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, June 18, 2010

Racism Kills: Hate crime charge in Phoenix.

This is what Arizona looks like these days. So many of these kinds of crimes go undocumented, for political reasons...

From Stephen Lemons' Feathered Bastard blog this week at the Phoenix New Times:


Rick Romley Seeks Hate Crime Enhancement for White-on-Brown Shooting in South Phoenix

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office has confirmed that prosecutors will seek a hate crime enhancement against Gary Kelley in the May 6 shooting death of Juan Varela in a South Phoenix neighborhood.

Kelley, an Anglo, is currently charged with second degree murder in the slaying of his Hispanic neighbor. According to the Phoenix Police Department's report on the incident, Kelley, 50, allegedly told the 44-year-old Varela, "You fucking wetback! Go back to Mexico!" before fatally shooting him in the chin with a .38 revolver.

MCAO spokesperson Jaime Brennan stated that County Attorney Rick Romley "has filed the hate crime aggravating circumstance allegation" in the killing. Brennan added that the sentencing enhancement "allows prosecutors to argue for the maximum sentence, which would be 22 years in this case."

Varela's family was angered that Phoenix police did not refer to the killing as a bias crime from jump. Initially, the Phoenix PD played down the possibility that the Varela murder was a hate crime, characterizing it more as the result of a dispute between neighbors.

Yet, there were some complicating factors. The Varela family and Kelley knew each other, and Kelley's other Latino neighbors actually described him to me as a "good guy" when I visited the block Kelley and Varela lived on shortly after the shooting.

However, the Phoenix PD's report described a drunken and disturbed Kelley, who morosely told one officer after his arrest that, "I love all people; white, black, or Hispanic and I am not racist in any way."

The Varela family has stated previously that they believe that Arizona's post-SB 1070 climate was a factor in the murder.

Phoenix radio host Carlos Galindo, who has been acting as a spokesman for the family, told me today that the family is heartened by the hate crime enhancement, though they would like to see Kelley's charges bumped up to first-degree murder.

"We had to struggle to make sure the investigation took the right direction," said Galindo. "We met with Rick Romley and [Phoenix Mayor] Phil Gordon, and they were very supportive. Hopefully, this will send a message nationally, and deter those that might attack people because of their ethnicity."

Galindo said the family would be holding a press conference shortly to address the change in prosecutors' stance toward the crime and the alleged perpetrator.