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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Monday, December 14, 2009

Next AZ Attorney General: Pay Attention.

The good news is that this refers to funding I presume the Arizona Justice Project at ASU gets. The bad news is that it doesn't appear to cover re-opening cases of people whose eyewitnesses have sworn new statements recanting the original testimony (admitting that they committed perjury) that resulted in the conviction. They seem focused exclusively on cases that can be cleared via DNA evidence - many people sit in prison wrongfully convicted of crimes that will never be solved with physical evidence. 

We need judges and prosecutors to take the initiative to re-examine these cases when they come back to them - not just bury them with their other mistakes. The next Attorney General of Arizona is going to have a big mess to clean up with Maricopa County's wrongful convictions if Thomas doesn't take care of his own business first. Guess he has his hands full these days prosecuting political enemies, though, instead of protecting victims of state violence. His violence. Incarceration is violence. Just ask these men who had whole chunks of their life taken from them - kids grow up, parents grow old and die, human touch is hard to come by. Imprisoning someone for any period of time is no small thing. We'd better make sure that we aren't carelessly throwing the innocent in there as well.

Finally, Congress needs to repeal the Prison Litigation Reform Act and replace it with the Prison Abuse Remedies Act. Ever since the PLRA was passed in 1995 (thanks for yet another swell piece of work, Clinton), it's been extremely difficult for prisoners to sue to protect or seek remedy for human rights violations - they must exhaust all internal administrative remedies before they even have standing in court. 

Now, imagine filing a rape complaint against a CO who's popular with the other guards and supervisors, and having to wait for it to go through all administrative channels before you can even get outside intervention to protect you. Anyone have any idea of how many ways you could be punished for that by the time help arrived? Many prisoners don't even bother trying to sue for their rights - just filing grievances can be an uphill battle that just sets you up for massive guard and administrative retaliation. Abuses didn't decrease in prisons after the PLRA was passed - the victims were simply silenced, which usually fosters an environment in which even more serious abuses can take place. We owe the cause of justice better than that. The SAVE Coalition will tell you more about the problems with the PLRA and how to fix them.


Sunday, December 13, 2009 - Page updated at 11:01 AM

Connecticut searching for any wrongful convictions

Associated Press Writer

Connecticut is looking into hundreds of old criminal cases to determine if any prisoners were wrongly convicted of rape, murder or manslaughter as part of an ambitious initiative under way around the country.

Fourteen states have received millions of dollars in federal grants for DNA testing of old cases. In Connecticut, the money will pay for prosecutors, DNA experts and defense attorneys to work full-time reviewing cases and ultimately testing evidence in some for DNA.

"The goal is to be sure that if somebody is in jail wrongfully that they get out as soon as we can possibly do that," said James Clark, a New Haven prosecutor participating in the effort. "There is no right thinking person who would not want to release someone who is wrongly convicted."

Clark and Karen Goodrow, director of the Connecticut Innocence Project, predicted the initiative likely would lead to exonerations, but with the project in its early stages they could not say how many.

"I think in any system which is a human system there will be error," Clark said. "My sense of it is there is not going to be a lot. I don't think false convictions are common."

The Connecticut Innocence Project has already helped free three men in recent years who were wrongly convicted.

In August, Kenneth Ireland was freed after spending two decades in prison after a judge dismissed murder and rape charges against him following DNA testing that showed he could not have committed the crimes.

James Calvin Tillman was released from prison in 2006 after serving 18 years for rape. The state awarded him $5 million for his wrongful conviction.

Miguel Roman was sentenced to 60 years in prison for the 1988 murder of his girlfriend, 17-year-old Carmen Lopez, but freed after he served 20 years. DNA tests showed he could not have been the killer.

Connecticut received a $1.5 million federal grant for the project. Thirteen other states, California, Colorado, Louisiana, Maryland, New Mexico, Minnesota, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Arizona, Kentucky, Texas, Virginia and Washington have received federal grants as well in the past two years to review old cases...
                                                   (Back to the Seattle Times for the rest)

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