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:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Exceptionally cleared by Arpaio: no investigation, no arrests, no justice.

"Hey DOJ: It's long past time..."
4th Avenue Jail, Phoenix
National Chalk the Police Day, 2011

Before he runs for office again, please...

----great editorial below from Laurie Roberts at the AZ Republic----

Sheriff's 'apology' does 432 victims no good

A 15-year-old girl bursts into an El Mirage store and reports that she's just been raped by two men in a nearby ditch. A 9-year-old tells a school counselor that her grandmother's boyfriend comes into her room at night and molests her as she tries to sleep.

A 13-year-old opens the door to a man whose car had supposedly broken down. He knocks the girl out and sexually assaults her.

In each case, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office was called to investigate. In every one, the "investigation" ended with that call.

They are among 432 sex crimes reported to the Sheriff's Office between 2005 and 2007. Reported and ... nothing.

No investigation, no arrests, no justice.

It's a been a rough year for America's most-dumbfounded sheriff, what with rogue operations, misspent funds and $177 million in lawsuits. And now, national headlines about bungled investigations into sex crimes against victims as young as 2 years old.

On Monday, Sheriff Joe Arpaio held a press conference to offer what apparently passes for an apology in Joeland.

"If there were any victims," he said, "I apologize to those victims."

If there were any victims?

If there was any accountability, we would know the details of how and why Arpaio's office ignored reports of serious crimes while the sheriff spent years running around the county, talking tough and arresting illegal immigrants in order to get on the evening news.

Something more, that is, than the explanation offered by Arpaio's new chief deputy, Jerry Sheridan. "Once initial information came out, detectives decided not to follow up," Sheridan said at Monday's mea culpa, adding that disciplinary action could come later this week.

That would be well over three years after these cases first came to light.

In fact, they've been written about locally several times. In 2008, the East Valley Tribune wrote about dozens of cases that went uninvestigated. In May,The Republic and others reported that there were 432 botched sex-crime cases and that then-Chief Deputy Dave Hendershott had blocked an internal investigation to protect a sergeant involved in one of his famed corruption probes.

The bungling became national news on Sunday, when the Associated Press ran a story that was picked up across the country, prompting Arpaio's pseudo apology.

The second of two halfhearted apologies in one week, as it turns out.

Last week, Arpaio issued a bizarre letter of recommendation for Deputy County Manager Sandi Wilson. Yeah, the same Sandi Wilson whom he had accused of civil racketeering; the very one he tried to indict for using public funds to sweep county offices for bugs.

Now, Arpaio writes that Wilson is "a valuable asset, competent and professional."

"That's not an apology letter -- no way," Arpaio told The Republic's Yvonne Wingett Sanchez. "I just appreciate what she's doing."

Wilson is among several county employees who are suing -- the only actual outcome of Arpaio's and former County Attorney Andrew Thomas' probe into county corruption. Wilson has said she'd settle for an apology. This, apparently, is as good as it gets.

The victims whose rapes and molestations went uninvestigated didn't get much better.

Of the 432 botched cases, Arpaio's detectives were able to go back and make only 19 arrests. An additional 116 were declared unfounded, and 67 were classified as "cold cases" (cold, as in Ice Age). Meanwhile, 221 were "exceptionally" cleared, which is code for we can't solve them but we're going to close them anyway to boost our clearance rates.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva -- he of boycott- Arizona fame -- has called on Arpaio to resign.

The more likely response will be an immigration sweep. There's nothing like a good immigration sweep to take the faithful's minds off mismanagement and corruption.

And now, of 432 potential sex crimes ignored.

Among them, a 2-year-old taken to the hospital with vaginal pain and bruising after a stint with a baby-sitter. And three sisters, ages 4 to 10, who did what children should do when perverts put their fingers in places they don't belong. They told.

And it didn't make a darned bit of difference.

Recently, Arpaio told me that he plans to run for a sixth term next year, when he is 80 years old, and he expects to win. Every Republican presidential candidate sought his endorsement, he pointed out.

"Nothing is going to change," he told me.

That's what I'm afraid of.

Reach Roberts at

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