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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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tenacious: Art, Poetry, Prose by Women in Prison

Just bumping this up from the original posting spot in January, to remind folks that the April 1 deadline is approaching. Please try to get some women from Perryville to send some things in. This is the Mother's Day issue, and it will be women's health week that week. Let me know if you have questions. -- Peg

--------------blog post January 5, 2010--------------

Below is the call for submissions to Tenacious , an awesome zine of art and written work by women in prison. The most recent copy (#19) has the story of Marcia Powell's death in it, as told by another prisoner from her yard. Please, friends and family, let the women inside know that we want and need to hear from them - Tenacious is a great way to be heard, and is well worth listening to.

This next issue coming up will be for Mother's Day. Every woman inside is a mom or a daughter; those relationships are hardly untouched by incarceration. They may have already put great stuff into writing in their letters home - see if there's something you think they should develop or submit as is. The absence of a woman’s mother or child can be as powerful as the presence of one – everyone’s story is valued, whatever their perspective.

Many women use pseudonyms to avoid harassment from prison officials if they have anything critical or controversial to say; they should use discretion if they have any concerns about retaliation, because no one can assure their safety. Vikki Law, who gathers the material and edits the zine, seems to exercise pretty good judgment about that stuff, too.

Some incarcerated women who started by publishing in zines and newsletters have become more widely known and published since then – never having set out to “be” writers or artists or poets in the first place: their mode of expression was formed, in part, by their incarceration as a means of resistance. Marilyn Buck, a U.S. political prisoner and poet, is one who comes to mind who has written about that. Here's the Freedom Archives' link to audio clips from Marilyn's Wild Poppies collection, a tribute CD on which her poetry is read by former political prisoners from around the world. (Browse Freedom Archives sometime - there's great liberation movement stuff there).

We need to engage more with the women at Perryville prison, and connect them with the community before they come back home. We also need to look in on the women in our county jails – not just Arpaio’s. That means creating a less shameful environment that’s inclusive of prisoners’ and their families' voices, getting community members and groups doing more outreach to incarcerated women and their children (the Girl Scouts are even on top of it, folks - no good reason everyone else isn't), and alerting our local and national media that we want to know what’s going on in there. Who are we locking up in Arizona, anyway? Why so many women all of a sudden? At what costs – economic and social? Under what conditions? What happens to their kids?

We need more people to be able to articulate the challenges faced by women in prison, and to recognize and support their resistance to oppression, abuse, and neglect. We try to render them invisible in society, but women in prison have both voice and power. We need to pay attention to actions like those described below by Renee, and the three women who set their mattresses on fire last June. What happened to them? Does anyone know?

That doesn’t mean we should just be looking for hunger strikes and riots among women, though – grievances and lawsuits have been very effective tools of change for women in prison, and need more visibility; some things can be expedited with more public pressure - like Marcia's Law. Charisse Schumate is an example of a woman who resisted by using the legal system and community organizing; she and her fellow prisoners made a difference. That's a story worth printing up and sending to women inside, too.

Women like Renee and those in Tenacious are resisting, too, simply by telling their stories. Even if they aren't exposing state secrets, they are countering the myths and lies out there about them. hey are resisting the dehumanization of criminalization and incarceration. They are bringing home what it means to be a woman in prison in America. The act of making things public, making them visible, takes a great deal of courage - we must read them, respond to what they're saying, and keep asking for more.

This is pretty critical material for Arizonans to grasp right now, so I’m going to do whatever I can to get it into the hands of as many people who might care as possible – from anarchists and ASU students to hospice care providers and groups representing trauma and rape survivors. Listen to these women, and if you have any kind of access help them get their stories out. They need us all to stop and pay attention.

Here's the call for submissions to Tenacious:


Call for submissions

Tenacious is looking for articles, poetry and art form women in prison. We strongly believe that everyone has a story to tell, something to share and are in need of someone who will listen and offer some kind of support and/or understanding. It is important to us that women (both in and out of prison) find the power of their voice. We encourage women to share with us and others in the hopes of educating those in society and empowering other women to take a stand for their rights and the rights of others. Use the power of your voice in a positive way—to educate.

Subjects we are looking for include:

ü Prison programs (how they do or don’t work)
ü Mothers educating their children while on the inside
ü Holding prison officials accountable for their actions or inactions
ü Observations and applications on prison life
ü Women prisoners uniting to make a difference
ü Informing society about prison issues
ü Sexual discrimination or sexual preference discrimination in your prison
ü Medical breakthroughs or neglect
ü HIV, Hep C and other diseases common in prison
ü Helping your fellow prisoners
ü Literacy and education
ü Your job (or lack of a job)

AS YOU CAN SEE BY THE COVER, WE ESPECIALLY NEED ART!!! Art should be reproducible in black-and-white.

We do not publish individual cases, charges or court experiences. We do not publish religious materials. We also cannot act as liaisons between those in different facilities.

Send submissions to:
V. Law, PO Box 20388,
New York, NY 10009

Tenacious is free to women in prison.

Men in prison: please send 2 stamps to cover the cost of postage.

Those not in prison: your $2 will support sending free issues to incarcerated women across the United States.

The next issue will be a Mother’s Day themed issue, acknowledging that over 80% of women in prison are mothers.

Deadline: April 1, 2010

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I'm interested in purchasing a copy of your publication. Is there a way for me to do so?