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:

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Ethnic studies books banned from AZ state prisons?

As I said in my previous correspondence, Mr. Ryan: you are the reason  your prisoners have rioted, not me. I don't think I even have contacts on Santa Rita. You appear to have plenty of discretion as to what you will and won't allow inside your institutions...I wish your SSU officers were as vigilant about keeping the heroin out as they are about stopping the flow of my free speech.

In any case, to the rest of you: here is the newsletter in question, in case you missed it. I mailed a list of the ethnic studies books banned from Arizona's public schools to a bunch of prisoners this summer, encouraging them to request and read them in solidarity with students - and in defiance of racism, which is necessary to uphold the current power structure inside. 

I really didn't think those books would be off limits to adult prisoners too, but that sure is what it sounds like - this is the AZ DOC's General Counsel they sent to intimidate me, by the way. She really is scarier than Chuck - she used to be a capital crimes prosecutor at the AG's office. This newsletter isn't what I was so concerned about being confiscated, though - they still haven't responded to me on that count.

Here is the beginning of DO 914.08, by the way:

"UNAUTHORIZED PUBLICATIONS AND MATERIAL - Prohibited publications include those that by their nature or content threaten or are detrimental to the security, safety and orderly operation, or discipline of the facility, or inmate rehabilitation, or, are found to facilitate, encourage, incite, promote or instruct in criminal activity or unauthorized prison activity."

Shame on me for urging anyone - especially criminals - to resist racism and violence...

Carlo Krakoff, age 29, 
died in an AZ state prison of a heroin overdose.
Substance abuse treatment programs are nearly impossible to get into in the AZ Department of Corrections, even for those who want it desperately - only 4% of all state prisoners were able to participate in one last year, including those we sent to private prisons specifically for DUI offenses. That's despite AZ DOC records stating that oapproximately 75% of prisoners are there for substance abuse-related crimes. Too many prisoners going in are actually clean but come out addicted to herion, as the drug is so plentiful and alternative activities for the mind, body and soul  are so few. 

Gmail Arizona Prisonwatch <>

Prisonwatch Newsletter
2 messages

NORTHUP, DAWN <> Fri, Nov 9, 2012 at 4:24 PM

To: Arizona Prisonwatch <>

Ms. Plews:

On behalf of Director Ryan, I am responding to your October 30, 2012 email, inquiring about the reason your Prisonwatch Newsletter has not been disseminated to inmates at ADC complexes.  In your Summer, 2012 Newsletter, titled: “Prisoners’ Justice Day 2012: Justice For Dana” you advocated that prisoners “push back” and show resistance from injustice by requesting a subversive book or by “support[ing] another prisoner’s resistance.”  Although your intent may have been to provoke non-violence, inmates may construe your suggestion that they “fight the injustice from within” as an invitation for unrest and non-compliance. 

Contrary to many of your assertions, the safety and security of the inmates and staff is of paramount concern to ADC.  In accordance with DO 914.02, staff at each complex is authorized to withhold publications that may have a detrimental impact on the safe and orderly operation of the institution.  Encouraging inmates to request books that you know are prohibited or to conduct themselves in a manner to show “resistance” violates that policy.

In accordance with DO 914.02 and 914.08, your Newsletter, as with all other incoming publications, is subject to screening and review.  Your Newsletter will be disseminated to intended recipients after review provided it complies with Department Policy. 

Dawn Northup
General Counsel
Arizona Department of Corrections

Arizona Prisonwatch <> Fri, Nov 9, 2012 at 5:40 PM


Cc: Daniel Pochoda <>

Thank you for getting back to me on the July Newsletter. My greater concern, though, is that my more recent correspondence - not all of it containing calls to "resist" in a way that could seriously threaten institutional order - has apparently been disrupted to nearly all the prisoners I previously corresponded with. This includes prisoners trying to access both health care and safety because they are in harms way; I hate to answer people in such desperate straits with silence.

Since I haven't gotten any feedback from you folks about what may be getting confiscated or contrabanded until now, I have no idea if your office has legitimate things you want me to tone down, or if Chuck Ryan just doesn't want me arming his prisoners with information about appropriately asserting their civil rights. Those are two very different things. In any case, I'd like to know what procedures I need to follow to protect my own rights - the "free speech" ones. How do I grieve an ADC action that adversely affects me as a civilian? That correspondence represents a tremendous investment of time, money, and other resources.

Much of my correspondence with prisoners is time-sensitive, as I'm sure you are aware, so I'd really prefer confrontation over avoidance on such matters. Please let me know what's happening with the rest of my mail - both to and from prisoners.


Peggy Plews
[Quoted text hidden]
Margaret J. Plews, Editor
Arizona Prison Watch
P.O. Box 20494
Phoenix, AZ 85036

"Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness, and our ability to tell our own stories..." 

- Arundhati Roy

Prison Abolitionist
Arizona Prison Watch
Survivors of Prison Violence - AZ