Retiring Arizona Prison Watch...

This site was originally started in July 2009 as an independent endeavor to monitor conditions in Arizona's criminal justice system, as well as offer some critical analysis of the prison industrial complex from a prison abolitionist/anarchist's perspective. It was begun in the aftermath of the death of Marcia Powell, a 48 year old AZ state prisoner who was left in an outdoor cage in the desert sun for over four hours while on a 10-minute suicide watch. That was at ASPC-Perryville, in Goodyear, AZ, in May 2009.

Marcia, a seriously mentally ill woman with a meth habit sentenced to the minimum mandatory 27 months in prison for prostitution was already deemed by society as disposable. She was therefore easily ignored by numerous prison officers as she pleaded for water and relief from the sun for four hours. She was ultimately found collapsed in her own feces, with second degree burns on her body, her organs failing, and her body exceeding the 108 degrees the thermometer would record. 16 officers and staff were disciplined for her death, but no one was ever prosecuted for her homicide. Her story is here.

Marcia's death and this blog compelled me to work for the next 5 1/2 years to document and challenge the prison industrial complex in AZ, most specifically as manifested in the Arizona Department of Corrections. I corresponded with over 1,000 prisoners in that time, as well as many of their loved ones, offering all what resources I could find for fighting the AZ DOC themselves - most regarding their health or matters of personal safety.

I also began to work with the survivors of prison violence, as I often heard from the loved ones of the dead, and learned their stories. During that time I memorialized the Ghosts of Jan Brewer - state prisoners under her regime who were lost to neglect, suicide or violence - across the city's sidewalks in large chalk murals. Some of that art is here.

In November 2014 I left Phoenix abruptly to care for my family. By early 2015 I was no longer keeping up this blog site, save occasional posts about a young prisoner in solitary confinement in Arpaio's jail, Jessie B.

I'm deeply grateful to the prisoners who educated, confided in, and encouraged me throughout the years I did this work. My life has been made all the more rich and meaningful by their engagement.

I've linked to some posts about advocating for state prisoner health and safety to the right, as well as other resources for families and friends. If you are in need of additional assistance fighting the prison industrial complex in Arizona - or if you care to offer some aid to the cause - please contact the Phoenix Anarchist Black Cross at PO Box 7241 / Tempe, AZ 85281.

until all are free -

MARGARET J PLEWS (June 1, 2015)


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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Dear Attorney General Holder: We Want Justice.

I'm posting this on every website I have because it's the only thing that anyone killing time on my blogs needs to think about doing: writing letters to the DOJ, Congress, and the President about Leonard Peltier (see the Prison Abolitionist for the letter from the Friends of Leonard Peltier). Tell them to do something about all the political prisoners.


July 22, 2009

Eric A. Holder, Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

Dear Attorney General Holder;

Ever since you were appointed to office, I’ve wondered if you would be the man history remembers for confronting and correcting the constitutional violations and injustices perpetrated against our liberation movements by the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and overzealous cops and prosecutors across the nation. It wasn’t enough that Obama was elected and the chance of presidential pardons for political prisoners came back into view. We need an inquiry into the justness of their persecutions and prosecutions, as well as their sentences: everyone from Leonard Peltier to the people who have been disappeared under the PATRIOT Act, to the most recent targets in the Green Scare.

You know these people are no threat to our national security, and their rhetoric today would be considered no more inflammatory than Jon Stewart’s nightly news. They show no criminal propensities: they are either innocent of their crimes, or of the terrorist natures attributed to them. They were, by and large, impassioned, idealistic youth caught up in the very same fervor that consumed abolitionists in the decades leading up to the American Civil War. They grew up in a world where injustice was enshrined into law, where racism and hate governed state houses and law enforcement agencies, where non-violent resistors were assassinated by the state just as readily as armed revolutionaries, where police brutality and torture of witnesses and suspects were routine, where our government – in the People’s name – was committing unspeakable atrocities and human rights abuses undermining democracy in the furtherance of capitalism and the name of national security throughout the hemisphere; throughout the world. No one listened when they petititioned, or sat-in, or demonstrated, and some escalated.

I do not approve of all of their methods of protest. I have the impulse of a vandal, myself, and the politics of an anarchist, but I am at my core a pacifist and believe that the only revolution worth winning will be won through non-violence. It will be won not only by people like me, but also by people like you. I urge you, for the sake of justice, not to turn away from our country’s liberation movement leaders and radicals, but to use the momentum of Leonard Peltier’s campaign to open an investigation on every single political prisoner we hold.

The government likes to say we don’t have any political prisoners, but you know who they are. We’ve been fighting for their freedom for decades, in some cases. We have faded bumper stickers with their names and faces emblazoned on our cars. We have political prisoner support groups across the country, writing letters and passing the hat for commissary funds and legal expenses. They have begun to grow old and die. Most have been condemned to life in prison - death by incarceration. Some – like the young “eco-terrorists” – will simply turn gray there, as their parents and loved ones age and die. The irony is that had they committed their “crimes” for greed or power or some kind of cheap thrill, their sentences would have been nowhere near as hefty as they are because of “terrorism” enhancements and the like. We’re talking about setting mink free, and arson against SUV’s. We’re talking about kids who are trying to save the world, and who pose no real danger of destroying it.

Grave injustices have been done to some of these people, and you must know it from where you stand better than anyone. If you don’t have the courage to open civil rights investigations into the handling of every single case, then I don’t know who will. There’s a D.A. in Texas who’s been re-opening closed cases where there are claims of innocence; he’s freed a handful of people already. He’s going to keep on doing it till he gets voted out, too. That’s the kind of thing that inspires faith in our system. That it has been so corrupted by politics and racism and the fears of the privileged few makes it impossible for so many of us to believe that elements of the legal system have anything to do with “justice”. We need to know that claims of innocence will be heard fairly; that COINTELPRO and similar law enforcement activities - conducted with grave disregard for the U.S. Constitution and human life – will not be tolerated or given credibility; that sentences are imposed fairly, and not unduly harshly against people who acted out of conscience or were under seige.

You are the first Attorney General since Bobby Kennedy who may have the political will to pursue this. We know this is a tall order: terrorists and cop-killers aren’t the most popular defendants or prisoners. It isn’t for them that you need to investigate, however; it’s justice that you serve. It’s justice that we have always sought.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.

And thank you for your service to us all.


Margaret J. Plews

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