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, June 18, 2012

David's Hope: Prison, Solitary and the Mentally Ill.

Community member Mike Shipley remembering victims of prison violence and despair at the opening of "Patriotic Descent", an art show on the exercise of political speech at the Firehouse Gallery in Phoenix (June 9, 2012)


The letter below was posted to the AZCentral website in the comments following the June 16 guest editorial in the AZ Republic by Steve Twist titled 

 ----from David's Hope------

I am writing as an advocate and founder of David’s Hope, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting treatment rather than incarceration for all those with mental illness and addictions. It is extremely sad to see former deputy AG Steve Twist write his ridiculous opinion piece, published  June 16 in "My Turn", wherein he claims our Arizona state prisons to be both humane and secure.

Arizona has a long history of brutality in its prisons, being first at producing a supermax prison and choosing to incarcerate endless numbers of individuals with serious mental illness within its walls. As an advocate for those with mental illness, I receive frequent requests for help from the mentally ill and their families who are seeking to find just a glimpse of humanity from the administrators of our AZ state prisons. Instead they find themselves cast into the abyss of brutality under the reign of current ADOC administration. The current director has replaced rehabilitative policies with chemical gassing and attack dogs which are used frequently. Even those suffering from psychosis due to severe mental illness are not immune from the brutality, regularly being sent to long term isolation for refusing to obey commands of the officers in charge. Those with severe disorientation due to psychosis can be kept in isolation for years, without sunlight or fresh air, permanently cut off from contact with any other human being in any meaningful way.

You won't hear the DOC call their isolation policies solitary confinement. Officials sanitize the term calling it segregation and tell us only the most violent are sent there. I speak as an advocate in the state of AZ in behalf of those with mental disorders. I do not believe this correctional regime is forthright in their disclosures.  The ACLU of AZ filed a class action lawsuit in March of this year regarding the lack of medical and mental health care provided in ADOC. This lawsuit is a real Godsend to all those who want justice and decency to prevail in Arizona's prisons. The opportunities this lawsuit brings, give our state prisons their best chance of achieving lasting reforms, rehabilitation of offenders and successful reintegration of offenders back into our communities.

Our society will be judged by how we treat the least among us. Without adequate mental health care, our incarcerated mentally ill will return to us more ill and damaged than before we locked them up. How will this make our communities safer or save taxpayer dollars? All inmates in Arizona prisons should be treated humanely.

Over 95% of all inmates will return to our communities one day. I ask you to consider our state correctional policies and then decide.........What is it we will have taught them?

We want to express our deepest gratitude to investigative reporter Bob Ortega for shining the light of truth on the despicable lack of respect for human dignity, under which our present day DOC operates. You can find more info regarding our efforts to increase collaboration between Arizona's mental health and criminal justice systems at

Mary Lou Brncik