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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Friday, November 27, 2009

Arizona is a Police State. Arpaio is just one cop.

If the FBI and DOJ nail this guy, I will send them a thank you card and offer them dinner myself. In the meantime, they should be dropping commandos into Arizona to rescue minority and oppositional citizens from the whole political slate he's aligned with (Thomas, Pearce, et al), before they do anyone else further harm. What's going on in this state - including the way our legislators conduct business - is criminal.

Sheriff Joe is actually the least damaging of them all, I think. It's the men writing laws and prosecuting them that trouble me. Being arrested is no small inconvenience, even if the charges don't stick. It ties up an activist's time and may limit our voice; it's an intimidation tactic, at the very least. But there's not much even Sheriff Joe can do if the law has no teeth or the prosecutor thinks the case has no merit. He may be the main attraction, but Sheriff Joe is hardly the source of the problem. His racism and failure to deal with real crime in Maricopa County are devastating to migrant communities and families, but to most citizens, even some protesters he arrests, he's a petty clown whose time is almost up. 

 Andrew Thomas, however, strong-arms the vulnerable into plea bargains using the threat of sentence enhancements (agree to three or you'll end up with 20) despite their claims of innocence, and buries innocent people in prison for years at a time, too arrogant to evaluate new evidence in his possession that should free them. He's the one we need to really grill about his agenda as Attorney General, and his plans for decreasing mass incarceration and protecting prisoner rights. I suspect that in his vision for Arizona, though, more people will be criminalized and in prison, and more communities will have prisons as their economic foundation. Our entire future will be increasingly invested in incarcerating people ... look at how the business leaders of Wickenburg and Winslow talk about the prisons and inmates - they don't even consider those they will incarcerate as human. They certainly won't be members of their community.

 That's who we will become, if we don't change the direction of this state: people most concerned with how they can profit from the plight of other human beings...I think they do that because they really believe that justice in America is fair. It's racist and classist and self-interested to its core.


Private Citizens: Joe Arpaio Targeted Us, Too

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio Accused Of Abusing Power

POSTED: 10:33 pm MST November 25, 2009
UPDATED: 9:34 am MST November 26, 2009

In the weeks since 5 Investigates aired its story on allegations that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is abusing his power, more people have come forward to say they, too, were targeted.
Politicians, county employees and private citizens claim the sheriff launched investigations into their personal lives after they criticized him.Terri Leija, who is chief of staff for Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, said she is under criminal investigation because of her employer.“They’re trying to scare me to go after my boss,” she told 5 Investigates.

Leija has not been charged with a crime.“I walk around some days thinking, ‘How is this allowed to be happening?’” she asked.Susan Schuerman, deputy administrator for Supervisor Don Stapley, echoed this sentiment.“I don’t have any criminal history,” Schuerman said. “Why I should be tainted is outrageous." Schuerman said the investigation makes it difficult for her to come to work.“This has been an absolute nightmare,” she said.

Her boss, Stapley, was indicted on 118 charges relating to the nondisclosure of a variety of land deals, business associations and business assets.At the time, the county supervisor said he was falsely accused. Fifty-two of the charges were thrown out in August, and prosecutors requested the rest be dropped in September.Three days after the request was made, deputies arrested Stapley on 100 new counts -- 93 felonies and seven misdemeanors.

Two men who set up Stapley’s legal defense fund said they were targeted, too. 5 Investigates agreed to withhold their names as they feared retribution.The day the fund went online, sheriff’s deputies showed up at all of the “trustees’” homes, asking whether they were promised anything from Stapley in return for their efforts.The deputies stayed until 11:30 p.m. in at least one case, the men said.“I was intimidated,” one said. “I started questioning whether I should have stepped forward and helped Don out … in his time of need.”

 When confronted by 5 Investigates reporter Morgan Loew after refusing multiple requests for an on-camera interview, the sheriff denied the allegations.“I don’t see any pattern,” Arpaio said. “We investigate thousands of people -- my office does -- thousands of people. We’re doing our job, and it doesn’t matter what political background or occupation or profession.” Nevertheless, the FBI is investigating the abuse-of-power claims, sources said, and some of those interviewed by 5 Investigates confirmed they spoke with FBI agents.

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