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, June 5, 2014

Kingman escapee McClusky gets life for Haas' killings; sister forgives.

John McClusky escaped the death penalty this week in New Mexico for the Haas' killing, when he was on escape from Kingman prison in the summer of 2010. I was saddened to hear that his accomplice Cassie Welch will likely die in prison for this; I corresponded with her and believe she is truly remorseful and never expected McClusky to kill people once free. While in jail in Mohave County she never complained to me about her own circumstances or conditions of confinement - she only expressed concern for other women there. I'm posting this account of McClusky's sentencing, though, because I was heartened that the sister of one of the victims here forgave them. That doesn't happen often. It will make no difference to McClusky, but I'm sending this to Cassie - it will matter to her, I think.


Victim’s sister forgives killers

Albuquerque Journal

UPDATED: Tuesday, June 3, 2014 at 10:23 pm
PUBLISHED: Tuesday, June 3, 2014 at 1:27 pm 

If there was anything remarkable about the Tuesday sentencing of a double murderer whose fate was already known – life in federal prison with no chance of release – it was the words of forgiveness from one victim’s sister.

Sandra Morgan made it clear that she cannot forget her older sister Linda Haas or her brother-in-law Gary Haas, victims of the tall skinny guy in a bright yellow state jumpsuit at the defense table.

McCLUSKEY: Escapee carjacked, killed man, wife

The sudden decision by John Charles McCluskey, 48, on a hot summer day sent dozens of lives into a whirlwind. McCluskey, a prison escapee from Arizona, burned up their camper-trailer with their bodies in it – the one he’d carjacked only a few hours earlier – and went on a zigzag cross-country trip before finally being arrested at an Arizona campground three weeks later.

“How do you wake up each day with pain?” Morgan asked. “Sure, there’s counseling.” But memories come unbidden, she said, triggered by a song, a gesture, a photo.

Morgan said the hardest thing for her to overcome is the thought of how they spent their final day at the start of an annual camping/fishing trip to Colorado where they would meet with old friends, enjoy the scenery and take in the blessings of retirement before being carjacked at gunpoint and shot in rural eastern New Mexico.
The Haases’ daughter had such difficulties with the deaths that she “spiraled out of control,” and Morgan is now the guardian of the Haases’ grandson, born after the murders.

Morgan said that in the three years and 10 months she has had to think and learn about the awful events of August 2010, one word kept popping up in her mind: forgiveness.

After much thought and prayer, she said her deep Christian faith led her to a point where she has forgiven McCluskey, Tracy Province and Casslyn Welch, the trio responsible for the murders.
“I have no choice,” she said.

Province on Monday was given a life sentence, and Welch was given 40 years in prison.

Gary Haas’ sister, Linda Rook, and Erma Patrick, an aunt to the murdered couple, also spoke at McCluskey’s sentencing.

Patrick showed a photo of a memorial headstone for them, with a commemorative plaque acknowledging Gary Haas’ military service in Vietnam. She told McCluskey that although the legal case is over, it is not over for the family.

“We must deal with the loss for the rest of our lives,” she said.

Rook faced McCluskey defiantly, telling him about the invisible blows struck against her and Gary’s mother, who now cries daily although Rook only saw her cry once, ever, before that.

McCluskey was appropriately dressed in yellow, she said, the color of a coward who abused women to bend them to his will.

“What kind of man are you? I’ll answer. You are a disgrace to your mother, to your family, to society and to the human race,” she said.

McCluskey’s sole word to U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera was a curt “No” when she asked if he wished to speak.

The defense called no witnesses, and Herrera sentenced him to pay $3,820 in restitution to the Patricks.
For the 20 counts of the indictment on which he was convicted, she sentenced him to life plus 2,820 months in prison.

“If it weren’t for three votes on the jury, you’d be facing death today,” she said, referring to the lack of unanimity required for a federal sentence of death. She cautioned him not to take too much comfort in that.