The Ghosts of Chuck Ryan. AZ Capitol Complex, Phoenix (2012)

UPDATE: May 20, 2019

To all my AZ friends/family:

Thanks so much for your and likes and hope and encouraging words via FB these past 4 1/2 years. You helped me survive some of the loneliest days and hardest nights I've endured yet by keeping our connections alive across 2000 miles.

My 55th birthday is June 13, 2019, and I plan to celebrate it in PHX (details to be announced). I'm leaving Michigan (god willing) by May 25 - and should land in an undisclosed location in the Deep Southwest soon after.

Here's my PAYPAL link for anyone who wants to shoot me $10 bucks or throw a big impromptu anarchist talent show and pass a hat or something to help me make it home. Once I land I'll be back to work on my art again, and will send a homemade gift to everyone I can...


And don't forget to pick up PJ Starr's 2016 documentary film about the life and death of Marcia Joanne Powell:



so please share with all our friends!!

THANK YOU and MUCH to all, near and far.

Peggy Plews


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)

AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

DENYING deliberate indifference: DOC/ACLU settlement reached, RYAN denies wrongdoing...

 EDITED OCT 14, 2014 3:48pm

This first press release is just in from the ACLU of Arizona. I think the DOC is getting off easy without having a public trial, but it saves money and time to do this instead. They were definitely going to lose...

The second press release is from the head of the AZ DOC, Charles Ryan, the guy who was named in the suit. Sounds like he won the lawsuit or something. These are vastly different accounts of the settlement. My bet is that the AZ DOC put the most spin on their version, but it concerns me that they say the following:

" “This is positive news,” said ADC Director Charles Ryan.  “On the eve of trial, the plaintiffs in this case have essentially agreed that the department’s current policies and practices, along with recent enhancements to programming opportunities, adequately addresses the plaintiffs’ concerns relating to constitutional healthcare and conditions of confinement for maximum custody and mentally ill inmates. "

" ADC will monitor its own compliance, thus avoiding costly court oversight, and the Plaintiffs’ attorneys, through record review and on-site tours will confirm compliance, as well."

Say what??? No way!!!

I'm going to have to read the settlement docs myself and get back to you all with another analysis..


Arizona Agrees to Major Improvements in Prison Health Care, Crucial Limits on Solitary Confinement in Landmark Settlement

For Immediate Release
October 14, 2014


Alexandra Ringe, American Civil Liberties Union,, 212-549-2666
Steve Kilar, ACLU of Arizona,, 602-773-6007
Don Specter and Corene Kendrick, Prison Law Office, and, 510-280-2621

PHOENIX – The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arizona, the Prison Law Office, and co-counsel today filed a settlement agreement in their class-action suit on behalf of more than 33,000 prisoners in Arizona’s state prisons. Under the settlement, the Arizona Department of Corrections must fix a broken health care system plagued by long-term and systemic problems that caused numerous deaths and preventable injuries. The settlement will also allow prisoners in solitary confinement who have serious mental illnesses to have more mental health treatment and time outside their cells, and will make other critical reforms in prison conditions.

“The Arizona Department of Corrections worked with us on a settlement that shows a commitment to protecting prisoners’ physical and mental health,” said David Fathi, the Director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project. “We hope other states will now find ways to provide adequate medical, mental health, and dental care to their prisoners.”

“The Arizona Department of Corrections has agreed to changes that will save lives,” said Don Specter, Director of the Prison Law Office. “This settlement will bring more humane treatment for prisoners with serious health care needs, and the potential for their conditions to improve rather than worsen.”

The settlement in Parsons v. Ryan requires the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) to meet more than 100 health care performance measures, covering issues such as monitoring of prisoners with diabetes, hypertension, and other chronic conditions; care for pregnant prisoners; and dental care.

The settlement also requires ADC to overhaul the rules for prisoners with serious mental illnesses in solitary confinement. Instead of spending all but six hours a week in their cells, such prisoners will now have a minimum of 19 hours a week outside the cell, and this time must include mental health treatment and other programming. ADC must also restrict guards’ use of pepper spray on these prisoners, using it only as a last resort when necessary to prevent serious injury or escape.

The settlement provides for ongoing monitoring and oversight by the prisoners’ lawyers to make sure the state is complying with its terms.

The groups filed the federal lawsuit in 2012, challenging years of inattention to the health needs of state prisoners and improper and excessive use of solitary confinement, resulting in serious harm and unnecessary deaths. Judge Neil V. Wake of the U.S. District Court in Phoenix certified the case as a class action in March 2013, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed that ruling in June 2014. Last month, the groups filed reports by nationally recognized experts in corrections and in medical, mental health, and dental care, showing system-wide problems with the prisons’ health care and excessive use of solitary confinement.

In addition to the ACLU and the Prison Law Office, other attorneys on the case are Perkins Coie, Jones Day, and the Arizona Center for Disability Law, which is also a plaintiff in the case.

For information about the ACLU’s National Prison Project:

For information about the Prison Law Office:

For information about the Arizona Center for Disability Law:

---now for the official state version----

(602) 542-3133


JANICE K. BREWER                                                  CHARLES L. RYAN
GOVERNOR                                                                            DIRECTOR
For more information contact:
Doug Nick
Bill Lamoreaux

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Parties reach settlement agreement
and seek to vacate Parsons v. Ryan trial

PHOENIX (Tuesday, October 14, 2014) – The Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) has reached a settlement agreement in collaboration with the ACLU, Prison Law Office and ACDL prior to the pending trial.

The parties have agreed to approximately 100 performance measures applicable to medical, mental health, dental and conditions of confinement.

“This is positive news,” said ADC Director Charles Ryan.  “On the eve of trial, the plaintiffs in this case have essentially agreed that the department’s current policies and practices, along with recent enhancements to programming opportunities, adequately addresses the plaintiffs’ concerns relating to constitutional healthcare and conditions of confinement for maximum custody and mentally ill inmates.

“In regards to those issues, the settlement notwithstanding, it’s unfortunate that the plaintiffs continue to use rhetoric such as ‘solitary confinement’ to describe housing for some inmates.  No such confinement exists in our institutions.  The Department of Corrections has always followed nationally-accredited standards for housing single-cell inmates that include requirements for natural daylight and contact with others, and out-of-cell time.

“Additionally, it should be noted that Arizona’s inmate mortality rates, including incidents of suicide, are within the national average for corrections departments.  In 2012, the most recent year for which statistics are available, Arizona reported 215 deaths per 100,000 inmates, compared to the national average of 254 per 100,000.  Additionally, Arizona averaged 17 inmate suicides per 100,000, which is in line with the national average of 16 per 100,000.

“By avoiding a costly trial, the Department saves significant resources that can be further directed towards continuing to provide constitutional healthcare and structured programming to support successful community reintegration.  This is especially relevant in light of the fact that despite the state of California spending nearly $18,000 per inmate for health care costs due to two decades of litigation by the same plaintiffs in the Parsons case, California is still under court supervision and the inmate mortality rate there exceeds that of Arizona. 
By contrast, Arizona spends nearly $3,800 per inmate in health care costs.

ADC will monitor its own compliance, thus avoiding costly court oversight, and the Plaintiffs’ attorneys, through record review and on-site tours will confirm compliance, as well. ADC, through its contracted vendor, must meet specific compliance thresholds at its facilities. Within two years, monitoring of performance measures automatically terminates when those performance measures meet agreed-upon thresholds.  ADC can petition the court to terminate the entire settlement agreement after four years.