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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Saturday, September 11, 2010

ACLU and St. Tammany's "Squirrel Cages": Update

Score one for the Louisiana ACLU!

ACLU Blog of Rights
Aug 24th, 2010

No More "Squirrel Cages" in Louisiana's St. Tammany Parish

Last month, we told you about the "squirrel cages" in Louisiana: 3-by 3-foot metal cages that St. Tammany Parish officials use to detain mentally ill, suicidal prisoners. The ACLU of Louisiana sent a letter (PDF) to parish Sheriff Jack Strain informing him that locking prisoners in these cages was inhumane and unconstitutional.

After some he-said, we-said, today we're happy to report that the St. Tammany Parish sheriff's office has issued a new set of policies for the treatment of suicidal prisoners. Now, instead of locking them in cages, they will be housed in a holding cell monitored by guards. Instead of urinating in milk cartons, which the previous practice allowed, prisoners will have access to bathrooms and potable water. Instead of sleeping on the floor of the cage, mentally ill prisoners will now have beds. And instead of being forced to wear Daisy Duke-style shorts with the words "HOT STUFF" scrawled across the backside, prisoners on suicide watch will be given jumpsuits and clothed as modestly as possible.

And, a bonus: a new position has been created as a "jail inspector," who will oversee conditions in the jail. (Hopefully this jail inspector will do something about the lack of sanitary napkins for female prisoners — a few have reported being denied pads during their periods. We don't have to tell you what the alternative is — and it's not tampons.)

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