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:

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

LGBTI prisoners and the Community's Voice.

Just an FYI for family members: keep your eyes open for chances to put in your two cents - like contacting the National Institute of Corrections, who put out this solicitation I stumbled across (below). If you think corrections does a lousy job with our people, tell them what they should be doing better - not just in your prison or state, but as a national standard. We want to be training the trainers - that's called being proactive. We need to be figuring out and sharing with each other just who those entities are, and how to influence them.

We should also be telling them what kind of research to be doing - what are they not getting? As for this particular solicitation, research shows the bias that results in longer or more severe sentences for people who are or are perceived to be LGBTI; prosecutors play on stereotypes and homophobia to get convictions and harsh sentences just like they exploit racism. Then people just keep getting screwed as they go through the system - singled out for assault, exploitation, false accusations, etc. LGBTQ & I prisoners are subject to extraordinarily abusive conditions and treatment (by guards and other prisoners alike). I don't know what the NIC project will actually yield - probably not anything from a radical women of color's collective, but possibly something creative that will make the punishment of all prisoners a little less cruel and unusual.

In any case, don't just wait and see what the profession comes up with - if you have ideas, let them have them: who else is going to speak up? They need all the help they can get to stop the abuse and neglect of prisoners, and there's no reason that their directions shouldn't come straight from the communities most affected by the social and economic injustices in our society that both fuel and feed on the practice of mass incarceration. Otherwise, we leave the running of the criminal justice system to the same people who got us into this mess in the first place, and it'll just keep grinding up our families and communities.
If you are blessed enough to have a voice - especially if you have survived the hell of jail or prison yourself - put it to good use.


(Updated) Cooperative Agreement: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Guidance Project

Updated: 6/07/2010

The National Institute of Corrections (NIC) is soliciting proposals from organizations, groups, or individuals to enter into a cooperative agreement for a 12-month project period. Work under this agreement will result in a policy guide for corrections practitioners charged with the care and custody of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) offenders. In addition to providing guidance in selected operational areas (see Goal 2 and Supplementary Information), the guide will provide:

  1. A brief summary of the relevant case law,
  2. A description of current terms and definitions relevant to the LGBTI population, including an acknowledgment that these terms evolve and change over time, and
  3. A list of topics that should be addressed in initial and ongoing staff training.

Informational resources, websites, and sources for additional support should accompany each of these three areas.

DEADLINE: Applications must be received by 4:00 p.m. EDT on Friday, June 11, 2010.

Questions/Responses (posted 5/24/2010)

  1. What is the time frame for the project?
    This will be a twelve month award.
  2. Can the due date be extended?
    Proposals will be due June 11, 2010
  3. In order to achieve Goal 4, developing and testing the first draft of the guide, would the NIC Research and Evaluation unit assist with accessing corrections personnel, or should we have a clear plan and some type of cooperative agreement in place with corrections personnel at the time of proposal writing?
    Applicants should be prepared to meet the project goals as stated. Under a cooperative agreement NIC will work with the awardee to refine their plans for the project.
  4. Similar to the scope of the PREA Standards, can the policy guide for corrections practitioners charged with the care and custody of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) offenders address those held in adult prisons and jails as well as youth held in juvenile facilities? We believe there is a great need for guidance on this topic for juvenile justice administrators, medical and mental health staff, and training coordinators.
    Applicants should include whatever components they feel best address the project goals. NIC welcomes creative suggestions and innovative approaches to the work, within the budget constraints and available funds.
  5. (Added 6/7/2010) Is there a predetermined start date for the project?
    No, the 12 month time frame will begin with the date of the award.