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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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Chaparral: No Borders or Prison Walls

This is a recent post from one of my favorite valley bloggers on immigration - I was just going to put part of it here and make you retrieve the rest, but it breaks the flow, so read the whole thing here or there - in any event, check out her blog. I subscribe. Here's the lead-in:

Chaparral respects no borders

Based in Maricopa County, I mostly analyze the news and the activism and organizing around immigration. Often discussing Sheriff Joe Arpaio, legislators like Russell Pearce, the police in general, as well as federal players, I touch on racism, abuse, and other injustices. I have a heavy emphasis on truly having solidarity with migrants and pushing for the movement to not lose sight of this focus.


Here's the post for 11/23/09:
What Happens When Arpaio Serves the Warrants

Because Sheriff Arpaio has been targeting migrants who are just driving, waiting for work, or working, activists have reacted by pointing out that the sheriff has not been serving 40,000 open warrants. Now the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department is serving warrants... in Guadalupe.

As an example of the focus on warrants, a press release from no specific organization but about "Leaders from the civil rights and Latino communities" came out in March 2008 saying,
The people are entitled to have a true lawman for Sheriff, someone who goes after real criminals, not gardeners, cooks, nannies and pregnant mothers. America’s “toughest sheriff” must stop making mothers and fathers disappear in the middle of the night, callously leaving vulnerable, terrorized children at home alone. He can turn a new leaf and start protecting the public by serving the county’s 70,000 arrest warrants that he has allowed to remain outstanding.
If you went to a protest against Arpaio in 2008 or early 2009, you likely would've seen a reference to the warrants on some signs. Often they would be referenced by groups such as the Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability. While the warrants have been discussed very little since the Senate hearing on the issue, you will occasionally still hear the warrants brought up.

What I don't understand is the assumption that these warrants are justified- that all the people who have warrants out for their arrest, or perhaps all the people with felony warrants, are hardened criminals who all deserve to go to Tent City. Do you really believe this? Do you think the criminal "justice" system is infallible? Are not undocumented migrants being further criminalized for political/racist/economic reasons? Isn't that fundamental to the criminal "justice" system? There is much evidence that the police are used to keep people in check and to maintain the social hierarchy. In many ways, the police actually perpetuate the crimes of those who do not have access to many of the opportunities that more privilege people have. And as I write in Chaparral: No Borders or Prison Walls:
Many examples exist of ways in which crime-fighting is not, in fact, intended to end the activities which are considered crimes. The government has no interest in ending crime unless it is targeted towards the government itself, the rich or their property. One could list a number of crimes committed by people who get away with it everyday, and a number of acts that should be crimes because they hurt people, other beings, and/or the planet, yet they are not crimes because it is not in the interest of the government to control those actions. Crimes against people who are seen as less valuable are not important to enforce unless it benefits the system in another way... Crimes committed by government, government agents, businesses, are treated differently, with the perpetrators facing much less harsh punishment than their civilian counter-parts face, if any. Often crimes are enabled by involvement with the government such as the drug trafficking done with government vehicles and physical and sexual abuse by police, border patrol, and prison officials, yet the criminals in these cases are treated as a few bad apples.
And why does it not occur to folks that many of those warrants might be for gardeners, cooks, nannies and pregnant mothers who might disappear at night leaving their children terrorized?

And if you agree with nothing else I've said so far about the problems with the rule of law, please realize that you are basically saying that if the sheriff was serving all those warrants, then he would be doing a good job- Tent City, pink underwear, chain gangs, green baloney and all.

Indeed, I have brought up that Arpaio has in fact not been doing as efficient of a job at arresting migrants- other police departments have- yet they don't have this warrants issue hanging over their heads. In fact, they are mostly ignored and in some cases even seen as allies (phoenix pd officers are invited to activist meetings, ex-mesa police chief gascon was celebrated for standing up against arpaio) yet, as i've written in the past, If Phx and Mesa PD are arresting more immigrants, why is focus on Arpaio?
I would say that the myth of the infallibility of law and order is not questioned, for the most part, for to do so would make you vulnerable to attacks by the other side, accusing you of wanting chaos, or whatever else they associate with opposing arrests of so-called criminals. Too many immigrants' advocates are not willing to be outspoken about the racist nature of "criminal justice" and law enforcement, the border, and immigration law in general. The result, therefore, is that law enforcement that can appear reasonable alongside arpaio's media circuses are not to be questioned, but instead even applauded, even if their actual effect is worse than how arpaio's efforts appear.
This past week, the sheriff's department has been bringing a camera crew to stops all over Guadalupe to serve warrants. Guadalupe is a very small town next to Tempe, with a very high number of brown skinned people- mostly Yaquis and Mexican migrants. Arpaio has done a few sweeps there. It is one of a few places in the County that doesn't have it's own police department and pays the MCSO to handle problems. Instead, they've caused many problems. You can read all about it in Guadalupe made it clear that Joe Arpaio’s attacking anyone with brown skin, Joe Arpaio Returns to Guadalupe, with an Army of Deputies to Watch His Back, The MCSO Retaliates Against a Guadalupe Activist.

In fact, this might be retaliation for the copwatching going on in Guadalupe. Whatever the reason, people are being harassed and terrorized by Arpaio serving these warrants. Those who have demanded that the warrants be served are not to be blamed for those warrants being served in Guadalupe (or anywhere) necessarily, but it is necessary to keep all these things in perspective.

Posted By chaparral to Chaparral respects no borders at 11/23/2009 11:36:00 AM

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