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 who I've been supporting, Jessie Burlew.

I will miss my work and the people who have supported me - but I have been most especially grateful to the prisoners who educated, confided in, and encouraged me. My life has been made all the more rich and meaningful by their engagement.

I have 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)


ALONE: Teens in Solitary Confinement

AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Friday, September 21, 2012

ASPC-Tucson/Santa Rita: September Prison Riot.

UPDATE: OCTOBER 3, 2012: this account of prisoner unrest explains a lot more than the whole race riot thing alone did (click link below). The DOC has a  problem with racial violence for sure, but it's never just about race alone...

"He is concerned because many of the inmates are complaining they are not getting enough food and the doctor is concerned about the weight loss he has actually observed.  His says he has heard comments from many people that the real reason for the recent riots/disturbances at Tucson and Rynning is because of an underlying tension or stress among the inmate population due to (1) not enough food; (2) being denied medical care.  The DOC explained the reason for the riots to the media as "racial disturbances."

------original post (9/21/2012)-----

Several prisoners remain hospitalized from this; at least one is in ICU. Sounds like the DOC just let people have at it for half an hour, till these guys got too tired to fight. If anyone knows what really happened - particularly families of prisoners who were injured - please contact me, Peggy Plews at 480-580-6807 or at  I never believe the state's version of events.

Families trying to get information on their loved ones at Tucson/Santa Rita should probably call the AZ DOC Constituent Services' office at  602-364-3945 or in-state toll-free 1-866-333-2039

-------------Here's the DOC's UPDATE for Friday 9/21-----------


For Immediate Release

For more information contact:
Bill Lamoreaux
Jennifer Bowser

September 21, 2012
Disturbance Update

Tucson, Az – As a result of the disturbance yesterday in the Santa Rita Unit at ASPC-Tucson, two officers were taken to the hospital where they were treated and released. Eleven inmates were also transported out to the hospital for treatment to injuries sustained in the disturbance. Six of the inmates are still at the hospital in stable condition at this time. The other five inmates have been treated and returned back to the complex.

The Santa Rita Unit remains locked down, while this incident is investigated. The Santa Rita Unit will not have visitation this weekend. The other units of the complex are slowly returning to normal activities.
The fight started at the Santa Rita Unit around 5:30 p.m. yesterday, and involved approximately 200 inmates. Tactical Support Unit teams and on duty personnel were able to secure the yard with minimal force, including the use of pepper spray. Control of the unit was regained at approximately 6:00 p.m. No other units were involved.

ASPC-Tucson has 5,150 beds in custody levels of minimum, medium and close custody. Yesterday’s inmate count for the complex was 5,132. The Santa Rita Unit has a total of 727 inmates housed in 768 beds across four yards within the unit.

-----the original release from the AZ Department of Corrections-------

September 20, 2012

Disturbance locks down Tucson complex

Tucson, Az – A fight started at the Santa Rita Unit of the Arizona State Prison Complex Tucson earlier this evening, around 5:30 p.m., involving approximately 200 Hispanic and African-American inmates.  Tactical Support Unit teams and on duty personnel were able to secure the yard with no force required.  Control of the unit was regained at approximately 6 p.m.  No other units were involved.

All staff have been accounted for with one officer sustaining an injury to his rib cage.  Some inmates have sustained injuries.  The details of these injuries are not known at this time.   

All of the Tucson complex is on lockdown status at this time.  The Santa Rita Unit will remain locked down for several days, while this incident is investigated.

ASPC-Tucson has 5,150 beds in custody levels of minimum, medium and close custody.  Today’s inmate count for the complex is 5,132.  The Santa Rita Unit has a total of 727 inmates housed in 768 beds across four yards within the unit.