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, February 13, 2014

HB 2474: De-felonizing MJ possession reduces harm, but doesn't go far enough.

Marijuana needs to be legalized altogether, before more lives and communities are destroyed by these laws. I think most Arizonans would be astonished to know how many people we have locked up in prison today just for smoking pot on probation - often the probation they were put on for smoking pot so they wouldn't go to prison in the first lace, because Arizonans have long felt prison was inappropriate for MJ possession or use.  With this campaign to legalize, there should be a chance next election for people to fight back against vicious laws and penalities altogether.

Thank you, Represenative Cardenas, for having the courage to do this much, however.


Lawmaker: Remove felony charge for simple marijuana possession

Posted: 02/11/2014
PHOENIX - Saying harsh penalties for marijuana use do more harm than good, a state lawmaker wants to remove felony charges for possession without the intent to sell.

“I don’t believe they should go away to prison and face hefty fines and possibly have their civil rights taken away,” said Rep. Mark A. Cardenas, D-Phoenix. “We shouldn’t have people that are being sentenced to long prison terms for simple possession of marijuana.”

Cardenas authored HB 2474, which would subject those carrying less than 1 ounce of marijuana without intent to sell to a civil penalty of no more than $100. Possession of less than 2 pounds without intent to sell would be a petty offense, while possession of greater amounts would be a misdemeanor.

Currently, possession of up to two pounds is a class six felony, punishable by up to two years in prison and a $750 fine.

The bill would reduce the charge for growing marijuana from a felony to a misdemeanor if the amount is less than 2 pounds.

Cardenas said he was against legalization when he served in the Army and National Guard but that his views changed after taking an Arizona State University class on drugs and justice.

“It took being willing to learn from facts and figures to say, I was wrong,” he said. “Let’s change that. Let’s try to change my corner of the world.”

His bill was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee but hadn’t been scheduled for a hearing.

Cardenas also signed onto a bill that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana. HB 2558, authored by Rep. Ruben Gallego,D-Phoenix, had yet to be assigned to a committee.

While Cardenas is for marijuana legalization, he said “the next best option would be to decriminalize small amounts.”

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said reducing marijuana possession penalties would undermine efforts by counties to rehabilitate first- and second-time offenders who aren’t facing other charges. Those successfully completing the diversion program avoid criminal records.

“The irony is that if you try to reduce those penalties, you are going to wind up with people who are going to have maybe an ostensibly lower level offense, but they’re going to have more of a conviction record than people who could initially be charged with a felony and be offered diversion and have no record,” he said.
Montgomery said that in 2013, 63 percent of the diversion cases in Maricopa County were for marijuana possession, and 85 percent of those in the program successfully completed it.

Nine other counties have similar diversion prosecution programs, according to the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council.

Montgomery said the idea that Arizona’s prisons are full of marijuana-possession offenders. According to the 2011 Arizona Sentencing Report from the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council, about 95 percent of inmates in Arizona’s prison system have committed multiple or violent felonies.

“If that’s the motivation of this bill, it’s a solution in search of a problem,” he said.

Carolyn Short, chairwoman for Keep AZ Drug Free, a committee that opposed the 2010 medical marijuana ballot initiative, said the idea of reduce sentences for marijuana possession isn’t rational and ignores scientific fact.

“It’s just another way of communicating to kids that its not that big of a deal and it really is a big deal,” she said. “We already have two substances now that are legal, alcohol and tobacco, that are creating damage economically and socially to our society.”