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, January 6, 2010

Brutality of Ad Seg / Solitary Confinement

Published January 06, 2010 @ 05:17AM PT

Long-term solitary confinement is torture. More than 50,000 American prisoners are currently held in some form of longterm isolation, most of them leaving their cell for an hour, or less, each day.

Dr. Atul Gawande, who got the world talking about solitary back in March with his excellent New Yorker story on the topic, spoke about the issue on Democracy Now! yesterday, and he didn't mince words. (Skip to 51:30 in the video to watch the piece on solitary, but his stuff on health care earlier the episode is worth watching, too)

"We have found ourselves crowding prisons larger and larger," Gawande said. "Of course that breeds more violence. And then that leads us to say, well, we should then put folks in solitary confinement. And we’ve caught ourselves in a vicious circle, to the point that prison commissioners I talked to would only speak to me anonymously about this, because they would get fired for saying it. But they thought solitary confinement should end."

Alex DiBranco wrote recently about the case of Tommy Silverstein, who is suing the federal prison system for violating his rights under the Eighth Amendment by holding him under a "no contact" order for more than two decades. Silverstein admits that he killed two fellow prisoners and a guard since his incarceration for armed robbery and takes responsibility. He argues, however, that his confinement played a role in leading him to violence and that isolation is cruel and unusual punishment.

He's right, and we should take serious steps to curtail the use of long term solitary confinement in our prisons.

Take action here through the American Friends Service Committee's StopMax campaign.

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