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, July 23, 2010

Prisoners of the NAACP: The Untapped Resource

Got turned onto this by Charlie through the national CURE list-serve, or I wouldn't even have known there were prison branches of the NAACP. Not a lot makes me weep that isn't tragic - this did. I just developed a whole new level of respect for the organization. Congratulations to the prisoners of Branch 4003 of the NAACP - and thank you. Your persistence has no doubt opened the door to new possibilities for others.

NAACP's prison branch in Cameron gets its wish to host conventioneers

On Saturday, 20-some NAACP convention-goers walked through the metal detectors at the maximum security prison in Cameron, Missouri, to participate in a historic event. After years of planning and pleading, prisoners with the NAACP Branch #4003 at the Crossroads Correctional Facility were granted permission to host a seminar at the prison as part of the civil rights group's 101st convention in Kansas City.

Among the attendees: Effie Jones Bowers, a black student who desegregated Hall High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. "She has a thousand-watt smile," says Jon Marc Taylor, a Crossroads inmate and Branch #4003's convention and resolutions chairman.

NAACP Xroads.jpg
The banner reads, "Prison Branches: 'The Untapped Resource?'"

The event "went better than we had ever hoped for," Taylor tells The Pitch. "It was a historic, tremendous program."

Conventioneers showed up at the prison around 8:30 a.m. Saturday, and were treated to a catered lunch between discussion sessions. Topics included the disproportionate number of African-American men incarcerated in U.S. prisons and the challenges that felons face when they're released back into society. When the seminar ended at 3:15 p.m., Taylor says, "The guests didn't want to leave. We almost literally had to push 'em out the door."

Because of space restrictions, only 28 of the 60-some NAACP prison branch members took part in Saturday's events. Factors like seniority in the group helped determine which inmates attended.

Other attendees included Paula Skillicorn, widow of Dennis Skillicorn, a death row inmate who was executed in May 2009; Peter Wagner of the Prison Policy Initiative; the Rev. Elston McCowan, the Missouri NAACP's prison committee chairman; and Niaz Kasravi, the NAACP's national senior program manager for law enforcement accountability.

Taylor expressed gratitude to the leadership of the NAACP and to Larry Denney, Warden at the Crossroads prison, for allowing the session to take place. "We are pleasantly surprised by the level of cooperation and support we've received, and we really hope this is a great example of where we can go forward in the future with programs," Taylor says.

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