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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PHOENIX: Trans Queer Pueblo


AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Monday, October 11, 2010

LGBTQ Prisoner support: Communities of Resistance's Bent Bars Collective.

Got that cool transgender clip art symbol I used in the post above from these folks, the Bent Bars Collective. They're a British group that formed specifically to build a bridge between community members and LGBTQ prisoners. What follows is an intro and link to their current newsletter, after which is the intro and link to their first newsletter. The links to each are for pdf copies so you can print and mail them to prisoners who might be interested. The writing appears to be done by GLBTQ prisoners, and may be useful in reducing the isolation that GLBTQ prisoners here struggle constantly with. Perhaps it will inspire a similar solidarity collective to form here.

Communities of Resistance is the collective's parent group; the UK has a lot of prison abolitionists. Here's their mission statement:

Communities of Resistance (CoRe) is a new grassroots initiative that aims to stop prison expansion in Britain. We oppose building new prisons, because prisons do not make our communities safe. We support and believe in developing effective, community-based solutions to social problems that do not rely on models of imprisonment.


Second Bent Bars Newsletter Now Out!

Welcome to the second Bent Bars Newsletter. Here we bring you another collection of writing, poems, images and information contributed by folks on the inside who are part of the project.

It has been a busy year for the Bent Bars Project as our small collective has been working hard to respond to all the communication we recieve. Each week brings another large bundle of letters with new requests, news from those who have now become old friends, news of situations that anger us, bring sadness, inspire us deeply, make us laugh out lud and question our perspectives.

It is a challenge to keep track of everyone contacting us from inside and outside, but we now have more than 70 long-term penpal connections. We are really thrilled that this includes those between people who were inside penpals, were then released and are now writing to others still inside. To read more, click on the link below for a PDF version (5.4MB in size) or write to us if you'd like a paper copy sent by post.

Click here to download the Second Bent Bars Newsletter!

Bent Bars Launches First Newsletter

The Bent Bars Collective is proud to announce our first newsletter! The newsletter is written by and for prisoners and the first issue is on the topic of 'coming out' in prison.

Click on the link below for a PDF version of our first newsletter or if you would like a paper copy, please write to us and we'll send you one.

Since the Bent Bars Project began in February this year, we have received many letters from those in prison. Among the various requests we regularly receive, many asked for information about ‘coming out’ in prison. Yet all the resources we could find on ‘coming out’ were not written with prisoners in mind. So we decided to create our own resource, by asking prisoners to share thoughts and advice on the topic. We put a call out for submissions in July – and asked you to tell us about your own experiences of being out, or not out in prison, and what advice you would give to other prisoners thinking about coming out. The responses are printed here.

One of the aims of the Bent Bars Project is to build links between lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, intersex, queer and gender-nonconforming communities (LGBTQ) inside and outside prison. We work in solidarity with those inside to build stronger community links across prison walls. Issues around 'coming out' ring true for many of us, inside and out: the attitudes of families and friends; wanting to resist being pigeon-holed and identified only by sexuality; fears about prejudice, discrimination, rejection and violence.

Clearly these difficulties are made harder for those inside, where all these problems are increased by the severity and restrictions of prison life. We want to create a space where people inside can read the feelings and perspectives of others facing similar challenges in prison. We also want to make connections between those inside and other LGBTQ people who are currently outside. Prisons magnify repression of queer communities. This repression is at the root of social exclusion that leads to over-representation of LGBTQ communities, communities of colour and low-income communities, within the prison system.

In these pages then you will read the voices of people who answered our call out for writings. The words they have sent us are powerful, moving, funny, creative and harrowing in turn. They offer valuable ideas and raise many questions.

Many prisoners who wrote to us said that we could include their full names with their submissions. Although we wanted to honour those who are “out and proud,” we decided to publish first names or nicknames only for safety reasons. We hope that one day this will not be necessary – that one we will all be free to express ourselves fully and openly.

Once again we want to thank the contributors for all they have shared. It is important also to acknowledge that people inside make many different choices in order to survive, and there are many different ways of expressing identities and sexualities. Many people do not feel safe to come out or even to write to us: for this reason our newsletter cannot be fully representative. For those not able to, or choosing not to 'come out' in prison, we want to acknowledge the strength in those silences as well as the voices heard here.

~From your friends in the Bent Bars Collective

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Download this file (BentBars_newsletter1_colourA1.pdf)BentBars Newsletter 1 - updatedBent Bars Newsletter 1A1764 Kb

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