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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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Colonel's Daughter, War Resistance, and Honoring Veterans.

I am known in some circles (not mine) as The Colonel's Daughter. I'm an army brat, as they say. So I can't help but salute my own father today for doing what his conscience tells him to in order defend our nation and our liberties...I have as much conflict about his methods and angles as he would have with mine, I suspect. 

My intentions have been good, I think, but I haven't always been right. Nor has Dad. Both of us are usually sure the other is wrong, though. Still, though we're coming from different directions - on different routes, with different heroes and frames of reference (I refuse to even join a political party) - every time I look closely at him he's working on something to help build a more peaceful and just world. And that's been since his retirement.  

We made different life decisions, and while some may say we fall at opposite extremes of the political spectrum (few have ever seen my potential for volatility as he has), I think he's really an anti-racist, left-wing radical at heart, and I'm still trying to win him over. Don't tell him I said that, though - he'd hit the roof. We've aligned ourselves with "communists" and "terrorists" in my camp; Dad served liberty and justice as a Military Intelligence officer through most of his Army career.  There are very real grounds for a little tension there.

Anyway, much of the best in me still comes from the best in him, including the part of me that resists the authority his uniform represents. Dad's the one who taught us to exercise our constitutional liberties, which were the only things that would really protect our rights - all of which generations before us had bled and died for, and new ones were stepping up for. 

He showed us to fight with words and instead of guns whenever possible, impressing upon us the gravity of not only war, but violence. He forced much of my creativity that way. He persevered under the heavy fire of our adolescence - I don't know how we all made it through alive. We put on different colors to show our pride and have fought him in some way for most of half a century, really. Still, when it comes down to it, Dad's always been on our side. Mine and my big brother's that is. 

Now Dad's fighting another battle, one with cancer. I think whatever happens with it, though, he finally won the more important war: he seems more at peace than I've ever seen him before. I have only just begun to realize how much I take him for granted, and how deeply I will miss this man when he goes. We've been blessed in so many ways by him touching our lives.

So, that's my 2am Veterans' Day salute to my old man. It seemed to flow naturally from reading this brief editorial I snagged from a fellow in Oregon almost as soon as he put it up. Thanks, Mike. Short, simple, to the point - with "politics" aside, as much as can  possibly be done.


As I See It: Honor veterans by hearing their stories (Nov. 11)

On Veterans Day we honor veterans, not war. Whatever your views about the rightness or wrongness of war or the particular wars we are engaged in, let us distinguish between the veterans and the policies that sent them to war. Veterans know war is not noble or heroic: It is ugly, violent, and destructive.

The reason we honor our veterans is because of their willingness to sacrifice. Veterans do not make the decisions that determine whether we go to war as a nation. Politicians do, and the people who elect them.

The price that war exacts is both costly in resources and fierce in its sacrifice of life and in wounds both physical and psychological. There are veterans and their families who are paying the price every day as they live and cope with physical disabilities. There are World War II veterans who cannot afford to pay for their medication and who are on waiting lists because the Veterans Affairs medical system is overwhelmed and cannot provide primary health care. There are homeless veterans and incarcerated veterans who for a myriad of reasons have found themselves on the margins of society.

Most veterans who serve are young men and women in their early adulthood and late teens. In war, it is most often they and their families who are most directly affected and who will live with the consequences. They deserve and have earned the benefits they receive. There is a moral obligation on the part of the nation to assist those who served on our behalf in whatever way they need.

Veterans are a diverse group with rich experience and have a lot to contribute. You will find them in all walks of life. These veterans live and work in our community. They are our neighbors and family members.

There are hundreds of veterans and family members now attending classes at Oregon State University and Linn-Benton Community College. The woman barista at the Beanery may have served in Iraq, as well as the dentist you go to.

Talk to a veteran this Veterans Day. Ask him or her to talk with you about their experiences. In doing so, you will give honor to their service.

Mike DeMaio of Corvallis served in the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam, from 1967 to 1968 as a squad leader with G Company, Second Battalion, Fourth Marines. He is a retired therapist and worked for 17 years as trauma counselor at the Veterans Outreach Center in Salem. He can be reached at 541-758-5649,or by e-mail at

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