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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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Hold DAs Accountable for Abusive Prosecutions, Wrongful Convictions.

I certainly hope the AZ House Sentencing Study Committee takes a look at this issue and recommends legislation assuring that we're all protected from wrongful convictions and abusive prosecutions, especially in Maricopa County. Prosecutors everywhere seem more invested in ease of conviction than actual guilt of the accused, and bully even the innocent into plea bargains that send them to prison by punishing people who resist them with the equivalent of life sentences for economic crimes like fraud and writing bad checks.

Unfortunately, AZ judges are also seemingly numb to the inhumanity of incarceration - they tear apart lives and families all too readily. Not enough of them know what it's like to be taken prisoner and held under threat of death if they resist, to lose their kids when wrongfully convicted of a sex crime, or to be raped while being detained in the custody of the state. If they did, we'd have half the number of people in prison as we do now - and a lot fewer kids suffering from their parent's punishment through their forced absence and economic incapacitation.

Anyway, more DA's are finally stepping up to look at innocence claims and exonerations. We can't rely on all of them to be noble and honest, though. In light of the way Thomas has handled (or refused to handle) wrongful convictions in Maricopa County - and appears to go after his political enemies with the weapons of his office - someone other than the original prosecutor and judge should be monitoring for wrongful convictions and abusive prosecutions and sentences.

We need to start making this one of the most "talked-about issues" of the campaign for Attorney General and Maricopa Co. Attorney's Office - even the governor's race, since Goddard should be more on the ball with these himself.


Prosecutor in Manhattan Will Monitor Convictions

New York Times
March 4, 2010

The Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., announced Thursday that he would start a program to safeguard against wrongful convictions, addressing one of the most talked-about topics during his campaign for the office.

Known as the Conviction Integrity Program, the effort will be led by Bonnie Sard, a veteran assistant district attorney, who will monitor cases that raise red flags and oversee reinvestigations. The program will also include a panel of 10 of Mr. Vance’s top assistants to review cases and the office’s prosecutorial practices, as well as a panel of outside experts to advise on policy.

While Mr. Vance said he believed the office had long tried to make sure that it did not make mistakes, he said a structured system would take the approach one step further.

“I think this will help lawyers do better what they already were doing, and with more consistency,” Mr. Vance said in an interview.

It is nothing new for prosecutors to vet their own convictions and to question their investigations, said Joshua Marquis, the district attorney in Astoria, Ore., and a member of the board of the National District Attorneys Association. But establishing a specific unit in a district attorney’s office to examine convictions is an emerging trend, Mr. Marquis said, adding that the Manhattan office faced unique challenges because of its size. The office has about 400 assistant district attorneys.

“The worst nightmare of a prosecutor is not losing a case; it’s convicting an innocent person,” Mr. Marquis said. “I think a prosecutor’s always got to be willing to look back and say, ‘Hey, did we do the right thing?’ ”

Ms. Sard and both panels are expected to come up with additional training procedures to pass on to all assistants in the office, Mr. Vance said.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office has not always had a reputation for admitting its faults. In one instance, a former assistant district attorney, Daniel L. Bibb, said his bosses had urged him to defend the convictions in the 1990 Palladium nightclub shooting at a hearing, even though he believed that the two defendants were not guilty.

But Mr. Vance, who became the district attorney this year, said he believed he was setting a tone.

“Young assistants who have issues know they can raise those issues,” he said. “There is no downside. There is only an upside to raising a concern.”

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