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, December 12, 2009

Week of Humanity and Action. Dec 13-19.

December 14 (note change from Tuesday to Monday - everyone has a different answer):

5th Special Legislative Session convenes.

Agenda includes finishing off the pesky teachers' union in retaliation for their political activism, fine-tuning legislation that helps the racist patriarchs further consolidate power (including the criminalization of dissent), and shifting tax burdens further onto the backs of the poor through sales tax hikes and upper-income tax breaks. This, while draining impoverished community resources and lives to feed dying small towns being offered no economic hope themselves without being told they have to buy into the practice - and should even share the profits of - of mass incarceration.

Legislators like Kavanagh talk from the affluent fortress of Fountain Hills about the need to make"sacrifices" with budget and tax cuts, while the people he's got the moral fortitude to starve (in order to protect his own interests) are our elderly, young children, minorities, and young mothers... generally, the same people who always get sacrificed by men like him and Pearce: members of the poor and working classes. They seem to fail to appreciate that growing numbers of us have recently fallen out of the middle class, and are taking a second look at these goons and their lawmaking. There's even a quiet but gathering storm of "moderates" in Republican strongholds, as more and more people across party lines are hit by gaps in health care coverage, mortgage scandals and foreclosures, and job layoffs...people who never thought it would happen to them or their families.

I think a lot of incumbents will be surprised to find that their usual BS doesn't have much traction anymore. Instead of offering solutions , these people are talking about spending more money for more prison terms for the kinds of economic crimes people commit to survive desperate times. Then they go selling jobs as agents of state violence and control to people in their own districts as if hosting a prison will be a blessing to their community, while helping the rest of Arizona be "safe".

Safe from who? I wonder who we are so afraid of, sometimes, considering the kinds of sentencing laws we've allowed them to pass. Do we need to use state violence to protect us from all those drug-addicted and mentally ill women in Perryville? Do we really think state violence would "help" them? Are we in that much danger from migrants willing to cross a desert and work in 115 degree heat while our citizens stand on a corner with a beggar's sign? Do we really want to be spending nearly 10% of our state budget on corrections instead of sending it to health care and education? I know there are dangerous, bad people who would cause further harm if left to run amok in society, but that doesn't account for the majority of people who we're told are filling our prisons these days.

So what kind of vision do Arizona's rising - or falling - leaders have for our future? Do they even listen to the versions we would choose? Why aren't they bringing us jobs offering education or hope to others, instead of punishment? Think of how many more people we could employ in rewarding, emancipating fields of work if we redirected some of our incarceration dollars. That would contribute so much more to the health of all of our communities.

Whether or not they realize it in their elected offices yet, the tide has begun to turn. We aren't all falling for this again.

I think that sums it up, so try to make your voices heard this weekend and throughout the week. Votes will be coerced out of every Republican legislator before they even walk in the doors Monday morning, but this is a long-term strategy we're working on here, not just a special session. If the people in power lack courage and imagination to lead the community where we say we really want to be, then we need to step up with our public challenges to their manipulation of prejudices and fears, and form our own visionary task forces drawing on research and reality and respect for human rights - not more right-wing rhetoric - to help us guide public policy...

December 17: International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (Tucson Memorial).

For those of you who want to demonstrate solidarity with the women from SWOP - or simply honor Marcia and other sex workers victimized by violence without engaging in public protest, contacting a legislator, or writing a letter - take a trip down to Tucson for this event Thursday night. It will be worth the drive. Then come back and write up a post for us about the experience - I really want to see how it is through others' eyes, and the more perspectives we exchange at this point, the better. Requests for anonymity will be respected.

December 18: Sex Workers Outreach Project Protest at the AZ DOC in Phoenix.

Click on above link for more info. Details will be posted later today - focus on your legislator this weekend. Please reinforce in writing and on the phone that sex workers' and prisoners' rights are human rights - we aren't asking for anything special: just a little more respect and humanity.

Remember to bring red umbrellas (and/or wear red or black). I'm sure if you have one to loan or donate and can't make it to the rally Friday, if you leave it at Conspire or the Firehouse (here's the Firehouse Gallery facebook site) this week and said it was for the Sex Workers' protest, the folks there would eventually figure out you were trying to get them to me - I need to hit them with some flyers this weekend anyway. I'll stop by both places Thursday for umbrellas or other creative contributions for the rally before heading to Tucson for the memorial.

If you're coming with a group, please drop me a line and let me know how many of you there might be. Bring your guerilla theatre troupes along! Copwatchers should come armed with their cameras, and I'd love it someone could film and edit the event to make a short video for the archives, so we don't just have whatever the mainstream media gives us. That way more than just a handful of people can walk up and be there - it could be Googled forever.

Look forward to seeing everyone. Remember to put your humanity to action this week, and call on others to do the same.

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