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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AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Saturday, June 12, 2010

CCA, Censorship, and Prison Legal News

CCA: PLN press release on censorship settlement


Prison Legal News – For Immediate Release

June 7, 2010

Corrections Corp. of America Pays Damages, Attorney Fees to Settle Censorship Lawsuit

Eloy, AZ – Prison Legal News, a non-profit monthly publication that reports on criminal justice-related issues, announced today that it had settled a censorship suit against Corrections Corp. of America (CCA), the nation’s largest for-profit private prison company.

Prison Legal News (PLN) filed the lawsuit in September 2009, claiming that CCA’s Saguaro Correctional Center only allowed prisoners to order books from Amazon or Barnes & Nobles under the facility’s mail policy in effect at the time.

PLN argued that its inability to send books to prisoners at the CCA prison violated its rights under both the First Amendment and the Arizona Constitution. PLN sells over 40 book titles, including self-help books, dictionaries, educational books and books on legal topics. Examples include Everyday Letters for Busy People, Finding the Right Lawyer, and Starting Out! The Complete Re-Entry Handbook.

CCA staff claimed books sent to prisoners by PLN constituted “a serious danger to the security of the facility,” and said PLN was an “unapproved vendor.” CCA also failed to notify PLN that its books were being censored, and prohibited prisoners’ family members from purchasing books and publications on their behalf.

CCA changed its mail policy at Saguaro soon after PLN filed suit and agreed to settle the case in May 2010. As part of the settlement, PLN will not be placed on a prohibited vendor list, nor will PLN be subject to a blanket ban by CCA staff. Further, prisoners at Saguaro will be permitted to receive books and publications ordered by their family members or other third parties, CCA must post notices of the settlement at the Saguaro facility in areas where prisoners can read them, and CCA has to notify PLN of future censorship.

The settlement will be enforceable by the U.S. District Court for a period of 18 months ending on December 5, 2011. CCA also agreed to pay a lump sum to PLN in damages, attorney’s fees and costs. The amount of the payment cannot be included in this press release pursuant to the terms of the settlement agreement, but the amount paid by CCA to settle this case is available

by contacting PLN’s representatives or attorneys, listed below.

“It is always unfortunate when corrections officials ignore the First Amendment by prohibiting publishers from sending books to prisoners,” stated PLN editor Paul Wright. “This settlement will ensure that CCA employees respect our rights, and that prisoners and their family members can order books from PLN and other publishers. As the nation’s largest private prison company, CCA should have known better than to censor our books and violate our rights.”

“The fundamental right to send and receive written material is basic for an informed society,” added Dan Pochoda, Legal Director of the ACLU of Arizona. “[Prison] administrators too often act as if prisoners check their constitutional protections at the prison door, and the ACLU was pleased to assist PLN in challenging that view in this case.”

The case is Prison Legal News v. Corrections Corp. of America, U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, Case No. 2:09-cv-01831-PHX-ROS. PLN was ably represented by attorneys Ernest Galvan, Sandy Rosen and Blake Thompson with the San Francisco law firm of Rosen, Bien & Galvan, LLP, and Daniel Pochoda, Legal Director of the ACLU of Arizona.


Prison Legal News (PLN), founded in 1990 and based in Brattleboro, Vermont, is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human rights in U.S. detention facilities. PLN publishes a monthly magazine that includes reports, reviews and analysis of court rulings and news related

to prisoners’ rights and criminal justice issues. PLN has almost 7,000 subscribers nationwide and operates a website ( that includes a comprehensive database of prison and jail-related articles, news reports, court rulings, verdicts, settlements and related documents. PLN is a project of the Human Rights Defense Center.

For further information, please contact:

Paul Wright, Editor
Prison Legal News
P.O. Box 2420
Brattleboro, VT 05303
(802) 257-1342

Ernest Galvan, Atty.
Rosen, Bien & Galvan, LLP
315 Montgomery Street, 10th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104
(415) 433-6830
(415) 433-7104 fax

Lindsay Nordstrom
ACLU of Arizona
P.O. Box 17148
Phoenix, AZ 85011
(602) 773-6005