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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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Old Code Lifers, Bill Macumber, and Sentencing Reform

Ever since learning about William Macumber, I've been wondering what else I can do to help. The petition seems to be going pretty well. I also made some postcards to send the Governor and the media (and to Bill) for his birthday (AUG 31 he'll be 75). Feel free to download, or get creative and make some of your own - you can still send them out after his birthday; I just thought the timing was good. Here's the photo and text I used:

State of Arizona Capitol, Executive Tower. Phoenix.
“Free William Macumber!”

August 28, 2010

Dear Governor Brewer:

William Macumber will be 75 on August 31. He is an innocent man, whose fate is in your hands. Please free him from prison and send him home to his family. It’s the right thing to do.

Thank you.

Margaret Jean Plews

Arizona Prison Watch

I also found the the Freedom for Bill Macumber website - you folks really need to go there and read more on his case. There are a couple of different petitions there, one being for sentencing reform for Old Code Lifers. Check it out, sign their petitions, and send your "Free Bill Macumber" postcards and letters to the Governor, Rep. Cecil Ash (Chair of the House Study Committee on Sentencing); members of the AZ House and Senate Judiciary Committees, and your own legislators in Bill's support. Changing the Old Code Lifers law seems to be Bill's only shot at getting free, unless the Governor can be convinced to change her mind. The Arizona Justice Project that helped Bill get through the clemency process seems to be behind that.

Actually, I'd like to see some new legislation that requires the state to free people from prison in prison who the Board of Executive Clemency finds to be innocent. We also need to prohibit the courts from refusing to hear new evidence where there remains a claim of innocence, as in Courtney Bisbee's case. It's incomprehensible that either Bill or Courtney are still in prison, and that there isn't a huge public uproar over it. The lives of too many wrongfully convicted people hinge on politics, not justice, when it's up to a governor or the trial judge whether or not to take a second look at a conviction.

Here's a bit on the Old Code Lifers law (from


What Else Can I Do?


As of March, 2010, Bill Macumber is still in prison in Douglas, Arizona. His son Ron and family traveled to Arizona in February to preview the documentary film and visit Bill in the Douglas Prison facility. Bill remains upbeat although he is very disappointed that the petition for clemency was vetoed by the Governor.

Bill’s life sentence is considered to be defined by the “old code” (the 1956 Criminal Code). Because of this, he is not eligible for parole. In 1973, the Arizona State Legislature rewrote Arizona’s death penalty statutes, adding a minimum sentence a period of 25 years. However, in doing so, they left a group of prisoners (now 29) ineligible for parole, with only “natural life” as their guideline for time served. Each of these 29 “old code lifers” has served over 32 years, and all are over the age of 55 (the average age is 65).

Many life-sentenced inmates since that time have served at least the minimum, then applied for and received parole. In one of his case’s many heartbreaking circumstances, Bill Macumber has never been allowed this privilege. He is effectively sentenced to life without parole, even though “life without parole” was not a sentence in Arizona at that time.

A proposition is currently being drafted for the Arizona legislature which would allow these 29 “old code lifers” to be eligible for parole. It does not guarantee parole, yet provides an opportunity for those who are trapped in the situation created by the 1973 amendment.

You can help support this bill by adding your name to the petition below and reading more at You are encouraged to email or write to your legislator and let them know that you strongly support a reform proposition which would allow Bill Macumber to apply for parole.

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