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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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans remember comrades in prison: Ukiah, CA.

Forgotten heroes


Incarcerated vets receive community support 

Three years ago, Sheriff Tom Allman approached county veterans with an idea: creating a celebration for incarcerated veterans. Though initially met with some trepidation, the idea took root and is now part of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1900's yearly Veterans Day activities.

"We usually have between 12 to 15 veteran inmates in custody. The Ukiah VFW Post does the cooking and socializing. The Willits American Legion Post is very instrumental to this event by raising the necessary money for food," says Allman, who emphasizes that no tax dollars are used to cover event expenses.

Derek Shawk, senior vice-commander of VFW Post 1900, is a Marine who served in the Persian Gulf from 1988 until 1992. The Ukiah native got involved with the VFW three years ago at the prompting of his wife, who is not a veteran but volunteers at their monthly pancake breakfasts.

Today Shawk is head cook for the breakfasts, so it was natural for him to prepare food for the picnic. "The event is unexpected for the veteran inmates. They're very appreciative and humbled by the experience," notes Shawk.

The picnic lasts about two hours, beginning with the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a barbecue, dessert and socializing. Several years ago, a Ukiah vet made a comment to the sheriff: "Just because someone has done something bad, doesn't mean they haven't done something good in their life," Allman quotes.

Shawk notes that last year, some of the corrections officers who are veterans attended the picnic. "It was a chance for the inmates and officers to see themselves as veterans."

He feels post traumatic stress disorder is one of the root causes of many of the problems plaguing today's veterans. "While you're in a combat zone you don't have time to think. You're not going to leave your buddies behind by telling a counselor you're under stress. It's when they come home and everything's calm that people start to have problems," Shawk notes. "That's what the word post' means, in PTSD."

What was called "shell-shock" during World War I has undergone several re-brandings. During the Second World War, it became "combat fatigue" and today is known as PTSD. Shawk feels vets have always suffered with post-combat, anxiety-related conditions.

Today's soldiers, according to Shawk, spend months in grueling, unrelieved combat situations, making it very difficult to manage stress. Once home, problems with addiction, homelessness, anger and violence can ensue unless vets receive early counseling. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimated that nearly 200,000 veterans were homeless in 2006.

"Many veterans try to assimilate, but they are not the same person they were before they enlisted, and they never will be," he explains...

(follow the link to get to the rest at the Ukiah Daily Journal )

1 comment:

Bernie Weisz said...

My name is Bernie Weisz. Ii am a historian of the Vietnam War. You may see my profile on Please see my review of the books: "Selective Memories of Vietnam 1969-1970" by Jack Head, "What Are They going to do, Send Me to Vietnam? by Jack Stoddard, as well as all my reviews that website. I very much sympathize with any veteran suffering with the horrible and real affliction of P.T.S.D. My father died from it and my cousin is in the throes of addiction as a consequence of this plague. My father was a pilot for the Royal Air Force in England, flying a "B-24 Liberator" from 1940 to 1945. His whole family (5 brothers, his mother and father) all met their maker in Hitler's gas chambers. My father was the only one to escape, leaving Czechoslovakia for the U.K. in 1938. After immigrating to America after the end of the war, his nerves were frayed from the 50+ combat missions flying over Axis skies. He took to alcohol as his best friend. He died from cirrhosis of the liver when I was 24, very rarely able to talk to me, his only son, about his demons. My cousin, who currently lives in Tuscon, Arizona, is a "Desert Storm" veteran, being wounded in combat. As a result of his injuries, he has had an addiction to narcotic pain medicine that he has never shaken. His P.T.S.D. is equally debilitating. My task is to speak out for all those vets that cannot. My father always told me "the pen is mightier than the sword", and I have never forgotten that! If anyone would like to offer me their book about their wartime experiences (REMF's welcomed as well) I will be glad to read and review their book on all the major websites (Amazon, Barnes and Noble,
Open Library, etc.) God bless all vets! I can be reached Cheers! Bernie Weisz