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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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Still standing with Monica Jones: Trial tomorrow!




Friday, March 14 8:00am /  Phoenix Municipal Court / 300 W. Washington St. PHX 85003

Thanks to Darby Hickey and the Best Practices Policy Project for their support!


Monica Jones and the Fight Against Racial and Gender Police Profiling in the U.S.

huffington post

On March 14, Monica Jones goes to court. She will plead not guilty to manifestation of prostitution. And she will be making history in the process.

Monica is fighting back against a system that normally churns people through the cogs of justice with little resistance. Across the U.S., individuals (most of them women, many of them trans, but men too) arrested and charged on prostitution-related charges usually enter guilty pleas. When evidence consists of a police officer's word against yours, combined with social stigma towards sex workers or those profiled as such, plus overburdened and ill-prepared defense lawyers, you don't go to bat for your own innocence. You take the plea and hope for the best.

But Monica wasn't having that. She was arrested after protesting Arizona's harsh criminal justice system, which includes exceptionally stringent provisions on prostitution. She was protesting a program in Phoenix that ostensibly helps people involved in commercial sex to avoid criminal prosecution and get help, but instead sends the majority of them to jail after they "fail" the program. But as a black trans woman, she might well have been arrested anyway, thanks to a phenomenon we call "Walking While Trans." If you are a trans woman or have ever worked with us, you likely know this phrase. It describes the experience of constantly being harassed and sometimes arrested by police, who assume, simply by your existence as a trans women (particularly if you are a trans woman of color) that you must be engaging in commercial sex. All the time, everywhere.

In other words, "Walking While Trans" is a succinct summation of the interconnected biases against trans women (and trans people more broadly, sometimes called transphobia) and against people who trade sexual services for money or other things (sometimes called whorephobia) and bound up in that special sauce of racism.

The ground-breaking part is how Monica is fighting back against all of this. Her case is emblematic of how law enforcement violates people's civil rights on a regular basis not only in Phoenix but across the U.S. She is challenging the criminalization of herself and her community, the criminalization of trans people and black people and sex workers and people of color.

Monica and other human rights defenders in Phoenix are taking their fight not just to U.S. courts, but also to the United Nations. They have already submitted a report to the UN on the U.S. government's compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). And advocates working with Monica will be in Geneva for the UN Human Rights Council's review of U.S. obligations under ICCPR the same day that Monica will be in court in Phoenix. It will be a day of action to confront racist and sexist policing.

Monica and others are also calling out those who claim to want to help sex workers, by treating people in the sex trade as victims instead of criminals -- and who think arresting sex workers is how you "help" them. New collaborations between police and non-governmental organizations, such as Project ROSE in Phoenix, allege to provide alternatives to incarceration for people involved in sex trade. Perversely, these efforts actually increase the numbers of people arrested under prostitution laws through street sweeps and mass online sting operations. In the case of Project ROSE, part of the process of "helping victims" involves taking them to a church where they interview with police and prosecutors but aren't allowed to speak with defense lawyers. Arrestees all but plead guilty in joining the program, and if they fail to meet attendance requirements -- as 70 percent of them do -- they end up in jail.

The rights violations that police commit in the course of enforcing anti-prostitution and other "quality of life" laws are so pervasive and those targeted so stigmatized that the system is rarely challenged. Which is why Monica's stance is so important.

She is part of a fierce legacy of resistance and resilience. Like countless others who have fought back against discriminatory policing, she has been targeted precisely for speaking out. Monica is fighting for her rights, but she is also acting for the rights of everyone, in Phoenix and across the country, to be free of such abuses. Let's join her in that struggle on March 14th.

Monica Jones illustration by Micah Bazant.

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