I've been away from my blogs of late due largely to an art project I've been working on with prisoners. That's all been for the opening of a show I'm organizing this month of their gifts of art and their most compelling - and representative - letters about AZ prison life. My main objective is simply to amplify their voices, not narrate their world for them, as I often end up doing in my blogs; they do a good enough job of speaking for themselves. So, below is the flyer - take a close look at Reese's visionary art, too. I was stunned when it came in from the Supermax prison last week. Posters of it will available to raise funds for further prison outreach, assuming we have the artist's explicit blessings by then.
The show will be running every weekend through Jan 5th, 2014. Friday, Jan 3 is the First Friday of the new year for Artwalk in Phoenix, so if you don't make it by the show before then, bundle up and take the light rail to Roosevelt and Central, then come on over to the Firehouse Gallery
at 1015 N. 1st St. for a little reception from 6-8pm. Roam the streets and
take in the music, art, and streetcorner preachers for a few hours, then come through
the alley behind 1st street to the Firehouse Cafe to see the brilliant and
talented cast of First Friday Night Live go on stage at 10 pm. There really are some amazing people in this town, as these guys are known to sing.
I plan to be there for all our open hours (on the flyer below) while the show is up, but call me if you want to make sure I'm in before you drop by (480-580-6807). There are some great big and little stocking stuffers to pick up, like tshirts, jewelry and mixed media locally made by members of the 23 Collective, which has so graciously embraced me as as bona-fide starving artist. You can also can find funky stuff there like skull socks and a large collection of phallic pendants (go figure). A second hand shop is in the Gallery as well: The Side Car Alley carries some cool vintage and collectible stuff, and Joanna's often there doing henna for folks. And of course it's the only place in town you can find a Baby Abolitionist onesie or bib, or a travel coffee mug that shouts to the cop ticketing you "Resist police oppression!". The latter stuff (and skull socks) comes from yours truly.
Blessings to all who have supported my work this year: you should especially be sure to hit the show, because these voices would have been left unanswered without the postage, data entry, free photocopies, and other help this community has given. I'm still not a member of the non-profit industrial complex, so to speak, but I really do live near poverty and in perpetual debt due to my prison outreach activities. I don't charge prisoners or their families for my help - though many do send what they can - so if you donate for more reasons than a tax writeoff, please keep sending it my way. It takes $3.00 in postage and a little printing to send a packet of self-help materials and hope to a sick or traumatized prisoner trying to survive their stay at the AZ DOC, which seems like such a small investment for a big return...I get about 10-15 requests for materials a week, though, so it really adds up. I'm up to about 500 prisoners on my mailing list now as well - which means my first 2014 newsletter will cost about $250 this year. That's the next project I'll be begging for your help with, so save me your leftover Christmas stamps again, my friends - and find me at PO Box 20494 PHX 85036.
Until then, peace and love -
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. firstname.lastname@example.org
until all are free -
MARGARET J PLEWS (June 1, 2015)