I began this blog in May 2009 following the death of Marcia Powell at Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona. It is not intended to prescribe the path that leads to freedom from the prison industrial complex.

Rather, these are just my observations in arguably the most racist, fascist, militaristic state in the nation at a critical time in history for a number of intersecting liberation movements. From Indigenous resistance to genocidal practices, to the fight over laws like SB1070 and the ban on Ethnic Studies, Arizona is at the center of many battles for human rights, and thus the struggle for prison abolition as well - for none are free until all are. I retired the blog in APRIL 2013.

Visit me now at Arizona Prison Watch or Survivors of Prison Violence-AZ

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Deaths in Custody: Rosario Rodriguez-Bojorquez, 29

UPDATE: I  received a letter a couple of weeks after this suicide from a guy in the same cell block as Rosario, who saw his body get carted out when he died. He said Rosario had just been told that his application for protective custody was denied before he hung himself. The ADC doesn't routinely debrief traumatized prisoners after someone is murdered or kills themselves inside, so it's no surprise that another prisoner at ASPC-FLorence who was seeking protection - Duron Cunningham - hung himself a week later.

If Rosario's family is out there and needing any support or assistance at all, please contact me. I'm no mental health professional or lawyer, but I will do whatever I can to help the survivors of prison violence, neglect and suicide. My name is Peggy Plews, my number is 480-580-6807, and my email address is


(602) 542-3133


NEWS RELEASE For Immediate Release

For more information contact:

Barrett Marson

Bill Lamoreaux
Sept. 27, 2010

Inmate Death Notification

Florence, Az- Inmate Rosario Rodriguez-Bojorquez, ADC#256497, died while in Arizona Department of Corrections custody Friday after apparently committing suicide.

Rodriguez-Bojorquez, 29, came to ADC on Sept. 3, after a conviction from Maricopa County for aggravated assault, kidnapping and 1st degree burglary. He was serving 12 years and housed at the Central Unit of ASPC-Florence.

The death is under investigation by the Department.

National Lawyers Guild Hotline

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 28, 2010

New York
--The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and its Mass Defense Committee provides legal defense and educational resources to activists, including those subjected to the September 24 raids and grand jury subpoenas in Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois. The Guild denounces the attacks on free speech, freedom of association, and the right to dissent that these actions represent. The raids and summonses reflect escalating hostility toward individuals and groups working in solidarity with the Palestinian and Colombian people and are blatantly political attacks on peaceful activists.

National Lawyers Guild lawyers, in their continuing efforts to protect the right to dissent, are coordinating defense of these activists. The NLG offers several resources for activists who are subject to similarly aggressive and politically motivated breaches of their rights.

NLG Hotline:


-A hotline for U.S. activists who have been contacted by the FBI. Callers are matched with NLG defense attorneys in their states who have experience dealing with similar cases.

Know Your Rights Brochure:

-A two-page brochure that summarizes the rights of citizens when they are contacted or stopped by the police or federal authorities. Available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Farsi and Punjabi.

Operation Backfire:

-A booklet that discusses government attacks on activists and subsequent prosecutions. Available for free download.

The National Lawyers Guild recommends that activists consult and make use of these resources. The Guild advises anyone visited by the FBI to assert your right not to answer any questions, to get the card of the FBI agent and state that you will have an attorney contact the agent on your behalf.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Remembering murdered prisoners and their families

Today is the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims. The victims' rights organizations that assured this day would be recognized and murder victims remembered have done a good job of representing families destroyed by homicide.

My job, however, is to remember those families of prisoners killed in the care of the state who don't even have the standing as "victims" under our state constitution. Marcia Powell didn't even earn standing as a "victim", for all the suffering she went through before her death. I imagine that's so the state doesn't admit liability for neglect by acknowledging the special class of victims they create through neglect and abuse. Maybe if our constitution inferred that the same level of humanity exists in "people in custody for an offense" they wouldn't be getting killed by the desert in outdoor cages or ignored when being mutilated by cellmates so often.

A couple of these men were themselves in prison for murder or had otherwise seriously harmed others, but not most of them. None were sentenced to be executed. I have heard from or read messages left by many of their traumatized loved ones - their families were destroyed once by their convictions and imprisonment, now again by their murders.

I've also read a bit by family members of their victims, and from the victims of others. These deaths often open wounds for them, as well, including those not yet healed. I hope this doesn't have that effect for any of them.

I'll put together a later piece with links to relevant documents or blog posts on each of the murders I've researched. Today I'm just remembering homicide victims in prison, not what they did to get there. On some level, the public has already bargained that most prisoners get what they have coming to them. They don't. Most of the truly evil criminals aren't even in prison - some are actually running this show. A lot of people go to prison who never should have because they're just too poor to fight it.

I've decided that I'm going to ask the victims' rights organizations for help on this issue. Prisoners deserve safety, too, and are far too vulnerable to victimization - especially those who have been abused and exploited already.

I need to run this final list by the AZ Department of Corrections Monday to see if they can give me any more information from their own investigations, as the media did almost no follow-up on any of the ADC reports. I have more posts following the Hawaiian prison homicides than I do on the Arizona ones. This is a high prison homicide rate (national average 4/100,000 state prisoners per year), regardless on how those suspicious deaths pan out. The Phoenix New Times did good coverage of this issue after the four in 2008 - I hope someone in the media picks it up again.

The prisoner homicides that have been reported by the Arizona Department of Corrections in the past nine months alone follow. Our condolences to their loved ones. Please contact me if you want to share your story, connect with other prisoners' families, or think there's anything else I might be able to do.

If you contact the Department of Justice about your loved one's homicide, address your correspondence (always keep a copy; I certify my mail them, too) to:

Judy Preston, Acting Director
US DOJ Civil Rights Division
Special Litigation Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, PHB
Washington, D.C. 20530

Please specify that you want a CRIPA investigation into your loved one's death and the pattern of homicides and suicides at the AZ Department of Corrections, as well as into the death of Marcia Powell.

Anyone can write to them, by the way, and support a CRIPA investigation for us as easily as this:

1. Print out this blog post, and write "PLEASE CRIPA this state!" across the top. Also write in your own name and contact info.

2. Photocopy your final work, then put it in an envelope.

3. Address the envelope to the DOJ.

4. Put appropriate postage on the original and mail it.

It would be a big bonus if you send me a copy of your CRIPA request so I can post that here, too. All my contact info is in the column to the side.


- Peg


Prisoners Murdered in the Care of the State of Arizona, 2010.
National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims (September 25, 2010).

Shannon Palmer, 40 (9/10/10) ASPC-Lewis/Buckley Transitional

Dana Seawright, 26 (7/7/2010) ASPC-Lewis/Stiner

Albert Tsosi, 35, (6/16/2010) ASPC-Lewis/Rast

Alexandru Usurelu, 23 (1/25/10) ASPC-Eyman/SMU

Ulises Rodriguez, 22 (1/25/2010) ASPC-Tucson/Cimmaron

Also reported as suspicious in that time with no media follow-up:

Carl Cresong, 49 (1/3/2010) ASPC-Lewis/Buckley

Christopher Francis, 39 (8/17/2010) -ASPC-Lewis/Stiner

Armando Lugo, 36 (3/26/2010) - ASPC-Lewis/Morey

Franklin Leverette 60 (9/15/2010) - Central Arizona Correctional Facility


This does not count the Hawaiian prisoners in the custody of CCA facilities in Arizona, as they are not prisoners of the AZ Department of Corrections. The people of Hawaii are welcome to contact me, however, if you're organizing to have some of your prisoners sent home - and all of them kept safe. You clearly can't count on your government officials to act in victimized prisoners' or their families best interests - though at least your media has been covering the murders more closely. There's also that little thing about subjecting your citizens to the death penalty - if it's okay in Arizona, why not bring it to the Islands?

I'd really like to hear from some of you out there. Contact me at (phone 480-580-6807).

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fight Back News: More FBI Raids on Peace Activists.

Activists Denounce FBI Raids on Anti-war and Solidarity Activists Homes

Subpoenas, Searches, and FBI visits carried out in cities across the country-
Fight Back News, By Staff
September 24, 2010
Read more articles in

We denounce the Federal Bureau of Investigation harassment of anti-war and solidarity activists in several states across the country. The FBI began turning over six houses in Chicago and Minneapolis this morning, Friday, September 24, 2010, at 8:00 am central time. The FBI handed subpoenas to testify before a federal grand jury to about a dozen activists in Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan. They also attempted to intimidate activists in California and North Carolina.

"The government hopes to use a grand jury to frame up activists. The goal of these raids is to harass and try to intimidate the movement against U.S. wars and occupations, and those who oppose U.S. support for repressive regimes," said Colombia solidarity activist Tom Burke, one of those handed a subpoena by the FBI. "They are designed to suppress dissent and free speech, to divide the peace movement, and to pave the way for more U.S. military intervention in the Middle East and Latin America."

This suppression of democratic rights is aimed towards those who dedicate much of their time and energy to supporting the struggles of the Palestinian and Colombian peoples against U.S. funded occupation and war. The activists are involved with well-known anti-war groups including many of the leaders of the huge protest against the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, MN in September 2008. The FBI agents emphasized that the grand jury was going to investigate the activists for possible terrorism charges. This is a U.S. government attempt to silence those who support resistance to oppression in the Middle East and Latin America.

The activists involved have done nothing wrong and are refusing to be pulled into conversations with the FBI about their political views or organizing against war and occupation. The activists are involved with many groups, including: the Palestine Solidarity Group, Students for a Democratic Society, the Twin-Cities Anti-War Committee, the Colombia Action Network, the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, and the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera (a Colombian Political Prisoner).

Steff Yorek, a long-time antiwar activist and one of the activists whose homes was searched, called the raids “An outrageous fishing expedition.”

We urge all progressive activists to show solidarity with those individuals targeted by the U.S. Government. Activists have the right not to speak with the FBI and are encouraged to politely refuse, just say “No”.

Please contact or if you would like to provide support to the targeted activists.

Neglect at the ADC: Special Litigation needed.

Hey all,

Here's what I'm sending off to Judy Preston at the Department of Justice's Special Litigation Section in the
Civil Rights Division re: a couple of CRIPA complaints. Here's what they did recently about Erie County's jail and the suicide rate I put up that Mother Jones article on a couple of weeks ago.

If you want to print out any or all of the posts below and/or newspaper articles about what's been happening in the prisons and send them to the DOJ and the AZ ACLU (addresses below) it may help move things along.

I'm keeping the letter accompanying this confidential since it references specific prisoners, but I'm posting the rest of this packet up here so pretty much anyone can pick up wherever I leave off - I'm researching the ADC homicides now to send in.


Arizona DOC: Image is Job 1. Prisoners are expendable. 1/17/2010

Governor Brewer: Help Prisoner Tripati. 1/17/2010

Shannon Palmer: Criminalization, victimization, and the damage done


The restoration of Jerry Kulp. 9/23/2010

Shannon Palmer's murder: prisoners at risk. 9/13/2010

Prisoner Patrick Lee Ross' tragic death: more to the story 9/7/2010

Perryville SOS: Critical conditions for seriously ill women. 9/10/2010

ASPC-Tucson: Prisoners neglected in cages, again. 9/7/2010

ASPC-Tucson: The death of Tom Reed. 7/08/2010

Despair Behind Bars: Suicide in Arizona Prisons 9/10/2010


Judy Preston, Acting Chief
Special Litigation Section - DOJ, Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, PHB
Washington, D.C. 20530

(877) 218-5228
(202) 514-6258

American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona
P.O. Box 17148
Phoenix, AZ 85011
(602) 650-1854

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The restoration of Jerry Kulp.

APRIL: Please contact me about Jerry. We need to keep this from happening again...


(APRIL 13, 2011)

I looked and looked this week for memories in the ether from Jerry Kulp's short life. All I could find were his court and ADC papers. Jerry was a 17-year old prisoner on the Minors Unit at ASPC-Tucson last May when he committed suicide.

Jerry hadn't even been in prison a week; he must have just been terrified.
How could anyone on the Minors Unit miss all the signs he must have been broadcasting that he wasn't going to last long inside?

Jerry wasn't a gang member, from what I can tell. He was a seriously mentally ill child. He was only 15 when charged as an adult, at which time he was so mentally impaired that he required a guardian to make his legal decisions for him, and had to undergo several rounds of competency exams and "restoration treatment" in Joe's Jail over the course of 6-9 months to be fit for trial.

Does anyone else out there find that troubling? There seems to be a pattern here with mentally ill people being inappropriately prosecuted - kept in jail the whole time their trials are being postponed - (as if they already know that they're guilty and doing the time anyway) - while they medicate them into health. Once so restored, they promptly plead guilty to get out of there, and get sent to prison where they end up neglected or assaulted and killed.

I can't believe we prosecuted a mentally incompetent child as an adult, and then threw him into prison, but I guess we do that all the time. That can't possibly be legal. Why was this kid sent to prison instead of to a hospital, anyway? To teach him some kind of lesson? He seems to have suffered plenty enough. To scare the rest of us at his expense? No wonder we're so soul sick.

I'd like to speak to Jerry's friends and family, if you're out there. Some of us are organizing to make sure this doesn't keep happening to people like Jerry and me in Arizona's state prisons. My phone number is 480-580-6807. My email is Peggy Plews.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Save Dad from deportation: The struggle of Alfonso Morales.

-----------From the No More Deaths list-serve (September 21, 2010 a8:10pm)------------

We are writing today to ask all of you, especially those that live in Tucson, to take action to support Alfonso Morales and his family. He is scheduled to be deported this weekend and is a father of 2 U.S. citizen children and has lived in Tucson for ...over 20 years!!

If you are in Tucson, PLEASE COME HELP AT THE PHONEBANK if you can, all day wednesday. Call Mel to schedule (602-616-2065) or show up at 730 S. Osborne, where people will be on the phones all day making calls to Secretary Napolitano and ICE Director John Morton asking them to intervene.

If you can't come in but want to help, please do the following:

1. Sign the petition and fax a letter to DHS to ask them to allow Alfonso to stay (The urgent action where you can send a fax and sign the petition is on the front page of;

2. Call Janet Napolitano, Director of DHS, at (202) 282-8495 and leave a message requesting the cancellation of his deportation. This is an answering machine that fills up by the end of the day, so please fill it up with support calls.

3. Call John Morton, Director of ICE, at (202) 732-3000 and leave a message urging him to take action and defer the deportation. This is a live comment line that will be picked up by a real human being so please be very polite.

Message from Alfonso:

For the past three years I have been fighting my deportation but now I am at the end of that fight and I am being told I must leave the United States by September 27. I cannot think about being separated from my wife and children.

I have worked hard for the last 20 years to be a good husband and father to my children. I am scared that my children will not have a father to love them and walk with them through life's celebrations and challenges.

Tucson, Arizona is our home. This is where my wife is and the only home my children have ever known. I don't want to be separated from them. I want to continue living my life in this country and I want to contribute back. I am not a criminal. I am a husband, a father, a hard worker. I am a human being.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

AZ Freedom March for the Wrongfully Convicted

Saturday, October 2, 11am
AZ Capitol Lawn

Join our fight to "free the innocent" and to restore fair justice in Arizona!

These Arizona cases involve overzealous law enforcement and prosecution resulting in wrongful convictions when Constitutional Rights are violated. The dire economic consequences of draconian mandatory minimum sentencing that puts non-violent, first offenders in prison for decades can no longer be ignored. Taxpayers can no longer sustain the alarming growth of the mass incarceration of Arizona's people, putting all at risk.

It's time for immediate change from a system that has operated out of control with no accountability for decades and is destroying thousands of innocent lives and the future of Arizona. Help us restore fair justice for all in Arizona!

Falsely accused, wrongfully convicted and wrongfully imprisoned people in Arizona: It's time to "right the wrongs"!

Featured Speaker: Alison Hicks, author and producer, "Backspin" - her experience in a rush to judgment arrest by Sheriff Arpaio, shattered lives of mother and child, Tent City gulag and a warning to others. Successful women are vulnerable in Arizona. A movie in the works.

Free Courtney Bisbee, "Anatomy of a Wrongful Conviction", falsely accused in February 2004, of an "alleged" crime that never happened, never investigated in a rush to get a "high-profile" child molest case during a Presidential election year. A "he said, she said" case with no investigation and a total disregard for Constitutional Rights and established protocol resulting in a manifest injustice. New Evidence-Proof of innocence, recantations, affidavits and depositions - demanding a New Trial --is swept under the rug by an out of control Maricopa County Attorney's office that the public has been aware of for years.

How many millions of taxpayers dollars have been wasted on this bogus case?

Free William Macumber, an innocent 75 year old man, Clemency Board voted 100% to release; Arizona Justice Project has been working on his case since year 2000. Governor Brewer recently denied his release. Taxpayer dollars wasted on a person who is no harm to society.

Authors' real life experiences with the Arizona criminal justice system, jails and prisons:

Jim Rix, author, "Jingle Jangle", story of Ray Krone, exoneree, who spent almost 20 years in the Arizona state prison as an innocent man until he was exonerated. Raises questions about the integrity and competence of Forensic labs.

Daniel Horne, author, "Accidental Felons" and his story of overzealous prosecution resulting in shattered lives, horrific experience incarcerated in Tent City and lived to tell about it. A DUI, car accident and then "labeled" "violent felon".

Contact Camille Tilley at


-------------From's blog-------------

DNA Tests Have Freed 260 Wrongfully Convicted People

by Matt Kelley August 17, 2010

In case after case, people who were wrongfully convicted are finally seeing their freedom.

In Virginia, Calvin Wayne Cunningham will soon be exonerated for a rape he never committed — 30 years after his conviction. In Texas two weeks ago, Michael Anthony Green was freed after serving 27 years for a rape he likewise never committed. In Minnesota, a man was freed earlier this month, after a judge decided a defect in his Toyota Camry could have caused an accident for which he had been sentenced to prison.

All in all, fully 258 people have been exonerated through DNA testing in the United States, while hundreds more — perhaps thousands — have been cleared through non-DNA evidence.

Now, more than ever before, the road to exoneration is starting in an unlikely place: a prosecutor's office, or even the governor's desk. In Virginia, though Cunningham had begun asking for forensic tests in 1982, shortly after his initial rape conviction, it took a state review of old cases launched by former Gov. Mark Warner that finally turned up Cunningham's file decades later for closer scrutiny.

And then there's the case of Michael Green. Convicted in Houston in 1983 of a rape he didn't commit, though Green requested DNA testing in 2005, his appeal languished for several years — until the Harris County Prosecutor's Office began reviewing innocence claims and requests for DNA testing. Eventually, such attention from the prosecutor's office proved Green's innocence. (Though proof of wrongful convictions may seem to put prosecutors' offices in harsh light, wise district attorneys know that the same evidence which frees an innocent person also often points to the crime's real perpetrator.)

Across the nation, efforts to overturn wrongful convictions are spreading. Milwaukee recently launched a Virginia-style evaluation of old convictions, using DNA testing. Several other counties and cities are considering this approach, as well. In Ohio, the governor recently called on judges and prosecutors to grant DNA tests in seven cases in which they were previously denied.

Is your local district attorney up for election (or reelection) this November? Ask them whether they support reviewing claims of innocence from prisoners or decades-old convictions. A progressive platform emphasizing overturning wrongful convictions can get a district attorney elected, help overturn countless injustices and point to the real perpetrators of crimes — all at minimal cost. It's a win-win all around.

Grieving Jessie Cota.

Jesus Cota was a prisoner of the state of Arizona when he passed away January 10, 2010. His death was ruled a suicide by the Arizona Department of Corrections. I've been doing some research into the prison suicides of late, and came up with a few things on Jessie, as he was known. I think it helps the community to know that prisoners have families and complicated lives, too.

First is his AZ Republic Guestbook, where his friends and family have been leaving messages for him since he died. Jessie loved and was loved by a good many folks. There are a few recent entries because it would have been his birthday September 1. These are the secondary victims of incarceration who never get counted - prisoners' families and communities. Here's a sample:


 August 31, 2010
September 1st is here..and although theres no candles or cake here today..or presents for you to open I hope you know,and can see that you haven't been forgotten.. And if your looking down and wondering why, it's because you live in the memories of everyone wishing you a Happy Birthday today..Friends, family, everyone..A part of you is always here Jessie and today a little more than any other day your being thought of.. Happy Birthday.. Love Your Friend,"Lola" 
January 19, 2010

"Jessie you always reminded me of dad. your laugh just like his and now your with him and pappi.i wish i could have seen you one last hug you and to tell you how much i loved you.and i want to let you know you will never be forgotten you will always be remembered love always your lil sister crystal a.k.a.tutu"

January 14, 2010
April 08, 2010

June 20, 2010

It's June 20th 2010, and yes today your being thought of Jessie.. "Happy Father's Day".. I know your kids are thinking about you and missing you today as well as everyone else..I've never been one to pray but I pray for you every night and I hope that your at peace... God bless you & sleep with the angels.. Love Always, Your friend "Lola"..
----------And a blessing for his journey--------
January 14, 2010 

I remember you as a little boy always eager to read and learn. You were at my house doing your homework when I lived on 27th lane. I had gone to the drug store across your mom house and you wanted to come to my house. You were in the 6th grade and was going to Sutton school. That little boys who had dreams of being a teacher. You liked school so much then. After Tata's passing I found your report card in papers nana saved. You had made HONOR ROLL the whole year!!! I told Gloria I'm going to keep it and then I told her, no I am going to mail it to him. 
But a few weeks later here we are now. As I never told you, I want you to know as I watch you grow older and farther apart how I wish you had the glow in your eyes to follow your dreams. How time has change and you change your destiny, but I am sure inside your heart those dreams were still there. We take different path in our lives and sometimes it is not our choosing but for comfort. I pray to God to fill your heart with your dreams in heaven, that were really meant for you here on earth. The plans that heavens has for you will soon be answered. Just reach for the sky and you will find your wings. Forgiviness for what took place here on earth has been answered. God Bless You Jessie, and he will bless you and recieve you with open arms.

Love Tia Nena

The most pressing thing I found, however, is troubling, but shouldn't be discounted or ignored. It's a comment that was buried at the bottom of the Phoenix New Times article that covered Jesse's death. It seemed important to the discussion we've been having about prisoner safety to bring to the surface, where it can be more easily assessed. The allegations appear to be made by someone who knew Jesse pretty well and has the details on how this relationship unfolded in prison. 

Here's an excerpt about the circumstances surrounding Jesus Cota's death (from "karma belief"). I do hope this is being investigated thoroughly:

"...I am hoping to bring attention to this matter, but more than likely this will go ignored or set aside. Below you will find an email I sent to several departments within the AZ DOC. The only response received from DOC is that Warden Larson retired as of 01/08/2010. They couldn't even reply that this was under investigation and they could not comment.

No one has bothered to question the fact that he was assaulted by Officer Apodaca (there were witnesses). Or how odd it is that as soon as SMU learned of the relationship he began with a former guard, he is suddenly found dead and they call it a suicide. Sure it may have been, but with all of the other information, why are there no further questions being asked? What if this had been your son, brother, father, or anyone else important to you? When a person called down there to check on him after he had been trying to reach them that day, why didn't the guard check on him? If he had been having issues earlier, and the person called, why were they told to call back on Monday and ask someone else? Had that guard got up and looked into this, this never would have happened...

(email follows)

How unfortunate yet another inmate has been able to succeed with possibly having committed suicide. What exactly are my tax dollars covering in these facilities? Obviously not education and training...

Let me get to the point. The death notification and news articles state that an investigation is under way. Are you going to do a proper investigation and start from the beginning? Are you going to take this back to the Lewis complex where Jessie was assaulted BY A CORRECTIONAL OFFICER for getting involved with one of the other officers? Where the assault took place AFTER she QUIT her job to be with him? And while DURING the assault, the guard made it clear as to why he was beating Jessie?

 Are you going to go back to Lewis where SSU got involved after she quit and started doing everything they could to cut him off from recreation, where things as simple as a TV were taken from him, where he was cut off from mail, phones, and other family before they shipped him off to SMU? Are you going to look into why he was not being given his mail because the officers at Lewis took it upon themselves to share the letters and pictures he was sent? Again all of this happening AFTER she QUIT working there. They cut him off from the world during the same time his brother and grandfather passed away. During the same time his own children were experiencing hardships in life and he couldn't even contact them.

You may be thinking what this has to do with suicide and SMU... Are you going to look into officers being advised on 01/10/2010 that Jessie was not doing well and needed either attention or supervision? Are you going to look into him being pulled out of his cell for a brief time and then sent right back, all the while no one taking into consideration just how serious his mental state may have been. Why wasn't he placed on watch?

Are you going to look into why there are two versions of how he was found? One states he was found in his cell and the other claims he ran through the door and jumped when it was opened. Do all of your guards open a door and then stand to the side to allow an inmate such freedom of movement? And once again Jessie had been cut off from his family because someone let them know at SMU he had become involved with woman that had QUIT her job at Lewis to be with him. Did she mean that much to all of you?

Are you all satisfied that you not only broke him but cost him his life? And was whatever you were told worth a life? But let me guess, this will go nowhere because anyone that overheard or saw something will be too afraid to come forward. They will be afraid of either being assaulted themselves or losing time with their families. And once again, DOC employees will say either he was just an inmate or had been in trouble so it was to be expected. "

Anyone who wants to help me fill in some of the blanks about Jessie's life and death, please contact me at or 480-580-6807.  - Peggy Plews

Sunday, September 19, 2010

For Lasasha Cherry and her Heroes...

Sasha was the 23 year old woman from Coolidge who ended the pain of this leg of her journey in the custody of the Arizona Department of Corrections on September 6, 2010. According to records from the ADC she had been sentenced there in July 2009, and would have been released within another month or two, had she lived.

She was housed on
Lumley at Perryville, where the maximum security yard is, which is where Marcia Powell (killed when locked in an outdoor cage in 2009) and Geshell Fernandez (the only other woman in ADC custody who appears to have committed suicide this year) resided at the time of their deaths.

Based on minutes retrieved from the Maricopa County Superior Court, Sasha was originally given 10 years probation under an agreement with the Comprehensive Mental Health Probation Court. Her records pertaining to her competency remain sealed, but it appears that she struggle with both a substance abuse disorder and psychiatric disability, and was to be placed in a 24-hour dual diagnosis treatment program through Magellan once she was put on probation.

I don't know what happened with those plans, but Sasha apparently violated probation when charged with a new crime within six weeks, and was consequently sent to prison. Sasha's final sentence took all of six minutes to impose. That was after a process lasting more than a year from the time she was charged with her original crime, during which period it appears she was in MCSO custody (presumably in chemical restraints) where she had to undergo mental health treatment and several rounds of competency exams before being allowed to enter a guilty plea.

In light of that, I suspect that Sasha must have been pretty impaired when first charged. My guess is that the court's primary concern was for her ability to care for her young child, though, if she wasn't institutionalized or successfully engaged in a recovery program. We've got to come up with something more responsible than prison terms for dually disabled moms.

I tried to find out more about who Sasha was this week, other than what the courts had to say, but haven't heard from anyone who knew her, and couldn't afford to subscribe to the paper that lists her obituary. I did, however, find her Myspace page. There's only a page on her interests and some photos there - it hadn't been updated since 2007. But you can see the little boy she adored, Malachi, who was born that spring. Her mother's astonishingly beautiful artwork is there, too, as are a handful of photos of herself, her and Malachi, and her child's father. She shared a lot of herself in that very small space, perhaps the most telling things being that she liked movies that made you think, was a proud parent, and that her heroes "are people that stand by your side no matter what and grab (you) when they see (you) slipen."

Sasha seems to have wanted to do right by her kid, but struggled to because of her disabilities. The last statement of hers, though,suggests that she had some pretty important heroes in her life, who had been there for her many times before. To Sasha's heroes (you know who you are), I'd like to say that I'm sorry for what you're no doubt going through right now. No matter how strong or faithful or courageous one is, sometimes it's just not possible to save those we love from addiction, depression and despair - especially when they are physically out of reach.

I don't know if Sasha received any treatment in prison or what compelled her to take her own life so close to release, though I can certainly empathize with the desperate feeling that one is slipping hopelessly into inescapable pain. I know what it is to long for freedom, and that the most important kind has nothing to do with other people's chains. Most of all, though, I know how it feels to survive a loved one's suicide, so my heart especially goes out those she left behind. I can't imagine the grief that her mother must feel, however, or the confusion and loss her child will struggle through.

I borrowed the photo above from Sasha's Myspace album, since the only other material we had on her life and death were from the ADC. With her mother's permission, I'd like to post the artwork of hers that Sasha so admired. I try to help people understand who ends up in prison in America and how, but I think it's important for visitors here to see more than just prisoner's mugshots and criminal histories, especially when they pass away. They are more than just numbers to be counted three times a day.

Anyone who wants to share more about this young woman's life is welcome to contact me at

Friday, September 17, 2010

Executing Mercy: Saving Teresa Lewis.

I received word tonight that the Governor of Virginia has declined to grant clemency to Teresa Lewis, a mentally-impaired woman who was sentenced to death for murders she took full responsibility for planning, but did not perpetrate. The men who actually did the killing got life in prison, instead. Below is my effort to appeal to what he has said his faith is, responding to what Teresa has declared hers to be, in hopes that it helps when joined with others.

Please go to his website and leave your own message - not just a name to be counted against the many more who will register their support for the death penalty in his state, but a voice that might move him to reverse this grim decision. Whatever or whomever she is a channel for, Teresa has been a blessing to other women doing time, and could continue to be so.

You needn't be "born again" yourself - or even speak the same language - to try to save this woman's life. I honestly don't know what it will take - if anything at all will work a miracle with this man. I do think that it matters in the greater scheme of things that we take the time nevertheless, to show that we care.

Teresa is to be executed on September 23, so please act today.




Subject: Executing Mercy

Dear Governor McDonnell,

As you know, Teresa Lewis is scheduled for execution on September 23, 2010. Only you can stop this from happening. She has taken more responsibility for her conduct than most adults ever do, though she has the cognitive abilities of a child.

For centuries people with developmental disabilities have been treated as less-than human; objects of ridicule or curiosity; subjects for experiments and involuntary sterilization; workers to be exploited at slave-wages; scapegoats to carry the burden of our collective failings.

We've come a long way in recent decades in how we treat the mentally disabled. Our readiness to execute them, however, indicates that we still have a ways to go.

Virginia has a precious opportunity to secure a place in history by deciding not to dispose of the life of this humble woman who has given of herself to others at a time of their deepest remorse and despair, despite her own predicament.

Teresa is not the one begging you to spare her life - we are. By her faith, her death on earth will reunite her with the Christ in Heaven whose love she is clearly a vessel for now to other women in prison.

What message will carrying out her execution deliver? That there is no room in American justice for mercy, or in the human spirit for transformation, or in the hearts of our people for grace?

We aren't asking you to end the death penalty in Virginia, or to save this woman's soul - the latter has already been done. She will die more free than many who demonstrate twice her mental capacity. We're simply asking you to be a vessel of God, too.

His justice would not exact more of her than of those "normal" men who committed the actual murders. His justice would not value her life less than theirs. He would look across this country at the countless Americans who have taken the time out of their lives to fight for hers, and hope that humanity is on the precipice of learning mercy for the condemned - particularly for those who are so visibly touched by His grace.

Teresa Lewis committed a horrible crime that she cannot compensate her victims for, even by surrendering her own existence, as she did the day she took responsibility for what she had done. If given life in prison she would not harm another human being again, and could even help others heal. It is not her who threatens us any longer - it is our need for vengeance that endangers this nation now.

It takes power to exercise mercy which - throughout the course of human history - has been the quality that distinguishes those who conquer from those who lead. Please reconsider your decision to allow this execution to proceed.

Thank you for your time.


Margaret J. Plews
Phoenix, AZ

Scott Watch: Praying for a Mississippi Miracle

For those of you unfamiliar with Jamie and Gladys Scott's story, here's last March's Mother Jones article about them, and here's the Free the Scott Sisters' blog; leave some love there for their mom, Mrs. Rasco.

This has been one of the most outrageous miscarriages of justice I've ever heard of. But today is a day of great hope...



Dear Supporters:

Mrs. Rasco has requested that I inform all supporters of the following:

The September 16, 2010 rally was a great success. In addition, she has asked me to report that buckets, and buckets of money were collected at the rally and she hopes that the collections will be used to benefit Jamie and Gladys.

Currently, we are waiting to determine what the decision of the Pardons and Parole board will be. We have learned from indirect sources that the meeting with Governor Barbour's representative has resulted in a pardon packet being passed to the Pardons and Parole board for a decision.

I've included a few links of the most recent media attention. This is the most publicity that the sisters have received in 16 years.

MSNBC News- Mrs. Rasco and NAACP President Ben Jealous -


September 15, 2010 rally

I would like to thank all supporters of this case. Without each individual person -- this case would not be where it is today. We cannot stop now -- please remain until the sisters are free.


Peace and Blessings!

In Solidarity,

Nancy Lockhart

Sanity, mental illness, and "crime".

The note at the end of this post came into my box last night on a wave of hushed grief, asking to be placed where it might be found by the family of Shannon Palmer, and those in his community who responded to his killer with outrage and condemnation. It contains condolences from someone who knew and loved Jasper Rushing before he grew severely disturbed and took his first victim's life. It does not argue that he did no wrong. Rather, it just implores the rest of us to understand that he, too, has suffered, and was lost long ago.

I slept very little after contemplating the significance of this assertion that Rushing might have been a victim of the kind of disorder that claims the innocent and vulnerable I fight for, too. I had already done my share of dehumanizing him, branding him as a twisted sociopath, presuming his character and guilt were clear by his history, his access to Shannon, his method of torture, and his soulless gaze into the camera at the ADC. I stopped just short of arguing that he get the death penalty, I found his crime so heinous. No way was he in the same class as Shannon, my own loved one, or me.

I can't imagine that Shannon's killer could have executed him in the manner he chose if he had any sort of conscience or humanity left in his being. Yet I don't doubt the sincerity of the author of this note who tells us that Rushing was once a good kid who underwent some kind of horrible transformation, and that even as a hardened killer in prison he was living in fear.

Searching the internet I could find nothing but court calendars to reference Rushing's history of kidnapping and premeditated murder, preceded by more petty crimes and drug abuse. I couldn't even find news accounts of his most serious crimes or convictions. Buried in those case entries, however, is evidence that others saw a psychiatric illness emerging over a decade ago - before the first time he killed someone - compelling more than one judge to order a competency exam before sentencing him.

Not everyone who is ordered to undergo a competency exam has a disabling mental illness, nor is everyone with a psychiatric disorder automatically exempt from the consequences of harming others. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM IV) that mental health professionals use to label social deviants includes antisocial personality disorders and classifications for pedophiles, which are often associated with very serious predatory behavior. Those are not what advocates usually refer to as "serious mental illnesses" - we're most often talking about mood and thought disorders like manic-depression and schizophrenia, not severe personality disorders. People with diagnoses in the former category are far more often victims than perpetrators of violent crime.

Nevertheless, like it or not, the truth is that sometimes people who do violence to others are suffering from serious mental illness, their ability to exercise good judgment often compounded by the use of drugs or alcohol. In fact, it would be hard to look at Shannon's murder alone and suggest that his killer was in any way "well". Most certainly there's some kind of pathology underlying his actions; I just don't know what kind of pathology it is, though sadism comes to mind. He doesn't strike me as just being fearful - that murder was vicious.

Even if Rushing had a psychotic break in his youth and developed schizophrenia, that should not overshadow the fact that the vast majority of Americans with a psychiatric disability are non-violent individuals contributing to the life of our communities and the well-being of our families. You wouldn't know that we're nuts just by looking at us or the surface of our lives. Unfortunately, however, it's people like Jasper Rushing who grab the headlines and threaten to define us, not victims like Shannon Palmer, or survivors like me.
Seldom is a big deal made of the psychiatric status of vindictive, selfish, greedy people who violate others horribly while perfectly "sane". That's who we really need to beware of.

It is true that untreated mental illness can cause symptoms that "endanger self or others": severe paranoia, auditory hallucinations, agitation, poor impulse control, delusional thinking, grandiosity, emotional detachment, terror, and despair. For that reason we have laws that require involuntary hospitalization and compulsory outpatient treatment for people who - left untreated - may become a danger to the rest of us or kill themselves.

So many of the mentally ill attempt to self-medicate, too, which often aggravates our symptoms, resulting in disastrous consequences - including the trans-institutionalization from mental health settings to places like shelters, jails and prisons for a range of criminalized behavior that has as much to do with poverty as it has to do with the nature of one's disability.

Over the course of the past 30 years it's been increasingly hard to get someone who needs psychiatric care into an inpatient setting, a group home, or a public outpatient clinic that has the capacity to really help them be "well", because the profoundly disabling nature of mental illness forces them to depend on public resources. As those budgets have shrunk and affordable housing has disappeared, people with psychiatric disabilities have been dumped into the streets to fend for themselves, suffering a multitude of traumas on top of whatever inner demons already torment them.

In the same period of time, the numbers of people with mental illness in America who have been put behind bars has risen exponentially. The Huffington post has an interesting video and links to other articles that address this.

I worked with the the homeless mentally ill for over a decade in Ann Arbor, and saw more go through the criminal justice system that into the mental health system because jails and prisons were the only doors the community was willing to pay to hold open for them anymore All other avenues to seek "safety" from the streets and shelters or "help" for their symptoms had been systematically closed off, and mental health and criminal codes were revised to reflect society's determination to punish our deviants, public nuisances and eyesores with jail and - for repeat offenders of even petty crimes - with prison.

Do not be mistaken about what prison in America is, by the way - it can be horribly brutal, even if you don't end up getting killed.

With public mental health dollars shrinking, the laws that were originally intended to protect the civil liberties of the mentally disabled were used to justify denying them their rights to humane, life-saving treatment, contributing to their rising rate of criminalization and incarceration. Many people in mental health and on the front end of the criminal justice system have resigned themselves to the notion that if someone needs intensive psychiatric intervention to protect them or others, the only way they'll get it is as a convicted criminal. That's such a tragic myth, as is the one that addicts will get the treatment they need in prison, too.

By the AZ Department of Corrections' own count at the end of last month, 9,362 of their 40,204 prisoners were individuals requiring on-going mental health services. Only a handful in AZ state prisons have access to anything more than an MD who might prescribe the right psychiatric meds, however. They're otherwise left to fend for themselves and cope with their illness and the terror of their environment, which the rate of suicides and homicide victims among them suggests is not an easy feat. The only "treatment" out of the norm that many end up getting is placement in solitary confinement or cages as a behavior management tool or outright punishment for their inability to adapt. Isolation is not a therapeutic intervention. It is known to make the sane go mad.

Jasper Rushing perpetrated horrible murders over the course of his adult life; I have no idea why. That doesn't make him any less a victim of neglect, however, if he wasn't getting the care he needed for whatever psychiatric disorder he had. That means that Shannon is a victim of both Jasper Rushing and the AZ Department of Corrections. The two men were locked into the same modified one-man cell, each one, by their family's accounts, fearful and not doing well.

From what I've seen and heard, that's not an isolated exception to an otherwise functional system. The ADC has a pattern of discontinuing necessary psychiatric meds and housing symptomatic prisoners in poorly supervised, over-populated dorms or in close quarters with people not likely to put up with them. When placed in higher security yards and cells - presumably because someone had concerns about their behavior and ability to be safe - it appears as if the seriously mentally ill are simply being contained, not cared for. Marcia Powell, after all, was supposed to be on a 10-minute suicide watch, and look at what happened to her. Even exposed in a cage in the middle of the yard, 20 feet from an air-conditioned station for guards, no one looked out for her welfare.

We can - and should - each pressure the ADC, directly or through our elected officials, to reform their system such that people with mental illness don't keep dying off as they are. We should also forward our concerns about the safety and welfare of loved ones in the prisons - regardless of their crime or disability - to the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, asking for a CRIPA investigation into the patterns underlying the murders, suicides, and neglect. But the most effective tool for long-lasting change would be new legislation that assures critical rights and remedies to prisoners to prevent these kinds of things from happening in the first place.

We also need to reform this legal system which criminalizes and imprisons people for the symptoms of their illness, as Shannon was for climbing a utility tower. Such reform also necessitates that resources exist in the community to provide adequate treatment and housing for those at risk of being inappropriately criminalized without it. The price of imprisonment, as I hope people see by now, is paid not only in tax dollars, but also in damaged and lost lives. We must end this madness now. Too many people are being thrown away for the crime of being ill.


Here is the note left for us all, I think, but especially for Shannon's family, by Jasper Rushing's loved one last night:

I am one of the"murderers" family members. I was there at his birth, through his childhood and up through his young adulthood. He is a struggling mentally ill person fighting to survive as well. He was a beautiful baby with an inquisitive, intelligent mind. He grew to be a troubled child with many issues that his family attempted to deal with. As a young adult he seemed like the average boy/man. He was loving and kind through out his first 20 years. I'm not sure to this day what changed...

I love Jasper and always will, but I don't know who this man is. I know he's been begging for months to be taken out of general population because he just didn't feel safe himself. I am sorry to the family of Shannon, I am horrified and ashamed...your family is in my prayers along with our family who is at a loss as to where our beautiful boy went...

September 16, 2010 6:41 PM

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Deaths in Custody: Anthony Clayton Lester.

This is the beautiful young man who reportedly killed himself at ASPC-Tucson/ Manzanita on July 12 of this year. I didn't know anything about him at the time he died except for the short press release the Arizona Department of Corrections put out, which is always limited to the prisoner's name, ADC number, age, crime, and sentence.

I did a little more digging after speaking to his family tonight, though, and came across this obituary. Whenever I can I like to include things about prisoners who pass away that speak to who they were, instead of just the "criminals" the ADC feels a need to portray them as when they die.
Just because Tony had been criminalized does not mean he was a bad man. By his aunt's account, he was a very good soul.

I'll have more on this young man's story at some point down the road; his actual cause of death has yet to be determined, it appears. For now, please just think good things for his grieving family - especially for the little girl who he never even had the chance to hold.


Anthony Clayton Lester

June 16th, 1984 - July 12th, 2010


Anthony Clayton Lester, born June 16, 1984 in Tucson, AZ, left our presence July 12, 2010 in Tucson, AZ after spending most of his short 26 years in Scottsdale, AZ. He was a music enthusiast, an extremely talented writer, a caring shoulder to cry on, a protector from all evil and an adoring father. He was preceded by Uncle Clayton Lester. He is missed and loved by his daughter Dawn, mother Eleanor, fiancée Samantha, Aunt Patti, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and puppies.

Memorial/viewing services will be held July 20 from 6 - 10pm @ Memorial Hall @ SRPMIC, Scottsdale AZ. Mass on July 24 @ 10am @ OLPH Scottsdale, AZ and funeral services to follow at St. Francis Cemetery, Phoenix, AZ. Arrangements by Bunker’s Garden Chapel.

"Lord, I am the bruised reed, the smoldering wick. May I believe more deeply in your compassionate guidance."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Shannon Palmer's murder: prisoners at risk.

This in from Phoenix's KPHO Channel 5 this morning, telling us that Shannon Palmer was castrated by his cellmate. I was kind of annoyed last week that the AZ Department of Corrections felt it necessary to notate that Palmer was in prison for the fourth time, since it seemed to have nothing to do with the fact he was murdered. Now I realize why they may have wanted to make him look like a more dangerous criminal than he was - he was being housed with a REAL serious criminal, which they're responsible for doing. Turning around and telling us all how many times the victim has been to prison before was just a way to make us care less about what happened to him, once the truth came out. That's pretty despicable, frankly.

What the ADC didn't tell us is that when Palmer was charged with criminal damage this last time, his mental capacity was in question enough that the judge ordered a competency exam twice under Rule 11 before allowing him to plead guilty, and again before sentencing him. The first time he was found to be not competent and had to be medicated to be deemed competent. All of that tells me he had a psychiatric disability. If fact, early on in the legal proceedings against him Palmer couldn't make it to the court hearings because he was in a "mental health setting".

cellmate, on the other hand, was an apparent sociopath in for FIRST-degree murder and kidnapping, among other things, and had a history of violent behavior while in prison. Some of Palmer's prior court records are sealed because of his mental illness, but he apparently had no violent misconduct charges on his prison record.

I did some reading up on the ADC's policies about custody levels and housing recently because I've been investigating all these murders in the prisons of late, and was disturbed to see how easy they've made it for violent offenders to have access to people who can be easily victimized - presumably they did that to cut costs by cramming as many guys into a cell or dorm area as possible. It appears to have begun under Stewart or Schriro - the latter is the one who initially authorized putting medium -custody murderers in Kingman to begin with, not Ryan (though before the escapes happened, Ryan seemed to take pride in the ADC risk assessment instrument he helped develop that put those guys there).

Another interesting thing about this cellmate match-up is that both of the guys were just moved last month, after the escapes, to the Transitory Unit at Lewis. If there are any insiders out there who can fill me in on this unit, please do. According to the ADC daily count sheet for 9/8/10, that particular unit is very small and is ranked as a minimum custody unit (much of the rest of Lewis is close custody or protective segregation). Like the murderers who escaped from Kingman this summer, Palmer's deadly cellmate was listed as only a 3/3 internal/external security risk. Palmer was a 2/2. My bet is that they were part of the shuffle to appease the public's sense of security, but no one took into account the safety of the prisoners. Just looking at their records would tell you that these two guys weren't at all "similarly situated" in such a way that would justify putting Palmer in with Rushing, even temporarily.

My bet is that an insurance risk assessor determined that the state would save more money by bunking first-degree killers and mentally ill vandals together than they would lose from lawsuits if a prisoner was murdered - especially if they put people with no voice or family to care about them in with the real bad guys. Besides, how often does the public object to prisoners being murdered here? Unless it was another prisoner that did the killing, we won't even prosecute them, apparently. I hope Palmer has family that will sue the state for everything that Marcia Powell's mother wouldn't for housing him with Rushing. I'm sorry that won't bring him back home to them, though. The poor guy was almost done with his sentence when he was killed.

Please register your dismay about Palmer's murder wherever you see the news on it pop up, so the state gets the message that it's NOT okay to put vulnerable people at risk this way. This is especially disturbing because I recently received a letter from another prisoner with a mental illness who's terrified that he's being moved to a unit where he'll be murdered, too - it came Saturday, and was written before Palmer was killed. "Manuel", who has no family to fight for him, says it's the gangs doing all this killing - and he's not the only prisoner to write to me for help about their housing or custody arrangements out of fear of being set up for a gang hit or otherwise victimized. Apparently the killers and gangs have more control over the prisons than Director Ryan and his people do these days.


CBS 5 News has learned that an Arizona prison inmate who was found dead on Friday was castrated by his cell mate. Shannon Palmer died from his injuries Friday at Lewis Prison in Buckeye, according to prison officials, who would neither confirm nor deny that he was castrated.

His cell mate, convicted murderer Jasper Rushing, is believed to have castrated Palmer, someone with knowledge of the incident told CBS 5 News. Palmer was serving a three-year sentence for criminal damage out of Maricopa County. It was the fourth time Palmer was in prison, according to a Department of Corrections spokesman. The spokesman said that an investigation is ongoing