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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AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

CCA, ALCU, and Censorship: Prison Legal News

Arizona: PLN/ACLU sue CCA


Publisher Sues Corrections Corporation of America Over Censorship of Books Sent to Prisoners

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Arizona: Alessandra Soler Meetze, ACLU of Arizona, (602) 773-6006 (office)
Vermont: Paul Wright, Prison Legal News, 802 257-1342,
California: Carl Whitaker, Whitaker Communications, 510-847-0599,

Phoenix, AZ – Prison Legal News (PLN), a non-profit monthly publication that reports on criminal justice-related issues, filed suit today in U.S. District Court against Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest for-profit prison firm. PLN contends that CCA violated its rights under the First Amendment and the Arizona Constitution by censoring books sent to prisoners at the company’s Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona.

"Publishers have a well-established First Amendment right to send their publications and books to prisoners," said PLN editor Paul Wright, “"nd CCA, which has been in the prison business for more than 25 years, should have been well aware of that right."

According to PLN’s complaint, the Saguaro prison, which holds prisoners from Hawai’i and Washington state, maintains a policy that prohibits the receipt of books from PLN. PLN sells approximately 40 book titles, which include self-help books, educational books and books on criminal justice topics. In 2008 and 2009, at least six Saguaro prisoners were prohibited from receiving books from PLN or informed they could not order from PLN.

"Prison officials do not have the right to censor books and magazines simply because they dislike the publisher," said lead counsel Sanford Jay Rosen, of the San Francisco-based law firm of Rosen, Bien & Galvan, LLP. "The actions of the CCA officials are not only unconstitutional, but make it more difficult for publishers and the media to gain access to prisoners and for prisoners to receive information that can assist them in making a successful transition to society after prison."

As justification for such censorship, CCA employees stated that PLN was an "unapproved vendor" and claimed that books ordered from PLN constituted "a serious danger to the security of the facility." Additionally, CCA failed to notify PLN that its books were being censored, in violation of PLN’s right to due process.

"The actions by CCA continue longstanding patterns of arbitrary decisions by prison administrators based on their convenience, without regard to the rights and needs of prisoners and publishers alike," added ACLU of Arizona Legal Director Dan Pochoda, who is serving as co-counsel on this case.

The Saguaro facility reportedly has a policy that requires prisoners to order books from Barnes & Noble or CCA also has a policy that prohibits prisoners’ family members from purchasing books and publications on their behalf. In addition to naming CCA as a defendant in the suit, the complaint also names Daren Swenson, CCA’s regional manager in Arizona; Todd Thomas, the warden at Saguaro; and Saguaro’s assistant warden and chief of security.

The case is Prison Legal News v. Corrections Corp. of America, U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, Case No. 2:09-CV-01831-ROS. In addition to Rosen and Pochoda, PLN also is represented by Blake Thompson of Rosen, Bien & Galvan, LLP and PLN General Counsel Dan E. Manville in Ferndale, Michigan.

Prison Legal News (PLN), founded in 1990 and based in Seattle, Washington, is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human rights in U.S. detention facilities. PLN publishes a monthly magazine that includes reports, reviews and analysis of court rulings and news related to prisoners' rights and criminal justice issues.

PLN has almost 7,000 subscribers nationwide and operates a Web site ( that includes a comprehensive database of prison and jail-related articles, news reports, court rulings, verdicts, settlements and related documents. PLN is a project of the Human Rights Defense Center.

The complaint will be posted on-line at:

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