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)


ANTICOLONIAL zines, stickers, actions, power

Taala Hooghan Infoshop

Kinlani/Flagstaff Mutual AID


The group for direct action against the prison state!

Black Lives Matter PHOENIX METRO

Black Lives Matter PHOENIX METRO
(accept no substitutions)



PHOENIX: Trans Queer Pueblo


AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Copwatching Arpaio: Judge Snow appoints monitor, sets limits.

Thanks to all the people inthe community who came together to stop Arpaio's racial profiling. He never did get indicted by the feds, but at least someone will be paying closer attention to his deputies' traffic stops from now on.

 Phoenix Veteran's Day Parade, November 2012


Oct. 2, 2013

Steve Kilar, ACLU of Arizona, (602) 492-8540 or
Isabel Alegria, ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, (415) 343-0785, (646) 438-4146 or
Amelia Hansen, Covington & Burling, (415) 955-6831 or
Larry Gonzalez, The Raben Group (MALDEF), (202) 466-0879 or

Court Places Limits on Sheriff Arpaio to Prevent Future Racial Profiling of Latinos

Order includes appointment of a monitor and community advisory board, recording of all vehicle stops and extensive data collection

PHOENIX – A federal judge today set down far-reaching requirements to prevent continued racial profiling by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO). U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow’s order follows his ruling in May that Arpaio’s office relied on racial profiling and illegal detentions to target Latinos.

"Judge Snow recognized that Sheriff Arpaio's years of discriminatory practices and unconstitutional policies required major change—including appointment of a federal monitor, data collection and video recording for every vehicle stop,” said Dan Pochoda, legal director of the ACLU of Arizona. “Working with the Latino community, the ACLU will seek to ensure that the MCSO’s abuses end."

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arizona, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and the lead law firm, Covington & Burling LLP, represented a class of Latino residents and a Latino community organization, Somos America, in the lawsuit, Ortega Melendres v. Arpaio.

“Thanks to the brave souls who came forward to tell their stories, the MCSO is being held accountable,” said Lydia Guzman of Somos America. “It’s not a crime to be brown and now we have the necessary tools to make sure that Sheriff Arpaio doesn’t forget that.”

In addition to the appointment of a monitor to keep tabs on the MCSO’s behavior, the court insisted upon audio and video recording of all traffic stops, increased training for and monitoring of sheriff’s office employees and the implementation of comprehensive record keeping. Officers will also be required to radio in the basis for each traffic stop before making contact with the people in the vehicle.

Recognizing the need to repair the MCSO’s relationship with the public, Judge Snow also mandated the creation of a Community Advisory Board, the appointment of a Community Liaison Officer and the implementation of a community outreach program.

The order’s requirements must remain in place for no less than three years, Judge Snow said.

"Under the measures put in place by the court, Sheriff Arpaio and his deputies will no longer be able to run roughshod over people’s basic rights as guaranteed by the Constitution,” said Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “MCSO can no longer balk at reform.  Every person in Maricopa County deserves better than a sheriff’s department that commits pervasive civil rights violations at the expense of public safety. The court’s order will make sure the agency actually enforces the law and will no longer go on wild goose chases based on racial stereotypes.”

Judge Snow’s May decision found the policies and practices of Arpaio and his office are discriminatory, and violate the Arizona Constitution, the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

That ruling stemmed from a three-week trial in July and August of 2012, during which the civil rights organizations provided evidence to the court that the MCSO was illegally pursuing Latinos. The plaintiffs proved—through the MCSO’s internal correspondence and public statements, and statistical analyses—that the MCSO had the intent to discriminate. Evidence also showed that the discrimination had harmful effects, including higher traffic stop rates and longer stop times for Latinos.

“The monitoring, training, recordkeeping and other provisions in the court’s order today should go a long way toward reforming the MCSO,” said Stan Young, a partner with Covington & Burling. “This reform will help prevent future racial profiling of the kind that Sheriff Arpaio’s past policies encouraged. These remedies were necessary to restore public trust and the principle of equal treatment under law.”

The MCSO's widespread racial profiling created a culture of fear in Maricopa County, making Latinos anxious that getting in a car could lead to an interrogation by armed officers or incarceration at the county jail.

"The Latino community has waited a long time for the court-mandated reforms that will provide accountability and transparency to the sheriff's office and prevent the abuse of authority that has been so prevalent,” said MALDEF Western Regional Counsel Nancy Ramirez. “We are hopeful that these long-awaited reforms will bring much needed change to the sheriff's office.”

The civil rights organizations will continue to fight if Arpaio appeals, and will closely monitor the MCSO’s activities as the court’s order goes into effect.

Click here for a copy of the ruling.

Click here for more information on the case.