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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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Morey Unit: Common Ground?

Just dropped in on the folks at I find it always helps to get the perspective of corrections officers on privatization, ADC controversies, etc. I figured that since they have a link to AZ Prison Watch on their site, I'd return the favor, and will embed this somewhere in my links on the side or below. 

It's a good resource, and they seem to be aware of family, ex-prisoners, public etc dropping in on them, so I don't think it would be a big intrusion - just introduce yourself if you're going sign in so you're not just lurking around their site. Maybe we can have some productive dialogue between us. They even have links to progressive sites like The Real Cost Of Prisons site, and Jon's Jail Journal.

What they have that I lack is the view of the prisons from the vantage point of an ADC employee, in all sorts of situations. Some of the stuff officers have to say in these forums just verify what we've been hearing from prisoners - about overcrowding, short-staffing, deteriorating buildings, violence. Our editorializing and clipping selections reveals our differences, but we have some commonalities of interest - such as not privatizing the state prisons, reducing interpersonal violence and suicides, relieving over-crowding and staff shortages, and making sure that staff and prisoners alike are treated with respect and dignity and fairness.

That seems to give us a lot of common ground. There may be some things we can work together on - if I haven't antagonized everyone. But these folks have some guts for being whistle blowers - they're putting the truth of their experience out on the net for others to pick up, so lets pick it up and watch eachother's backs on this - they're talking about some pretty serious institutional problems that affect them and prisoners alike, and we should be informed of and support our overlapping agendas to build our respective bases of support. 

So, if anyone out there is into building some kind of community member/CO alliance, of sorts, proposing a common slate of reforms, it wouldn't be too hard to set up a website that could be used to organize folks across the community on some of these issues, so we would have a forum for debate and negotiation without disrupting the flow of either Az Prison Watch or A web presence would make our numbers more visible to power holders, and an explicit alliance on certain issues would could help turn up the heat on this political campaign season. 

We'd still need to be mindful and respectful that there area lot of competing interests underneath what seem to be common goals: families fear privatization because of the risk of even less accountability and greater exploitation of prisoners. CO's - for good reason - expect private prison operators to cut the CO pay and benefits, lower training requirements and professional standards, and not only put state officers out of work (they may get re-hired by CCA, but their life expectancy may be shorter there) but put everyone - in and out of the ADC - in danger. 

CO's may not be interested in abolition politics, per se, but they may be on board with certain abolitionist reforms. Of all people, they know there are plenty of folks in  prison who don't really need to be there, and that many prisoners aren't getting the benefits  of "rehabilitation"; they're lucky if they can get a ten cent an hour job and afford their monthly commissary. CO's also know who's most ill and dying, desperately trying to survive the rest of their petty sentences - surely some have to be moved by the individual stories they know about terminally ill and incapacitated folks needing pretty high levels of personal attention who they don't think should be there any more than we do. 

If so, drop us a line at

Found this post below quite interesting, and it provides an example of the kind of insight that would be so helpful for abolitionists and prisoner rights activists to have. It was put up soon after the report detailing Marcia Powell's abuse was released this fall (the yellow print is my emphasis):

The Director “Chuck Ryan " is supposed to be at Lewis Complex, today, for one of his famous dog and pony shows. These are the days when we don't pull anybody out of the control room; we have enough staff to "PRETEND" that everything is running just fine. The truth is that we always run short we always collapse post or we are always getting cross leveled.

Here is the truth, most of all inmate porters have been pulled out the last few days to get the yard ready for the "Director" they were out today before "Day Shift" arrived... To give the appearance that everything is just fine. Well it’s not.

Perryville and other prisons across the state are falling apart. "And you know this"

Here is what Director Chuck Ryan had to say in today’s paper about the Perryville incident.
"This is the most significant example of abuse that I'm aware of that an inmate had to endure," Ryan said. "Frankly, that's just unconscionable. That is an absolute failure on the part of the department and its employees."

Maybe, just maybe the inmate could still be alive if we had enough officers. The ratio of 1 officer for every 200 inmates is so far out of balance. Inmates are not getting what they have coming and if you think the Perryville incident is bad, just wait till one of our Officers gets killed. DOC has never been proactive / DOC is reactive. So everybody just wait till someone else dies then DOC will make the adjustments.

Example 1: Perryville, Lady Inmate dies. Result. New drinking fountains / new water jugs / new thermometers / new misters systems in holding areas / new shade cover in holding enclosure/ new air condition enclosures /new policy / new post orders.... this is what we mean by "Reactive" and I’m sure that these new improvements came with a big price tag because it had to get done ASAP. $$$$$

Example 2: We know that we run the units with minimum staff / one officer in a building, running both control rooms. We know that inmates have the ability to pop their own doors, but until some inmate get murder, maybe then and only then will we stop collapsing control rooms.

If there is anything we as a department can learn from the "Perryville" incident is that the DOC needs to be more proactive than reactive.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Peggy, thanks for visiting! Feel free to use any content from the blog, we always like to read people's reactions to our posts.