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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AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Suspected prisoner homicide: Eyman's SMU

Wow. This kid was sixteen when he was sent up for murder. It actually looks like he was prosecuted for two murders, and got two 20-year consecutive sentences.

Sixteen. That's troubling. We need to get to these kids a lot sooner than that.

I'm concerned that with the closing of the state department of juvenile corrections, the counties will elect to try older children as adults more often, simply to get the state prison to pay for their incarceration from the adult funds, rather than have to come up with more programming and appropriate residential options for juveniles at the local level.

1601 W. JEFFERSON PHOENIX, ARIZONA 85007 (602) 542-3133
NEWS RELEASE For Immediate Release
For more information contact:

 Barrett Marson                                                                                  Bill Lamoreaux                                           

January 26, 2010
Inmate Death Notification

Florence, Ariz. - Inmate Alexandru Usurelu, 22, ADC #181716 was found unresponsive in his housing unit at ASPC-Eyman’s Special Management Unit. Usurelu was pronounced dead by the emergency medical responders just after 8 p.m. Monday from an apparent homicide.

Usurelu was admitted to ADC on Dec. 4, 2003, after a conviction for 2nd degree murder from Maricopa County. He was sentenced to prison for 40 years.

Usurelu was housed in a two-man cell and his cellmate is a suspect. The investigation is ongoing and being conducted by the department's Criminal Investigations Unit.

Here's another 22-year old dead. Same day, different prison. Not clearly homicide - but not suspected suicide.

January 26, 2010
Inmate Death Notification

Tucson, Ariz. – Inmate Ulises Rodriguez, 22, ADC #240623 was found unresponsive in his two-man cell at ASPC-Tucson’s Cimarron Unit. Rodriguez was pronounced dead by the emergency medical responders just after 8 a.m. Monday.

Rodriguez was admitted to ADC on Dec. 22, 2009, after a conviction for discharging a firearm at a structure.

He was sentenced to prison for 10 and a half years.

The suspicious death is under investigation by the department’s Criminal Investigations Unit.


Keeper17 said...

Alex was actually 15 when he murdered my brother and his best friend execution style. This piece of work lived in a home three blocks away from his parents with no adults. Being that he was in SMU should speak volumes of what kind of person he choose to be behind bars. Rest in peace Joey and Robert.

Anonymous said...

with all the respect for your loss, can you give me a reason for this actions, l mean theat your brother and the friend hade been murderd? usurelu wase drugd what fammily life he hade l just don t get sorry for you and your fammily, good rest them
all my respect,

Anonymous said...

I met Alex in prison actually we both had the same judge man that judge was a real piece of work for giving my good friend so many years. I just bearly found out that he passed away im very sad for my friend u know me and him use to talk allot in jail and lets just say that the way he told me things happened are way diferent the what ur family said thoes kids did drugs and they did something bad that I will never tell ppl but from wat alex told me they had it coming. Alex I will forever miss u and keep u in my heart last thing I want to say is that knowing Alex he didnt go with out.a fight he was a great loyal trust worthy person and he always told me he was gonna get out some how :-) buddy ur free go with God and wait for me so we can have eachothers back again :”(