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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AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunbelt Justice, Prisoners' families, and Grace.

(The email below was sent individually to members of the AZ State Senate Friday and Saturday, and to the rest of the legislature today from me for the Friends of Marcia Powell. If I left anything out, folks, chime in now - at least contact your own legislators before Monday is through.)


Friday, November 20, 2009

Dear Arizona State Legislators;

This to let you know that there are more than a few voices out here in support of early release for low-risk prisoners as one of the current budget-cutting proposals. Many of those voices belong to members of prisoners' families and communities. We are especially concerned about elderly, disabled, and terminally ill prisoners, but there are some children who would love to see their healthy folks home for the holidays, too.

We want our legislators and public officals to remember that not all prisoners are "bad people", and that their punishments affect more than themselves alone - as would an act of grace. When you decide what to do with them - how you punish them, for how long, and under what kinds of conditions - think of them not only as "criminals", but as mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters and friends to many of us.

Some of us have been agitating for awhile about lengthy sentences, the Department of Corrections' health services and mental health care, and deteriorating prison conditions. Others are just getting organized. Between us, it doesn't look like we can count on many legislators to go out on a limb on behalf of our loved ones. So, stand with us, feel free to follow along, or move out of the way, because there's a lot we'll need to be talking about in the coming year, and there's no gettting around all of us. We don't care what party a senator or representative is with: there are a lot of problems with the criminal justice system, and you can be "tough on crime" without being so tough us. We've been hurt, too.

"Sunbelt Justice" by UC-Irvine Professor Mona Lynch provides a good foundation for understanding the issues we'll be raising with public officials in constituent meetings, at the Capitol when the legislature re-convenes, and throughout the 2010 political campaign season. Professor Lynch will be in Tempe on December 2, speaking about her research into the history of the Arizona DOC and the potential turning point we find ourselves at. Your appearance would be a show of interest and perhaps support, but your voices and votes are what we'll be paying most attention to.

In the meantime, as you deliberate the budget crisis this weekend, please give your consideration the human aspects of authorizing an early release program. Look into the research about crime and punishment. Prison over-crowding alone takes a toll, stressing everyone from prisoners with physical and mental health conditions to corrections officers whose safety is placed at greater risk.

There are also simply more effective ways to deal with things like alcoholism or the absolute desperation of poverty than long-term incarceration. Many of these interventions would help our families, and protect our communities from further harm in the long run. We are sure Director Ryan can develop a good list of low-risk prisoners to consider for early release to community supervison, and redirect Arizona Department of Corrections' resources appropriately.

Thank you for your time.


Peggy Plews
Friends of Marcia Powell


"Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it.
To deprive it of oxygen.
To shame it.
To mock it.
With our art, our music, our literature,
our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance,
our sheer relentlessness,
and our ability to tell our own stories..."

- Arundhati Roy 

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