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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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Another of Arapio's MCSO Legacies...

Inmate Sentenced to Death For Jailhouse Murder That Cost Maricopa County $500K; Thanks Again, Joe

A Maricopa County Jail inmate convicted of the beating and strangling death of a fellow inmate has been sentenced to death.

This afternoon, 27-year-old Pete Van Winkle learned his fate in Maricopa County Superior Court after he was convicted of first-degree murder earlier this year.

Van Winkle was convicted of the infamous jailhouse murder of 28-year-old Robert Leroy Cotton, while the two were inmates at the Fourth Avenue Jail. The inmate's death ended up costing the county $500,000, but we'll get to that later.

Van Winkle, a known member of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang, was awaiting trial for attempted second-degree murder, when the jailhouse murder occurred.

After completing a seven-year prison sentence for trafficking in stolen property, theft, and shoplifting, Van Winkle was free for about five months before police say he shot Huy Minh Nguyen in the head inside a Phoenix apartment.

Cotton was awaiting sentencing after being convicted of driving a stolen vehicle and drug possession, when he was murdered, while in the sheriff's custody.

Jail surveillance video showed Van Winkle strangling Cotton and stomping on his head for nearly 20 minutes, before trying to throw his lifeless body off the second floor of the cell house.

The attack went virtually unnoticed by the sheriff's jailhouse squad and ended up costing the county $500,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by Cotton's family.

Just another case of the Sheriff's Office putting those tax-dollars to (gulp) good use.

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