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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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Prisoners sue Virginia to Stop Rape.

35 victims are willing to come forward in a prison in order to stop sexual violence there - that's astonishing. Unfortunately the following article focuses on 4/35 prisoner litigants who have violent histories as if everyone does. At least it acknowledges a bias that makes it hard for us to see predators as victims in a different situation, and feel any kind of empathy for them, however.

Most of the other litigants are probably doing hard time, actually (which suggests more serious offenses), so they have less to lose than guys trying to keep their good time or those finally approaching parole, so I wouldn't expect to find a bunch of angels suing prisons in general, especially in class-actions. Regardless of their crimes, though, I do think these guys should get some credit for taking this on - they're doing it as much for their peers and the next generation of prisoners as they are for themselves...this is a pretty major undertaking, with significant implications, whether or not these guys win. Just filing the suit cranks up the heat on the DOJ to investigate their victimization - I don't see how the DOJ could refuse to CRIPA the place now...

Like it or not, folks, we need to protect the real bad guys we lock up as much as anyone else, especially if they are ever to return to our communities. We don't want them coming back more violated and violent than when they went to prison. Nor do we want to resort to barbarism, ourselves (I hope). Knowingly subjecting others to rape and torture twists our own heads, policies, and priorities in ways we won't recognize some day, if we don't stop and take responsibility now. So, even when convicted rapists and murderers and child molesters report that they have been raped in prison, we'd better respond wisely and make sure that this particular crisis brings out the best, not the worst, in all of us who wish to be part of the solution instead of the problam.

Furthermore, some things need to be said for all the rest of the prisoners vulnerable in this place. 35 VA prisoners filed suit - that's a LOT of people from one facility taking a risk that they'll be retaliated against any number of ways (including assault and murder). Suing your prison isn't a very safe thing to do while you're in it; it takes guts. Check out what's been happening with the Soy Suit litigants in Illinois.

Considering the potential consequences they're braving here, this reporter really dissed all the guys who signed on to this Virginia lawsuit. Whatever else they have done in life, no matter how horrendous, and whatever their sentence may be, prisoners can still make decisions every day to try to improve the world around them, to just be victimized and grow more vicious or self-destructive, or to hurt others. Because of the angle this lawsuit is taking, the involvement of Just Detention International, and the likelihood that these guys (and their lawyers) won't ever see a dime as a result of it (their emphasis is on reform), I think these guys all made a decision to try to make the world a little better, despite their crimes. I think that deserves some respect, if nothing else.


Va. inmates file suits to stop prison violence

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