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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Friday, October 8, 2010

The Anguished exit of Kent Knudson, Community Activist.

As most of you from Phoenix know, Kent Knudson was a local community activist who committed suicide September 25, having fallen into a deep depression in large part because of a series of criminal prosecutions. He was an outspoken critic of the CJ system, and fought for reform and prisoner rights, among other things.

I didn't really know Kent myself, though I'm sure we've been shoulder to shoulder at a few demonstrations and other events, particularly this past year.
The peace and justice community that he was such a part of is devastated, of course.

I'm still sorting through all the grieving emails and tributes that showed up in my in-box this week, and will post more about his life and legal battles when I find the most complete story about what happened. For now, here's his obituary, sent to everyone in his email address book; that's his own electronic signature at the bottom.

Because of the public scrutiny of the accused, the dehumanization of "criminals", the expense and energy one needs to invest in legal defense, the humiliation of jail, the constant coercion to take a plea under threat of state violence if found guilty at trial, and all the social consequences of being a felon, prosecution and criminalization can be so much more damaging to a life, career, family, and spirit than what may actually be handed down by a judge - that truth is always left out of the sentencing. It pushes way too many people - including the innocent and mentally impaired - to take their own lives over things that should never even merit jail, much less execution. I hope we can turn that around soon.

Please, all, remember that while suicide is 100% preventable, it can trigger a cascade of despair and further self-destruction within communities; keep close tabs on your own moods as well as on your loved ones in the coming weeks and months. If you need to, call a friend, see a professional, or dial a hotline to talk, cry, or rage. Try to wait to act on your impulses until the urgency passes - you can always reserve the option of suicide for when your moods improve, which they eventually will; that's why I'm still here - once I feel better, even if conditions are worse, killing myself never looks like the best solution to whatever I'm struggling with. Remember - we need all the help we can get on this planet; we need to keep the good guys alive to get through this.

Condolences to Kent's family and friends - to all whom his life and death so deeply touched.

Have a blessed journey Home, Kent.


From: Kent>
Date: October 2, 2010 9:19:24 AM EDT
To: kent knudson>
Subject: Kent Knudson in Memoriam

It is with great sadness that I must report to you the news of the passing of my great friend and hero, Kent Knudson. Kent had been suffering from depression over yet another traumatic legal difficulty and facing two felony charges, on top of his "Cowcrap" conviction. The pressures of this latest legal action taken against him, the possibility of 3 years of jail time, and other factors lead him into a depression from which Kent had decided to take matters into his own control, ending his life.

This has been a very difficult time for me and Sarah, and others who were close to Kent. I ask you to come together at Kent's memorial service to reflect and celebrate with us Kent's life, pursuits and achievements.

Memorial services will be held on Wednesday, October 6th at 7pm, at the Arizona Biltmore Resort.

Thank You,
Sham Rao

Kent Randolph Knudson
November 11, 1949 - September 25, 2010

Although schooled in Engineering Mathematics, Kent's greatest contributions are the result of his life long career as an photographer. Having licensed his works to commercial stock agencies, advertisers, and marketing companies, Kent's art has dominated and influenced all of his life's pursuits.

Kent's later life was radically altered as a result of an unfortunate cascading injustice at the hands of the government. During the years that Kent spent caring for his beloved mother who was developing Alzheimer's disease, Kent fell into legal trouble as a result of attempting to safeguard his mother against an invading herd of cattle on their 40 acre ranch near Snowflake, AZ.

Compelled into a new life of social justice and activism, Kent sought to fight the injustices he has suffered as a consequence of his "Cowcrap" ordeal, devoting his activist efforts towards:

1. Repealing Open Range Laws
2. Ending Malicious Prosecution
3. Facilitating Prison Reform, and Inmate Human Rights
4. Promoting Jury Nullification and Court Reform

Among other activist pursuits, Kent is well known for leading the 9/11Truth movement in Phoenix, AZ and hosting a 9/11 Truth and Accountability conference. He also supported various other Peace and Justice causes including: Ending the US military occupations, defending human rights, environmentalism and sustainability.

Kent is survived by his sister Cathy Leavitt, nephews Brent Leavitt & Thomas Leavitt, niece Paula Thompson, companion Sarah Fox, longtime friend Sham Rao, his cat Ewok, and the Social Justice Activist Community.

Kent will be missed mostly for the passion and drive with which he lived and demonstrated throughout his life and art.


Memorial service:
Arizona Biltmore Resort
Wednesday, October 6th, 2010
Visitation: 7-8pm
Memorial: 8-10pm

Snowflake Cemetery
Snowflake, AZ
Saturday, October 9th, 2010 @3pm
For more information:
Sham Rao

{The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. - Edmund Burke (1729-1797)}


A reminder for all the colorful peace and justice activists we've lost over the years, from the film about Abbie Hoffman, "Steal This Movie": We can't sing louder than the guns when we're gone...

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