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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Monday, October 11, 2010

Victimization in prison: the cold hard facts on rape.

Here's the Justice Department's 91-page pdf report: Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates, 2008-09. Good, brief editorial by the NYT as well, introducing the study.


New York Times Editorial
September 9, 2010

Making Prisons Safer

Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has spent nearly 15 months weighing new mandatory rape prevention policies for federal prisons and state correctional institutions that receive federal money. The policies, which are due this fall, need to be as tough as possible.

A recent report from the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics makes that clear, suggesting yet again that sexual violence is frighteningly commonplace in the nation’s prisons and jails.

Based on a survey of more than 80,000 inmates at more than 450 facilities, it found that 4.4 percent of prison inmates and 3.1 percent of jail inmates reported being sexually assaulted one or more times. The bureau estimates that, nationally, 88,500 prison and jail inmates experienced some form of sexual victimization in the previous 12 months. The survey did not include follow-up investigations to determine the veracity of the inmates’ claims. But rape victims in prison are often hesitant to report their assaults out of shame or fear of reprisal, and these numbers may actually underestimate the problem.

The report’s finding that some prisons have far higher rates of victimization than others are consistent with the findings of the Congressionally mandated National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. It studied this problem extensively and found that some prisons promoted a climate of safety while others implicitly tolerated abuse.

The commission came up with a strong set of prevention recommendations. These included better screening and training for guards, better medical and psychiatric care for assault victims, better protection for the most vulnerable inmates and the creation of a system that allows victims to report rape without risk of reprisal. Mr. Holder received the commission’s recommendations in June last year and then put them out for public comment, raising fears that state and local corrections officials would water them down. Mr. Holder needs to ensure that doesn’t happen.

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