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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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Art of Resistance: Justice Day Action at the Phoenix Art Museum!

On August 10, 2012 a small handful of us in Arizona celebrated Prisoners' Justice Day, which is a day to remember those who have died in state custody.  Some of us in the "free world" descended upon the Phoenix Art Museum for a sunrise action, seizing the public space in front of their sign on Central and Coronado for our canvas. There, about 25 members of the community chalked a 100-foot wide community memorial to nearly 70 victims of prison violence, neglect or despair, recommitting in the process to our fight for the living as well.

Security at the Art Museum seemed slow to respond for their part and they were mean when they did - we'd covered at least 80 feet by the time the chief came out to find out what was going on (he's lucky I can't find his card now and name him...). Turns out he called the Phoenix Police to see if they could send someone out to stop me, but Sgt Schweikert told him it wouldn't do any good. So, unable to have me arrested for soiling "their" clean sidewalk with my free speech, the custodians of our community's art and culture had a city crew hover on stand-by to wash away the names of the dead - including those put down by their mothers - the moment we left the sidewalk. 


I found that to be downright disrespectful of everything from the first amendment to the grief of the families who were with us that day, not to mention petty and intolerant. If we were there about sick children and cancer instead of dying prisoners and AIDS or Hep C, would they have been less cruel? We decided that they wouldn't render us invisible again that easily, and Facebook was flooded with photos of the morning's action, mostly of the names of the dead.

In addition to the mothers of Carlo Krakoff, Joseph Venegas, and Dana Seawright, and loved ones of current prisoners, we were joined by former prisoners, anarchists from my neighborhood, Occupiers I was arrested with, artists from the Firehouse Gallery, immigrant rights activists, and Haley from the Phoenix Harm Reduction Organization (PHRO - check them out!). A cross section of the community I live and work in - small wonder that the Phoenix Art Museum thought it was too good for us.

Below is a little something I made from the photos of the action, many of which were taken by my comrade from 4th Ave jail, Janet Higgins, who made a special effort to document the individual names. Please print it up and send it inside, if you correspond with any prisoners. Let them know they have not been forgotten...