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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Thursday, November 4, 2010

The AZ Tea Party Senate President-elect

First, my apologies for being silent so long - I went on a protest and chalking binge after the Day of Action Against Police Brutality event at the ADC (which I'll post photos of later - it was pretty cool). Also, an Aloha to our comrades in Hawai'i; gracias for the encouraging words. And thanks to my prison-watching compa for posting articles here in my absence.

Tuesday's election results were devastating for most of us across the country, but the implications are especially destructive in Arizona. The white supremacist patriarchy solidified its grip over our state's residents and guests in both the governor's mansion and legislature by exploiting racist and classist fears and resorting to jingoism, an old standard for American politicians. Pearce uses patriotic one-liners a lot because he has nothing of real substance to say (except that he plans to defile and legislate away everything democracy is supposed to be, which you won't catch him explicitly admitting. It's an old sleight of hand magic trick he does. Guess he's better at fooling people than I thought).

The ballot measures passed and the scary people elected to office are bad enough - the voters who elected them are more troubling, though. I imagine they will be the folks who call Joe Arpaio's goons to report that their neighbors or parents aided and abetted a Latino family in trouble without first checking the legitimacy of their documents. That will cost left-leaning altruists five years in the state pen for "human smuggling" or some shit (ten years if you do it for profit). Being criminalized as felons means we lose the right to vote, of course. By the time this legislative session is over, migrant sympathizers will probably lose our citizenship, as well.

This place is far worse than Orwell could have imagined 1984 America to be.

Now, to top it all off, we have a new State Senate President: none other than our beloved Klansman-in-the nude (Tea Partier), Russ Pearce. How disturbing that the majority of our state senators would want him as their leader - I never would have thought he had that much staying power, given how shallow, selfish, and cruel his agenda is. Goodbye any hopes for Liberty and Justice for all for the forseeable future. Hello entrenched, institutionalized fascism.

The director of the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC), Chuck Ryan (of Iraqi prisons fame), must be thrilled: he can build more prisons here now without any impediments - just a few obnoxious activists will be nipping at his ankles, trying to slow him down. Some of us will be expressing ourselves on his sidewalks as well, just to piss him off (photo: Surrender Ryan - Devil's Night 2010).

Every other state in the country is - was before the elections, anyway - planning to downsize their prison populations, whereas we're planning to throw even more people in prison. In fact, Ryan will probably have to adjust his expectations upwards, now, for the amount of repression that will be necessary to quell lingering resistance to the powers that be. Just remember that they got to where they are by using Jesus, fear, greed and pure hate. Hopefully that will all come back to haunt them at the Second Coming, if not sooner.

The majority's comfort level comes at considerable expense here, since it requires extremely high rates of incarceration. Only the feds seem able to intervene where the worse abuses of power are occurring, and even then it's questionable whether or not they will be effective - so far there's just been a lot of posturing and some suing. That means just about anyone can be thrown into jail or prison for any reason these people can legislate or fabricate. Were not only sticking it to the poor, the Left, and the undocumented among us, but even elementary and secondary school minority studies classes and clubs will be outlawed or whitewashed.

I do wonder how much longer the voting public will so eagerly house every human being this legislature criminalizes at $21,000/year, though (see ADC Operating Per Capita Report 2009 Revised). Arizona is 2nd in the nation in poverty rates, with 1 in 5 of us living at or below poverty, 50th in our education spending, and 4th in our overall state corrections' spending ($1B/year, or 10% of our total budget, goes to the prison system: see Appropriations Report FY 2010). We have 40,279 people in prison at last count (see Corrections at a Glance September 2010).

Keep in mind, it's pretty bare bones living in prison, here, though. For all too many, it's just the prequel to dying. Chuck Ryan's prisoners, in fact, are killing themselves and each other at about twice the rate of speed they were before Brewer took office. This year the suicide rate is on track to triple what it was under Napolitano and Schriro.

The gang violence and conditions are pretty bad inside right now, and getting worse -no matter how petty your crime, you're really hurting if you're a prisoner with a serious mental illness or
medical condition, because you won't be getting the care you need, and your environment certainly isn't conducive to health or sanity. Ask the US Department of Justice if you don't believe me; I mailed them all the evidence I could gather.

I hope the Obama administration still has the courage to send an investigative team out here to check out the ADC. It would help if some of you contact the the DOJ's Civil Rights Division too. Note that they finally have a permanent Chief listed - it's not Judy Preston, but since I've been addressing everything to her thus far, I think I'll keep it up - she's still a Deputy Chief, at least. Be sure to tell them you want to see a CRIPA (Civil Rights for Institutionalized Persons Act)
Investigation. It's about the only thing that provides some measure of protection for state prisoners. The contact info for them is as follows:

DOJ - Civil Rights Division,

Special Litigation Section

Mailing Address

Department of Justice
Special Litigation Section
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, PHB
Washington, D.C. 20530

For FEDEX: 601 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

Telephone Number
toll-free at (877) 218-5228

Fax Numbers
(202) 514-0212
(202) 514-6273


Jonathan M. Smith

Principal Deputy Chief

Tammie Gregg

Deputy Chiefs

Julie Abbate (Acting)

Mary Bohan (Acting)

Judy Preston

Luis Saucedo (Acting)

It's getting much worse here before it gets better, folks, needless to say. I hope that means we'll have the Revolution sooner, rather than later. I'm not sure I'll be here for it, myself - I expect a few of Pearce's and the AZ GOP's more obscure critics to be arrested or assassinated any day, now. Today, though, I'll let the Senate President-elect speak for himself about his BS racist agenda: I couldn't have articulated what he has in store for us for better than he does anyway...

"For God, Family, and the Republic...", a load of crap follows me here. We'll see how safe and free I stay. Be careful out there, my friends. AZ just became a more treacherous and less-liberated place for most of us to live, work or play. If you're from out of state, I advise that you stay away - unless you move here to vote these idiots out of power next time around...

- Peg



As you know, I have served in the Legislature for 10 years, 8 of those years as Appropriations Chairman, making the tough decisions with our limited dollars and promoting strong fiscal accountability in the process. I served as Chief Deputy for America’s most famous Sheriff, Joe Arpaio, which is the 4th largest Sheriff’s office in the nation. I was the Director of Arizona’s MVD, and I also served as a Judge. In every one of those positions I have been vigilant in service to our citizens, in reducing cost, improving efficiencies, requiring accountability and operating with transparency. I promise to be as committed and vigilant, while serving as the Senate President.

In the past I have chosen not to run for leadership, as I have given priority to our state budget, to stop out of control spending, to enforce the rule of law, secure our borders, stop abuse of private property rights, school choice for Parents, the 2nd Amendment, to stop government discrimination by eliminating Affirmative Action in government hiring, promotions, contracting and education, etc. However, I recognize things have changed with the significant turnover in the Senate, and I was approached by several of our members, to consider this leadership position. Today I am humbled by my fellow Republicans decision to put their trust in me as the Senate President. I promise I will be vigilant in the promotion of the core values that our Founding Fathers so long ago sacrificed and committed their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor for this Republic.

Leadership, practiced at its best, is the art and science of calling to the hearts and minds of others. It is engaging others in an enterprise of sound strategic focus, where they can experience a sense of ownership, of making a difference, of being valued and adding value.

Last Tuesday’s election we saw America stand up and say “NO. We do not like the direction we are headed and want to change course”. We all know this as the Tea Party movement, that I am proud to be a member of. A movement of like minded, freedom loving “can do” American’s made their voice heard at the polls. It was a tough battle, and we had a lot of great victories, but we are certainly not out of the woods as our recession continues, our businesses and our families are over taxed and over regulated and demands on our tax dollars continues to increase. In 2010 we passed some tremendous legislation that has made Arizona a national leader. We have passed legislation to enforce the laws of the land, improve school choice, protect mothers and their babies, restore our lost 2nd Amendment rights, Healthcare Freedom Act to protect your choice in healthcare, elimination of Affirmative Action and much more. Thanks to my follow colleagues in both the House of Representatives and the Senate we are a national model as to what states can do; we passed SB1070, Freedom to Carry Act SB1108, put on the ballot Healthcare Freedom Act, Proposition 107 to eliminate government discrimination and the Marriage Amendment (Peg's interjection: ugh!). We also made much needed reduction in spending and have begun the long process of restoring fiscal sanity to our great state.

You know where my heart is. You know it is with this great Republic of ours and its citizens. We are the greatest country in the world because of freedom loving people like you, the freedom loving people of America. I will continue to fight everyday to protect your freedoms from government encroachment. It is America’s commitment to that freedom, personal responsibility and moral government that make us strong. Not more government. I want to make sure everyone knows, we, in the Senate, will govern from the bottom up, not from the top down. Declaration of Independence, "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed ... But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new G uards for their future security ... that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor." I consider this to be the Tea Party Senate and we intend to take back America one state at a time.

For God, Family and the Republic, Stay free, stay safe and never surrender ... God Bless America.

In Liberty,

Russell Pearce

Tea Party Senate President-Elect

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