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, December 24, 2013

Special Events 12/30: Insurgent Theater and the Shadow of Lucasville.

As most folks here know, a show I've put together featuring art and letters from state prisoners will be running at the Firehouse Gallery (1015 N. 1st St, PHX) every weekend (F 6-11/S 1-11/ S 1-6) through Sunday, January 5. Best night to come will be during First Friday Artwalk, Jan 3 between 6-8 pm (then come back at 9 for the Firehouse's original "First Friday Night Live" Show too!)

Displays include collages of material from the women's prison, from supermax, and from prison rape survivors, several of whom are transgender women in men's prisons. I also have some individual prisoner art, including some from my good friend and former blogger Shannon Clark, authoer of "Persevering Prison".

I also put together a whole display on a prisoner-initiated and autonomously-run project, the WOMMB Institute, that's helping guys focus on positive personal and community development in an enviroment under seige by prison gangs. It was developed by a lifer in AZ DOC's Winslow prison with whom I've been corresponding for the past year. Here's the blog I started for WOMMB over the summer, which gives you a good sense of what he's all about.

On December 30, the Last Monday of 2013, we'll also be opening the gallery for two special events, back-to-back. If you're bored silly the night before New Year's eve, come out and support us - especially loved ones of prisoners out there. In fact, this would be a great chance to meet others in your shoes - and to meet me, if we only know eachother by Facebook and email so far. Bring something to eat if you plan to hang out all evening - either your own dinner or a dish to pass - or just drop in at any point throughout the night. We'll open at 6pm and probably close up around 10 or 11. 

At 6pm, we'll have the following:

The Shadow of Lucasville     (Directed by D Jones - 60 minutes)

Follow-up to the award winning documentary film, The Great Incarcerator, part 1: Dark Little Secret

The Shadow of Lucasville revisits the 1993 uprising at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, one of the longest in U.S. history, while exploring the fight for human rights and media exposure through inmate uprisings in response to mass incarceration and dehumanization supported by the prison industrial complex.

The film will be followed by conversation with death-sentenced survivors of the uprising, who will be calling in from the Ohio State Penitentiary, Ohio's supermax prison. 

Then, at 8pm, Insurgent Theater will perform:

Behind the Badge: A Theatrical Examination of Police and Prison in America.

Written by Ben Turk, Directed by Kate Pleuss, Performed by Ben Turk – 90 minutes

What does it mean to be a compassionate, dedicated, humane police officer in the country with the world's highest incarceration rate and a continuing tradition of racial injustice? Insurgent Theatre brings audiences behind the badge of a neighborhood liaison officer, using stripped-down interactive theatre and a radical analysis to peer into the inner life of a man in blue.