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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Friday, November 13, 2009

"Women Behind Bars", Texas, Prison Legal News

This post is from the Prison Photography Wordpress blog (The Practice of Photography in Sites of Incarceration) by Seattle's Pete Brook. The site has great images and keeps current with issues going on, like this one. There are links there (and below) for folks to take action.

One of the reasons I snagged this particular article was because I wanted to show off Prison Photography's site, but it also links to a few other places worth mentioning, like (that's the link to the petition posted in the column at the left of this page).

Prison Legal News has been out in front on a lot of the censorship stuff because they distribute both their paper and books to prisoners across the country. They clearly choose the small number books they carry carefully - it's an excellent selection for anyone just developing a prisoner activist's library. The editor, Paul Wright, has authored or edited several - he and Tara Herivel have aggressively investigated and reported on the private prison industry in particular, producing Prison Profiteers, and Prison Nation: The Warehousing of America's Poor, among other things. 

The PLN itself is great investigative journalism, and keeps folks updated on things like prisoner rights, censorship, abuse, and major legislative proposals. The site is a good resource for non-subscribers, with accessible articles, sample issues, and an extensive page of useful links. PLN is geared towards empowering prisoners - I suspect it's a favorite publication among "Jailhouse Lawyers". 

They have also aggressively and successfully challenged prisons and other entities in the courts over prisoner rights - like the First Amendment and  matters rasied by the banning of "Women Behind Bars" in Texas. In this regard, they don't just publish and distribute prison legal news, they help make it through their advocacy and activism. At the very least, it's a good cause to support.

So, as soon as I can, I'm getting a print subscription ($30).  At $24/year for prisoners it would also make an excellent Christmas gift. 

For internet users, a premium price gets access to a deep searchable database of resources and previous articles and briefs for on-line subscribers, which would be worth the price if I had it because of the research I do for blogging. Whether or not you think can afford the internet subscription, at least do the 3-day trial . Sign up when you'll have the time and are focused enough to really do good research - take advantage of the access, and you'll get a good sense for how much you might use the site in the future; then you can decide what kind of subscription to get.

Here's the bit on the book-banning in Texas.

Texas Prison System Bans Books on Prison Conditions for Women

Three months ago, I wrote about Silja Talvi’s excellent book Women Behind Bars.
It turns out the Texas Department of Criminal Justice also noticed it. They banned it – along with another book, Perpetual Prison Machine by Joel Dyer. Both books are distributed by Prison Legal News – a phenomenal non-profit based here in Seattle that educates America’s incarcerated class on its human and legal rights.

Prison Legal News has launched a lawsuit against staff and senior officials of the TDCJ. Money is not as issue here, principle is. “PLN is seeking compensatory, punitive and nominal damages plus declaratory and injunctive relief for violation of its rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as attorney fees and costs.”

“It is a sad commentary when government officials censor books sent to prisoners – particularly books that deal with prisoners’ rights and conditions in our nation’s prisons,” stated PLN editor Paul Wright. “Apparently, the TDCJ prefers that prisoners remain uninformed about issues that directly affect them. We believe this is a poor rationale for censorship.”


Visit and read my brief article.

Download the full PLN lawsuit (PDF).

Sign the petition to the TDCJ for reversal of their censorship policy.

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