor you here, before you even think about leaving them that way.

Now, if you think you’re unloved or unlovable and have no one who cares if you live or die, go out and find someone who needs to be loved more than you do and love them as if your own life depends on it. They are probably in your life already. In short time, if you treat the rest of the people around you the same way - looking for ways to be a blessing in their lives, however small -  you’ll find that you have become a valued member of your community whose presence heals. Then, even if you expect to be buried in an orange jumpsuit someday, those feelings that nearly drove you to leave your children or sister or cellie grieving your suicide for a lifetime will no longer have room to dwell…

I promise you, that’s a much better way to be free.  

Take care of eachother, please.
   Peggy Plews

If you need help dealing with your own mental health crisis or that of a loved one, THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE is a free, 24/7 service that can provide suicidal persons or those around them with support, information and local resources.

800-273-TALK (8255)

Monday, September 22, 2014

ASPC-Winslow/Kaibab: Homicide of Fabian Lozano, 26.

UPDATE 9/23/14: 

Fabian's family reports that he was strangled to death by another prisoner at ASPC-Winslow after being denied Protective Custody three times...sounds like he fought for his life to the end.

There will be a car wash to try to raise funds for Fabian's funeral expenses on Saturday, September 27 from 8am-3pm in Mesa at the corner of Mesa Drive and Broadway - there's a tire shop across from the Circle K there that will host them. Please support. He left 4 kids behind, so they can use all the help we can give them.


Condolences to this young man's loved ones. If anyone knows anything about Fabian's life or death, please contact me at or PO Box 20494 Phoenix, AZ 85036.

If you are Fabian's family and need help getting records from the AZ DOC or contacting an attorney familiar with suing the state, please contact me as well - I'll do what I can to help. My name is Peggy Plews. My number is 480-580-6807.

Fabian Lozano, 26

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


(602) 542-3133


For Immediate Release

For more information contact:
Doug Nick
Bill Lamoreaux
Monday, September 22, 2014

WINSLOW, (Monday September 22, 2014) – Inmate Fabian Lozano, 26, ADC #260873, was pronounced deceased on September 19, 2014.  The cause of death is under investigation.

Lozano was sentenced out of Maricopa County and was serving one and a half years in prison for aggravated assault.  He returned to ADC custody on March 7, 2014 and was housed at ASPC – Winslow.

All inmate deaths are investigated in consultation with the county medical examiner’s office.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Parsons v Ryan: Experts report on Arizona's Other Death Row...

Per the ACLU of Arizona: "Every week, on average, a patient who has been neglected or mistreated dies in the Arizona prison system..."

Thank you, ACLU and Prison Law Office, as well as the folks at Perkins Coie and Jones Day, and the AZ Center for Disability Law for fighting Parsons v Ryan.  Thanks as well to Wendy Halloran at KPNX/Channel 12 News, and Bob Ortega at the Arizona Republic for exposing the AZ DOC's and their medical care providers' failings.
I urge all of you who are helping prisoners fight Corizon now for their medical care to read these reports (links are here). There may be something in there your loved ones can use for their own cases - after all, its the pattern of deliberate indifference that makes  the AZ DOC director personally responsible for their suffering, even if he didn't know about them individually or their conditions. 

  Along those lines, prisoners really need to follow the AZ DOC's medical grievance policy (DO 802) to the letter if they are going to get any help, so download and study that policy first, yourselves, and send them a copy. Send them this one as well, DO 1101 on accessing health care services. Then send them this thing, the Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook from the National Lawyers' Guild. It'll tell them why they need to file grievances and what to do when they don't get the answers they need.

If you need more info on strategies for fighting DOC and Corizon, check out this newsletter and these blog posts:

Corizon's deliberate indifference: fighting back. (Thursday, May 30, 2013)

Corizon and the AZ DOC: Prisoners & Families, Know Your Rights. (Tuesday, March 5, 2013)

 a loving sister remembering Nelson Douglas Johnson, one of many AZ DOC prisoners
 who committed suicide in solitary confinement under Jan Brewer's administration...

Here's also a list of civil suit attorneys that I know have sued the AZ DOC before, as well as a few other resources. Now, that's not an endorsement of anyone in particular - check them out yourselves. Just make sure you get someone who understands prison law - it's really not like any other civil litigation.

The class action suit is scheduled to go to trial on October 21, 2014 in US District Court in Phoenix, so plan to be with us that week, at least!!!

---------from the ACLU of Arizona---------

Arizona Prisons’ Widespread Failings Detailed 
in Newly Released Reports

 Healthcare in Arizona Department of Corrections Facilities 
Does Not Meet Minimum Standards, Experts Find 

Sept. 9, 2014 

CONTACT: Steve Kilar, ACLU of Arizona, 602-773-6007,

PHOENIX – Nearly two dozen expert reports that detail widespread problems with the Arizona Department of Corrections’ healthcare system, as well as its use of solitary confinement, were made public late Monday. 

“I observed locked, dark and empty rooms that I was told were exam rooms, but lacked basic medical equipment,” wrote Dr. Robert Cohen, an expert in correctional medicine, in one of his reports (11/8/13 report, page 5). “Medical equipment was broken, covered in dust, and in some cases based on logs attached to them, had not been repaired or checked in more than a decade.” 

Dr. Cohen found that almost half of people who died “natural deaths” while in ADC’s care over a six-month period received “grossly deficient” medical care (2/24/14 report, pages 1-2). Every week, on average, a patient who has been neglected or mistreated dies in the Arizona prison system, according to these expert reports. 

“In some of these cases, the poor care clearly caused or hastened their death,” Dr. Cohen wrote (2/24/14 report, page 1-2). “It is alarming that almost half of the natural deaths occurring during the brief half year period under review would reveal such significant problems with delivery of basic medical services.” 

Dr. Cohen uncovered shocking delays in treatment including the case of a 38-year-old prisoner whose death from cancer was avoidable according to ADC’s own documents (2/24/14 report, pages 19-25). Another prisoner died of untreated lung cancer after being accused by nurses of lying about his medical condition; they said in his medical records that he was “playing games” and “seeking attention” (2/24/14 report, pages 25-32). A 24-year-old man died of AIDS-related pneumonia after his AIDS went undiagnosed and untreated for a year, despite his pleas for HIV tests and treatment, Dr. Cohen found (2/24/14 report, page 52). 

These are not isolated cases. Dr. Cohen’s findings, and the findings of the plaintiffs’ other experts, point to systemic deficiencies in ADC’s healthcare. 

“[T]here were multiple cases in which the lapses were so shocking and dangerous that I felt ethically obligated as a medical professional to bring them to the immediate attention of the ADC and Corizon staff,” Dr. Cohen said (11/8/13 report, page 4). Corizon is the company contracted by the state to provide healthcare to prisoners. 

The other experts made equally damning discoveries. The 23 expert reports, which were previously confidential, were made public yesterday pursuant to a court order in anticipation of an October trial relating to ADC’s failure to provide more than 33,000 prisoners in 10 prisons healthcare and conditions of confinement that meet constitutional standards. 

“[T]he chronic shortage of mental health staff, delays in providing or outright failure to provide mental health treatment, the gross inadequacies in the provision of psychiatric medications, and the other deficiencies identified in this report are statewide systemic problems, and prisoners who need mental health care have already experienced, and will experience, a serious risk of injury to their health if these problems are not addressed,” wrote Dr. Pablo Stewart, another expert hired by plaintiffs’ counsel to tour ADC’s prisons and review prisoners’ medical records, in one of his reports (11/8/13 report, page 10). 

Dr. Stewart, a psychiatry professor with expertise in prison mental health care, uncovered numerous preventable suicides by prisoners, lengthy and serious delays in care, insufficient and unlicensed staff and inadequate medication protocols. One prisoner hanged himself after ADC neglected to give him his prescribed mood stabilizing drugs for more than three weeks, Dr. Stewart found (11/8/13 report, pages 21-23). 

The reports also detail significant, dangerous problems with ADC’s use of solitary confinement. Some people, for instance, are put in isolation simply because other beds are full (Vail 11/8/13 report, page 9). Mentally ill prisoners are often isolated because ADC does not have treatment alternatives, according to one expert (Vail 11/8/13 report, page 13). 

“[T]he ADC health care delivery system is fundamentally broken and is among the worst prison health care systems I have encountered,” Dr. Cohen wrote (11/8/13 report, page 3). “[U]nless ADC dramatically reverses its course, it will continue to operate in a way that harms patients by denying them necessary care for serious medical conditions.” 

Plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit, Parsons v. Ryan, are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, the ACLU of Arizona, the Prison Law Office, Jones Day, Perkins Coie LLP and the Arizona Center for Disability Law. 

A trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 21. More expert reports will be made public prior to the trial. 

The complete reports now available can be found here. Reporters can email the ACLU of Arizona to request report summaries.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Pink underwear kills: Sheriff Joe settles with family of Eric Vogel.

Whatever BS rationalization Arpaio uses for employing the color pink in his jails, its used in an overtly misogynistic, homophobic way - to humiliate the male prisoners, mainly. His policies and practices around the dressing of prisoners not only perpetuates harmful stereotypes, at the very least; the forced dressing in "feminine" clothes  even terrified Eric Vogel to death. Too bad they didn't challenge the constitutionality of Arpaio's treatment of all prisoners, at the same time, as this settlement doesn't set any precedent that could force Arpaio to change policies.  Shame on the Maricopa County voters who have fueled that idiot's fires and kept him in power. I hope Eric Vogel's family get millions.

The lawyers in this case were Robbins and Curtin, if you need one to sue either the MCSO or the State of Arizona on behalf of a victim of police or prison violence. They often win.

Joe Arpaio's armored car stalked and chalked
at the PHOENIX 2012 Veterans Day Parade

Chicago Tribune 
September 8, 2014

(Reuters) - An attorney for the estate of a mentally ill inmate who sued an Arizona county after being forcibly dressed in pink underwear by jail officers said on Monday they will settle the case.

Lawyers for Eric Vogel's estate and the county of Maricopa told the court on Friday both sides had reached an agreement, plaintiff attorney Joel Robbins said. Robbins declined on Monday to provide further detail on the settlement, which needs to be approved by county officials.

The pink underwear for male jail inmates policy is a controversial part of firebrand Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's anti-crime policies. The sheriff was listed as a defendant in the case, which was filed in April 2007.

Officers arrested Vogel in November 2001 for assaulting a policeman. Health workers at the jail determined Vogel had mental problems and needed psychiatric care, court records show.

The inmate resisted the pink underwear policy at the jail, and screamed that the officers who held him down and forcibly dressed him were raping him, according to court documents.

"The fact that they had wrestled this man, screaming that he was being raped, those are the things that kind of added up to what we believe was deliberate indifference," Robbins said.

Vogel died of acute cardiac arrhythmia weeks later, after running miles from the scene of a minor car accident, fearing that he would be arrested again, court documents show.

The county is scheduled to hold a board of supervisors meeting on Wednesday to discuss the agreement, according to court records.

In 2012, the federal 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Arpaio's policy may be unconstitutional when applied to prisoners who had not been convicted of a crime.

Two members of a three-judge appeal panel raised the issue while ruling for the majority in a related lawsuit against Arpaio and Maricopa County. But they stopped short of striking down the underwear practice, saying it had not been formally challenged by plaintiffs in the case.

Writing for the majority, a 9th Circuit judge said that the U.S. Supreme Court allowed jail officials to use unpleasant measures so long as they served a legitimate purpose, such as the safety of the institution.

But he noted the Supreme Court also ruled that arbitrary requirements may be construed as punishments, which could not be imposed on people who had not been found guilty of a crime.

Arpaio has come under fire by the U.S. Justice Department for a crackdown on illegal immigration that the government said involved racial profiling.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Sandra Maler)

Monday, September 8, 2014


a free Marcia Powell in 2008
 on Van Buren and 16th st, downtown Phoenix
Photo by Gary Millard

As many of my friends in Phoenix know, from time to time over the course of the past few years an awesome Australian filmmaker by the name of PJ Starr has come out to visit me and film area activists for her documentary about the death of Marcia Powell - the catalyst for Arizona Prison Watch to be born in the summer of 2009. 

Well, folks, it's finally almost done. We need some help to finish it, though, so please give if you can - there's an Indigogo fund set up for it, and we can really use your help. The title of the film comes from a time when the cops would document homicide victims as being male or female; in the case of prostitutes, however, they would write "NO HUMAN INVOLVED".

Here's PJ talking about "No Human Involved", along with the trailer - it looks really compelling. 

Thanks to Ruth Jacobs for this interview.

Please help Free Marcia Powell, and visit the Indigogo page...


‘No Human Involved’: Filmmaker PJ Starr Discusses Her Documentary Telling Marcia Powell’s Story

PJ Starr Photograph by Mike Shipley taken during filming
PJ Starr – picture taken during filming
Photo credit: Mike Shipley

Can you tell me about your current project No Human Involved?

In 2009 my friend and colleague Cris Sardina (who is now the co-coordinator of the Desiree Alliance) sent me an email about the death of Marcia Powell in Perryville Prison outside of Phoenix, Arizona. Marcia had been serving a 27 month sentence for solicitation of prostitution and corrections officers had left her out in the sun in a metal cage in searing heat until she collapsed. Soon after, in hospital her life was ended when the Director of Arizona Department of Corrections removed her from life support.

Cris Sardina of Desiree Alliance holding pictures of Marcia Powell
Photo credit: PJ Starr

Cris Sardina of Desiree Alliance holding pictures of Marcia Powell Photo credit: PJ StarrAfter reading about what happened, Marcia’s story was always with me.

Later in 2010 at the Filmmakers’ Collaborative at the Maysles Institute in Harlem, NYC, I began to develop the idea of investigating Marcia’s case as a potential documentary film. Many of my peers at Maysles—who were people with a lot of community organizing knowledge already—were quite astounded by the sentence she was serving and what had happened to her. I knew then that documenting what had happened to Marcia Powell could be a vital step in educating the general public about the real harms caused to people in the sex trade by the prison industrial complex.

It was a departure for me to embark on this documentary for a wide range of reasons. In 2010 I didn’t know anyone in Phoenix, I wasn’t acquainted with the organizing there and I didn’t know Marcia personally either. My previous work had always been with folks I had known for years. But my film mentor Carol Leigh encouraged me to try this new step and connected me to several key activists in Phoenix, most importantly with Peggy Plews of Arizona Prison Watch. In March of 2011, I visited Peggy and several other the local activists to ask if they thought the film should be made and if my approach appealed to them. I knew from being involved in grassroots organizing that so often “outside experts” suck the energy out of community to “tell a news story” or make a film and this was something I wanted to avoid doing. Everything fell into place during that first journey, we all were on the same page. People were also beginning to reflect on how Marcia’s death had set a series of events in motion and wanted to talk about that in the context of a documentary.
Marcia Powell - Peggy's Chalking
What do you hope this project will achieve?

Chalking by Peggy Plews of Arizona Prison Watch

I want people to understand that what happened to Marcia can happen again. The film is not about an isolated, shocking incident (even though the case is horrific), rather it explores an example that exposes the system. As a member of Phoenix Food Not Bombs said at Marcia’s memorial service in 2009, “this has happened before, it will happen again, it happens to men, women and transgender people.” There is a mistaken belief amongst concerned people out there that somehow going to prison can “turn someone’s life around” and help people “escape” prostitution or drug use. So, the first part of the message of NO HUMAN INVOLVED is that prison is not safe, you don’t get comprehensive services there, you are dehumanized. If you are a woman who doesn’t conform to a very narrow set of gender norms set out in prison, you are at greater risk, or if you are trans, or queer, or if you have a mental health issue. The second part is that a web of terrible laws and policies—ranging from statutes to prevent walking and sleeping in public space and surviving through sex work—are sending people to prison for very long periods of time under mandatory sentencing. And to spell out the point, I think there are many, many people in the general public who want women like Marcia to “be helped” but they don’t yet understand the real functioning of the law, how policing happens, what happens to you in the court room and the system that classifies you once you are inside a prison. NO HUMAN INVOLVED unpacks all of this step by step so that audiences can think differently about what needs to change. The film is also raises awareness about the sheer numbers of people being arrested under the current criminalization of the sex trade in Arizona and the sheer numbers of people being placed in jails and prisons for doing what they need to live.

Can you share about the research you’ve undertaken to get this off the ground?

When I first started developing the film idea in 2010 and early 2011, I read a lot of online materials and reports about Marcia’s death. Since then the ACLU Arizona has published some very important documents about the experiences of prisoners that also form background information for the film. Over time NO HUMAN INVOLVED has evolved into very much a community project. Even though I have experience in doing research, finding accurate information relating to incarceration has been a learning curve and I am in awe of what folks in Phoenix can do. A colleague in Arizona has shown me how to request extremely detailed information from Arizona Department of Corrections and my good friend Monica Jones not only explained how the courts function in Arizona but encouraged me to find recordings and video tapes of Marcia’s court appearances. Kini Seawright (of the Seawright Prison Justice Project), has helped me seek out connections in the activist community to find people who personally knew Marcia. Kini keeps me putting my heart into the film. I’ve spoken to scores of people to record background interviews, including some with amazing women who were in Perryville with Marcia who have shared about who she was and how she was treated. I’ve met and interviewed people from the corrections system and a local filmmaker gave me truly vital original footage of Charles Ryan (the director of the Department of Corrections) speaking about the case at a memorial for Marcia organized by activists in 2009. In order to document how the community has responded in the years since Marcia’s death, I’ve attended (and filmed) church services, memorials, meetings at local women’s groups, rallies, actions, I’ve filmed (with permission) in the court and spoken to law enforcement. I’ve seen (and documented) the emergence of SWOP Phoenix as a presence to challenge the policing practices that put Marcia on that path to Perryville Prison.

What stage is the project at currently?

I am working with a very dedicated editor in the NYC area on the second cut of the film. Once we have enough funding, we will refine it, and create the DVD to begin the film’s distribution. As with most films these days NO HUMAN INVOLVED has been a labor of love (ie unfunded) but there are certain things such as mastering the DVD that I need to have done professionally in order to get Marcia’s story the attention it deserves.

Are you looking for people to be involved?

If folks are on social media they should follow/like the NO HUMAN INVOLVED project on Facebook and Twitter or send me an email to get updates as the film is completed and released. Currently I am hosting the first online fundraiser I have ever done to support one of my own creative projects to raise what we need for the absolutely essential things that a really polished documentary needs. Donations are tax deductible and every cent will be going back to support the film.

In the future as we plan actions and connect to campaigns related to the film, there will be many other things for people to engage with so please find a way to get in touch. I am also always happy to share what I have learned with others in the community so if a reader wants support in developing a rights based project related to the theme of NO HUMAN INVOLVED then I am happy to do as much as I can to share information, skills and connections.

Who is the target audience and what message do you want them to take away with them?

With this film I am taking a step out to interface with people who may know a little about the impact of incarceration but who have not yet had a chance to connect the dots about anti-prostitution policies, policing, the prison industrial complex and people in the community who also happen to be engaged (or profiled as engaging) in sex work. And even though as rights based activists we have collectively made enormous strides in explaining all of this, I am sure that there is a very large number of people out there who want to do the right thing by the communities of people mentioned in the film (sex workers, people with mental health issues, people with experiences of incarceration) but need more information. The film is a rights project engaging with the audience to explain that prisons are not a solution and that human rights, not “rescue” by the police, are what work best. The phrase “no human involved” indicates that the powers that be are not interested in investigating violence committed against certain groups of people because their lives are considered unimportant. The documentary NO HUMAN INVOLVED reaffirms Marcia’s humanity and is an investigation of its own kind. Finally, the phrase “free Marcia Powell” (first used by Peggy Plews of Arizona Prison Watch) is repeated throughout the film and will anchor social media strategies in a call for liberation of Marcia’s spirit and all those who are still incarcerated.

What are your plans for the future? 

Once NO HUMAN INVOLVED is completed, I will turn my activist attention to ensuring the film leads to the change that we intend. But I am also beginning to work on another project with Monica and some other people in Phoenix.

Where can people find out more about your project?

I am keeping updates flowing very regularly on Facebook and Twitter, and the film is currently fiscally sponsored as a Women Make Movies project.

Recommended websites/further reading:

I highly recommend checking out Peggy Plews writing at Arizona Prison Watch.

The book Women’s Resistance Behind Bars by Victoria Law illustrates how women in prisons seek justice and is essential reading. Victoria is also an advisor to NO HUMAN INVOLVED. Victoria and colleagues at Truthout also provide an instructive commentary on documentary and journalist portrayals of prisoners at a 2014 panel discussion at the Left Forum in NYC. They describe what works and what undermines activism and recommend some excellent films to view as well.

For very honest and insightful information from someone who has worked within the Department of Corrections at a senior level, I recommend the various writings of Carl Toersbijns.

To support the final phase of producing the documentary NO HUMAN INVOLVED click here to donate to the Indiegogo campaign.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Corizon Deaths in Custody: Suicide of John Kahler, 51.

Another suicide, this one at ASPC-Tucson/Cimarron (a pretty rough yard, by all accounts). All I can tell you about John Kahler is that while he was being held in the county jail, pending trial, he was deemed incompetent to aid in his defense ( I suspect he was symptomatic when he committed his crime, and should maybe not even have been prosecuted...). Within days of being found competent, he pled guilty to get the hell out of the Maricopa County jail - and got placed on mental health probation. It appears he planned to do his four years in Montana, but he apparently violated his probation within a short period of time, pleading guilty during a "group advisement" - he was immediately sent to prison by Commissioner J. Justin McGuire, it appears, no discussion

How sad they couldn't give him another chance. That 5 year prison stint became a death sentence, as John was only in the custody of the AZ DOC less than 2 months before killing himself...and based on all the mail and calls I get about Corizon's poor mental health care, I'd bet they weren't treating his mental illness appropriately. He must have felt terribly alone, if his family was back in Montana.

Condolences to John's loved ones. If anyone knows anything more about his life or death, please contact me. I am Peggy Plews at

john kahler, 51


(602) 542-3133


For Immediate Release

For more information contact:
Doug Nick
Bill Lamoreaux

Friday, September 05, 2014

Inmate Death Notification

TUCSON (Friday, September 05, 2014) – An inmate at the Tucson prison complex has died as the result of an apparent suicide.

51 year-old John Kahler, ADC# 292841, was found unresponsive in his housing location at approximately 8:50 AM.  Officers immediately responded and began lifesaving measures which were continued by paramedics.  Kahler was later pronounced deceased at a local hospital.

Kahler was serving a five year sentence out of Maricopa County on a conviction for arson of an occupied structure, and had been in ADC custody since July, 2014.

All deaths are investigated in consultation with the county medical examiner’s office.