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, September 7, 2010

Prisoner Patrick Lee Ross' tragic death: more to the story

Last week on Arizona Prison Watch I posted a press release from the Arizona Department of Corrections about the suicide of a young prisoner named Patrick Ross. This morning I found that someone who knew and loved him had left a comment following that post. It suggested that there was more to the story, so I went to the Phoenix New Times to check the comments section there. Indeed, his loved one posted there, too, elaborating even more on Patrick's struggles and articulating his own sense of rage and loss.

The kid was apparently dying already, and not getting the medical care he needed - nor, do I suspect, was he about to get a compassionate release out of our governor, especially with an armed robbery conviction and more than 12 more years to serve. I doubt he was really sent to Oklahoma for "better" medical care - they probably just figured they could warehouse him more cheaply there and let Cornell take the heat from the family when he died. The judge who sentenced him - probably to the mandatory minimum, because of his prior conviction - was either oblivious to the realities of incarceration and compassionate release, or he knowingly gave the family false hopes by relaying their willingness to be his caregiver to the ADC as if it might ever happen. I can't imagine he didn't know that kid would never see freedom again.

Since Patrick's story in that comment would just be lost in the archives of the New Times, I'm reposting it here, in full, with the crass article that precipitated it. I'm a survivor of suicide myself, and am particularly sensitive to what these folks must be going through - callous remarks from people who know nothing about the person who died are only hurtful to those left behind to make sense of it all.

Anyway, I think it's important for the community to know the side of the story that would otherwise be buried with Patrick and his family's grief. If anyone out there who knew him wants to send me an obituary or write something about his struggles in prison with his illness specifically for this site, contact me at

First, the Phx New Times article, then the comment.

Wishing you peace and freedom for the rest of your journey, Patrick.


An Arizona prison inmate, being housed in a private prison in Hinton, Oklahoma, is dead after apparently taking the easy way out, rather than completing his sentence.

Officials at the Arizona Department of Corrections tell New Times inmate Patrick Ross was found dead in his cell around 7:50 a.m. yesterday.

Responding Medical teams tried to revive Ross but were unsuccessful.

DOC officials wouldn't say how Ross killed himself only saying he died "after apparently committing suicide."

Ross was serving a 13-year sentence -- at a private prison run by Cornell Companies -- for an armed robbery he committed in Maricopa County.

Ross began his sentence in December 2009 and ended it -- apparently on his own terms -- yesterday.

DOC is investigating the death.


Shawn Humphreys (comment added September 6, 2010)

Suicide, my ass suicide. PATRICK ross was an incredible human being, with a sad story and a debilitating disease that was taking over his life. His family was told he was being moved to Oklahoma so that he could get better treatment for Huntington's Chorea. He was supposed to get released into his grandmothers care in Wa. state when his symptoms worsened and the prison could no longer take care of him, as she is trained in caring for people with this disease. This is obviously another case where they, being the prison system, has failed to help a inmate who was sick and trying to turn their life around. So what do they do? Cover their asses by saying it was a suicide. FUCKED! IN LOVING MEMORY PATRICK LEE ROSS YOU WILL BE GREATLY MISSED WE LOVE YOU

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