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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Saturday, September 10, 2016

Arpaio's Jail: Deliberate Indifference Kills...again.


Soon, the family of yet another Maricopa County Sheriff's Office prisoner will be Googling his name for answers as to why he died on the floor of their jail cell begging for medical care...that on the same day prisoners around the country were raising their voices for justice.

His crime, by the way? Driving on a suspended license. Nothing anywhere as bad as what the state did to him, but no one will spend even two days in jail for the Deliberate Indifference that killed him. They never do.

The state will post his mugshot everywhere as they announce his death - that's to make people forget he was human when they killed him. So this is his FB pic, CR Snead.

To CR's family: I hear he was a pretty decent guy; I'm so sorry for your loss. I really wish I had answers for you. Those will come with time (and a good lawyer). 

You won't get justice from the system that killed your child, though: it is simply not a just system, never will be. Sue the MCSO for all you can, and call as much public attention to the conditions that led to Coval's death as possible.

If you want real justice, you'll have to be the ones to help create the more kind and free world that won't let the next kid die that way. Unfortunately, your grief now gives you much power; I hope you use it. Clearly, we need all the help we can get. 

For those of you not grieving today, if you're in the Downtown Phoenix area, hit this event from 1pm-3pm, and come together to figure out how to help prisoners fight back for more than just a day...

Folks who miss the chance to connect with each other this weekend, you can also catch up with the Campaign to fight toxic prisons here, Phoenix Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee here, the Phoenix Anarchist Black Cross here, or the Tucson Anarchist Black Cross here. They all do good stuff.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Prisoner SOLIDARITY: for September 9.

September 9th is the 45th anniversary of the Attica uprising, a massive 1971 prisoner protest against dismal conditions and abuse, which ended with the state of New York murdering scores of people.

Given the continuing abuse, neglect, and enslavement of over 2 million imprisoned people in the US today, prisoners across the US have called for and will begin a nationally coordinated work stoppage and protest on Sep 9, 2016. Learn more at 

There is at least one Arizona demonstration on September 9, outside ASPC-Lewis, in Buckeye, and many others across the country in solidarity with those prisoners who will be stopping work. Oh yes, it's going down!

The following is the most moving poem on prisoner support I've ever heard, from our brother Ben at Insurgent Theatre. He wrote this is the wake of Mariam Abdullah's suicide at ASPC-Perryville in July...

Please share to help inspire people making personal connections with prisoners in the course of building this movement.  He's an impassioned and committed prison abolitionist and anarchist - he and the folks he hangs with have done some great work towards liberation for all.  

Great resources on the Attica uprising:

Attica Prison Uprising 101: A Short Primer

A story of Attica

By Benjamin Michael Turk

If there is not a fire burning in your heart that longs to spread to every prison emptying them out reducing them to ash and rubble then you don't know what world you are living in.

You don't know control unit suicides, humans reduced to hands full of pills to hands displaying makeshift razors through narrow reinforced windows begging to have the master's tools taken away from them begging the COs to save them from what the COs have made them.

The shit smeared razor cuts bedsheet nooses confined conflagrations. Legal briefs and case law stacked knee high on the concrete is at least flammable. If nothing else, these papers could go up in a relieving blaze finally serving the pursuit of freedom they so long promised but withheld. Immolation is another way to end the suffering.

When it happens, whether by noose or knife by pills or by fire an alarm goes up. The emergency call buttons don't work never worked so everyone kicks their doors and shouts. Man down! Man down! Save our souls!

But the COs come slow and they shrug. There is nothing unexpected about a person ending a life of torture.

If there is not a fire smoldering under wet blankets you've carefully arranged to get through your days but unextinguishable, reignited with each salvo of bullets tearing through black flesh on your computer screen, reignited by the dark eyes on a mugshot of an eighteen year old who hung herself in solitary, if that fire doesn't threaten your life everyday, then you and I, we must live in different worlds.

But if there is a fire burning in your chest as in mine, smothered but burning soaked with a deluge of your tears but burning stamped and pummeled to oblivion but burning wished and prayed and begged out but raging still that fire doesn't need to smolder there doesn't need to choke you with it's slow curls of noxious smoke of hopeless endeavors of shrugging shoulders, reconciled to defeat. You can open your heart and spill your angry flames into the world!

It is a fragile world, standing heavy on unstable history flammable as a house of paper. This world is nothing other than paper and us. It works through us having no power other than us, it sets us against us gets us burning our own selves up. It will burn you up until you learn to blow it back, to open your blast furnace spewing embers and sparks tongues of flame billowing smoke a moving wall of intolerable heat.

Be less afraid because an enemy cowardly enough to shoot black men dead this often is weak. An enemy who cannot hold a precious human without breaking, torturing, driving her into ever smaller boxes until she turns up dead in one of them, is utterly without defense. You don't need to take up arms, you don't even need to take the streets, there are many ways you can tend your flames. We can damage this enemy with our words, with paperwork, letters and love. If you put your fire in an envelope it may kindle flames in a body deemed disposable, a body gasping for air inside a box designed to suffocate it.

We can damage this enemy with our hearts, make ourselves its witness, our voices and eyes, just listen and repeat. All that we need is to reach through the bars and hold the trembling hand of someone who refuses to comply with a direct order. The walls will turn to ash, and crumble.

Do this not because you feel pity or some charitable obligation to the cause, but because you know. You know in your heart in this smoky and raw cavity below your ribs that while another person suffers you are never free.

We are all very anxious. Alone, without power, glued to screens and over-whelmed by secondary trauma virtual trauma hyper trauma a zeitgeist of feverish useless but exhausting obsession with trauma.

But the confined ask only that we use our freedoms wisely, that we turn away from distraction and anxiety, give up the numbing potions the dopamine triggers the performances of doing being okay and find instead, a place for them, in our flammable hearts.

Our cure is in clasped hands our cure is in angry chants our cure is in work parties in our feet and hands and voices. Our cure is in fighting to fucking win. Because it feels good to hurt a fascist good and necessary. It tends your fire, keeps you up and alive authentic and whole.

If there is not a fire of solidarity burning in you I want to start one. I want to put the pen to paper the kindling in your hand and matches protest banners stacks of flyers U-locks, pitchforks and torches.

I want you to tend your fire. If for no other reason than because when the prisons are done suffocating their current captives and suffocating the next class the next batch of surplus population the next group of precarious workers thrown to correctional dogs by ruling class austerity measures it will eventually get around to smothering you.

This fucking enemy called my mother a thug, my white middle-aged, college-educated elementary school teaching mother. It called her a terrorist, and then it stole from her pension. Very few of us are truly safe from this fucking thing.

There is a seesaw over an inferno and while you might feel and look different from those below you those sliding off the edge breaking their fingernails in desperate grips, the enemy is raising the angle increasing the slope, toward the incinerator which yawns at all of us.

If there is not a fire wanton inside of you clouding your vision causing you panic a blaze of impending doom always there tightening up tendons at the base of your neck pulling you so many ways piling ever smaller stresses till you're fit to choke or snap out if you don't feel the gravity, see the precipice, and fear the heat of those flames, then you aren't paying attention.

But if there is a fire, then you should know who built it you should know that we have enemies. Your body is warning you of danger why would you ignore it? Stop scrabbling at the ankles of those above you while kicking off those below. Recognize: greedy hands are creeping toward your own throat, and they look like yours. The enemy moves them closer as it slides us all down the incinerator's chute.

Instead of all that instead of living in fear of the thug and the terrorist that runs amok within you instead of cutting each other instead of ever smaller boxes instead of waiting to show up in the array of suicide mugshots we could fight together cuz if we did we would win.