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, January 3, 2010

Arizona: Take a Lesson From Michigan.

From the ACLU's website. I hope our legislators all got a copy of this Michigan report, assuming they want to do something about mass incarceration other than make it worse. Considering that's how Arizona has led the country, I'm glad no one seems to be following us anymore - this place has gone like a pack of lemmings after Pearce, off the Far Right cliff.

The link to the pdf report on how Michigan is doing this is at the bottom of the article.


December 18, 2009
Lowering Incarceration Rates Makes Fiscal Sense Without Jeopardizing Public Safety
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666;

WASHINGTON – Michigan's successful efforts to reduce its statewide prison population by more than eight percent during the past two years while at the same time improving public safety provides a model for other states seeking smarter, more affordable criminal justice policies, according to a report released today by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The report, "Michigan Breaks the Political Logjam: A New Model for Reducing Prison Populations," details how Michigan's initiatives come in the face of the ongoing and unprecedented growth of prison populations across the country, a reality that has contributed to crippling budget deficits for many states.

"Michigan has undertaken what may be the most effective changes to reduce incarceration of any of our nation's states to date," said Elizabeth Alexander, Director of the ACLU National Prison Project and author of the report. "Michigan provides a compelling example of how we can save money, reduce our prison populations and make our communities safer by abandoning our rush to incarcerate."

According to the report, a key component of Michigan's successful reduction of its statewide prisoner population has been the adoption of the Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative (MPRI), which links internal prison system efforts aimed at preparing prisoners for re-entry into general society with locally developed re-entry support programs. Under the MPRI, prisoners' risks of re-offending, needs and strengths are assessed upon entry into the Department of Corrections. Prison staff also utilize a computer software program to develop a transition accountability plan that serves to guide interventions and services that will facilitate the successful return of prisoners to the community while reducing the potential risk to public safety. About 60 days prior to a prisoner's release date, a more specific re-entry plan focused on housing, employment and services for addiction and mental illness is developed.

The MPRI program, as well as the commitment of corrections officials to providing prisoners with focused re-entry preparation, has increased the percentage of prisoners who are paroled by their estimated date of release to more than 70 percent. The percentage of prisoners serving time past their estimated date of release has fallen in the past two years alone from 31 percent to 25 percent.

"Michigan's experience is important because it demonstrates that common sense can in fact trump demagoguery and that smart-on-crime policies can actually triumph," said Alexander.

According to the report, Michigan's prison population last month had dropped to 47,634, down from a high of 51,554 in March 2007. That allowed Michigan, faced with a budget gap of $1.4 billion, to announce this year the shuttering of eight prison facilities, with a projected budget savings of $120 million. In the Michigan Department of Corrections budget for fiscal year 2009-2010, direct expenditures for operating prison facilities were reduced by approximately $192 million while the budget for various initiatives to further reduce the prison population was increased by about $59 million.

"Michigan's example is just another sign that mass incarceration may finally be imploding, collapsing under its own weight as the global financial crisis renders it unsustainable," said Alexander. "Michigan inspires hope as a concrete example of the change in incarceration policies that the United States so desperately needs."

The report, however, criticizes Michigan's failure to adequately provide necessary mental and medical health care to its prisoners (don't take a lesson from them on this. They're in trouble with the courts, too). 

A copy of the report, "Michigan Breaks the Political Logjam: A New Model for Reducing Prison Populations" is available online at:

Additional information about the ACLU National Prison Project is available online at:

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