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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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Arizona Department of Corrections: The sound of silence

Kingman Daily Miner
8/29/2010 6:01:00 AM

Column: Her name was Jessica ... and she refused to talk

Mark Borgard


There was a pretty little girl who transferred to my school when I was a kid. Her name was Jessica, and she was gorgeous. She had cute, dangly curls that framed her sweet face, and her eyes sparkled when she smiled.

Equipped with my 5th-grade boy's confidence, I approached Jessica during recess soon after her arrival and asked her where she had moved from. She stared at me for a second, not smiling, turned and walked away. I figured she must be shy because I knew, even at that young age, that everyone completely adored me. I tried again at lunch.

This time, she didn't even wait for me to finish my question before turning and walking away. At afternoon recess, I watched her playing with some of the other kids, some of my friends, so I tried again. I thought maybe if I showed her how fun I could be that she'd want to know me.

Turned out, my friends weren't in the mood to get chummy right then, and I ended up punching one of them in the arm. She shook her head, turned and walked away. As I watched her leave, my friend recovered enough to smack me in the back of the head.

What got me to thinking about Jessica this week was Director Charles Ryan and PR Guy/Ryan Blocker Barrett Marson with the Arizona Department of Corrections, whose motto is, "Every Killer Deserves a Break." You see, Mr. Ryan refuses to talk to the Miner. Oh, we've tried and tried, but he shelters himself behind Mr. Marson while refusing to answer any questions relating to the June escape at the prison in Golden Valley.

Turns out, we're not the only ones he doesn't want to talk to. He doesn't want to talk to you, either. He cancelled a public forum scheduled for Tuesday because he said he needs more time to prepare, which means, of course, he needs more time to work on his spin.

Although, he might be a bit spooked to stand before the people he and his department have put at great risk for at least the last five years. I call it the Ron Walker Syndrome. It's when you hide in your office and refuse to answer questions ... because you're a pinhead.

However, I could be wrong. Not about the pinhead part, about Mr. Ryan's intentions. Maybe Mr. Ryan respects our community enough to want to do his homework before he stands in front of us and explains why killers were housed in a medium-security prison, which, as far as we can tell, was actually a minimum-security prison. To give Mr. Ryan the benefit of the doubt, I've prepared some questions he might want to be able to answer when he finally decides to Cowboy Up.

1. Why were murderers housed at a medium-security prison?

2. Please explain your classification system that allows murderers and other violent offenders to be housed in a medium-security prison?

3. Please explain how it is not criminal to place high-security inmates in a medium-security prison (that actually was a minimum-security prison).

4. How much do you hate the people of Kingman and Golden Valley that you would allow our safety, not to mention the safety of the guards and other inmates, to be in jeopardy for at least the last five years?

5. In your mind, can the Arizona Department of Corrections be faulted for anything relating to the escape of two killers and a soon-to-be-convicted killer from the prison in Golden Valley?

6. Would you have allowed a woman who was caught delivering drugs to the prison leave with no charges leveled against her?

7. Do you think an internal audit is ever beneficial?

8. Has the recent escape proven to you that private prisons do not work?

9. Have all the convicted murderers been shipped out of the prison in Golden Valley, and when will you sneak them back in?

10. Did Gov. Jan Brewer, knowing her party had turned against her on the sales tax hike, sign SB 1070 to get herself back in the Republican fold in a final effort to get elected in November?

All right, you can skip the last one. But you better study and have answers to the other ones whenever you decide to grace us with your presence. You see, I've dealt with your type before. Her name was Jessica.

For weeks, I tried everything I could think of to get Jessica to talk to me, but she never did. I lost interest eventually, as young boys do, and moved out of state the next summer.

To this day, though, I still wonder why she never said a word to me. Maybe it fueled my passion for journalism, to get people to talk to me.

The only difference I can see between Jessica and Mr. Ryan is that Jessica was 11.

Oh, and she didn't run a severely flawed prison system.

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