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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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Van Winkle Guilty: Capital Punishment?

Jury finds inmate Van Winkle guilty of first-degree murder

Jurors rejected an inmate's self-defense claim, finding him guilty Monday of first-degree murder in the vicious beating death of another inmate in Maricopa County's Fourth Avenue Jail.

The key piece of evidence against Pete Van Winkle, 27, was a graphic surveillance tape that showed most, but not all, of fellow inmate Robert Cotton's murder.

The May 1, 2008, strangulation and beating of Cotton raised questions about security in the jail because the attack went unnoticed by detention officers for more than 15 minutes. The county eventually paid $500,000 to settle a $2 million claim filed by Cotton's family.

Van Winkle never denied killing Cotton, 28, but testified that Cotton hit him. Van Winkle said Cotton told him, "one of us isn't walking out." The tape had no audio, leaving jurors to evaluate the credibility of Van Winkle, described by prosecutor Vince Imbordino as a four-time felon looking to establish a tough-guy reputation in prison.

But defense attorney Tim Agan said in closing arguments that Cotton violated Van Winkle's home by entering his cell without permission. Agan argued the prosecution had no evidence to dispute the defendant's testimony.

"The soundtrack Mr. Imbordino gives you is not proven by this video," Agan said.

The verdict, reached after about two-hours of deliberations, means that jurors will return Thursday to start hearing evidence about whether Van Winkle should be eligible for the death penalty.

If Van Winkle qualifies for the death penalty, the trial would advance to the penalty phase, where jurors would decide if he should be executed.

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