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, August 3, 2010

Rest in Peace, Elizabeth Anne Friedel.

It is very seldom that I alter or remove a post in response to a complaint from a reader, but in the case of "Happy Birthday Clark Fish", I've made an exception, having heard from Dave Friedel, the brother of the woman Fish was convicted of murdering. With his permission, I am posting his remarks from our correspondence below. I hope Mr. Friedel's comments are taken into consideration by whomever incarcerates him as well, so that they may protect other prisoners from his apparent proclivity to prey on the more vulnerable.

My first post on Fish at Arizona Prison Watch - a straight reprint of Kaj Larsen's original article for the Huffington post - remains, though I will link it to this one so the two perspectives are connected at both ends.
I decided to remove my birthday post on Fish from all my sites after reading both Friedel's emails and reviewing Larsen's written and video pieces again. I remain an opponent of both the death penalty and mass incarceration, but am no less troubled by what to do with people who are a danger to others in our community. Regardless of the source of their own disturbance - be it childhood or wartime trauma - they can't be allowed to continue to abuse others as Fish did to his victim leading up to the moment of her death. They certainly should not be celebrated as martyred victims themselves, which is essentially what the post I removed suggested by inviting people to drop Fish a line on his 25th birthday, at which time I believed he was still facing the death penalty. As Mr. Friedel states, Fish has since taken a plea life without parole, offered at his victim's family's urging.

While I found Larsen's story on Fish and other veterans with PTSD accused of violent crimes compelling, Fish is hardly the poster boy I would choose to represent traumatized soldiers - and I apologize to those men and women for seeming to do so. He does not appear to have had a deep-seated objection to perpetrating violence, as so many vets with PTSD do. Fish, rather, is a coward and a bully. His pattern of behavior, as evidenced by numerous 911 calls for domestic disturbances and violence in the months before Elizabeth Friedel was so brutally killed is as troubling as the murder itself.

While traumatized vets are indeed more likely to be convicted of violent crimes than members of the general population, I don't believe those crimes tend to emerge out of a long-standing pattern of abuse and domination of another. Rather, much of what I've read about are assaults or murders involving all-too-accessible lethal weapons when someone reaches a breaking point - representing a divergence from, not continuation of, character that was formed before their own traumatization or victimization.

For those unfamiliar with why the death penalty would be considered by a jury in the first place, there are stipulations about the crime being especially heinous in nature to consider - like torture. There are details to this case that suggest PTSD is now being used as a convenient excuse for such conduct, not identified as an extenuating circumstance where someone has actually taken responsibility for their actions. Perhaps Fish was poorly represented in his trial, but his claim of innocence during the guilt determination phase is now contradicted by his "mitigating circumstance" claim that PTSD caused him to kill his victim. This defense is not presented without his consent. Either Fish is guilty or he is not - if he is not, then his PTSD is irrelevant. If he is, than his entire defense can't really be trusted as sincere.

Whatever kind of man Clark Fish was before he donned a military uniform and learned to justify killing another human being, it is disturbing that he seems to show little remorse (if he is guilty) or even sympathy (if he is not) for the woman whose torment and murder he is being held responsible for. His obsession is with his own survival now; his perception seems to be that he is the only victim here.
Fish's legal representation and his representation of himself - particularly the shift in strategy once convicted - has done him and all vets with PTSD a disservice.

We are all victims of both the military industrial complex and the mentality it can breed - some more so than others.
Many people have endured far more horrendous, life-altering experiences of violence and trauma than Clark Fish describes - including survivors of childhood sexual abuse - and yet have not chosen to perpetrate systematic violence on others in response. Many go on to help others instead. This is why prevention and early intervention with victims of trauma is so important - to teach them how to manage their pain and rage in a way that does not result in them harming others or compel us to segregate them completely from the rest of human society.

This is one place where both the government and victims' rights organizations fall short. Americans are taught to believe that our own injuries or losses justify even greater violence to those who we believe have or may harm us or a loved one. We are a vindictive people, not at all invested in the kind of justice that heals and restores communities and lives, but rather that which brutalizes on a grand scale by war, mass incarceration, and executions as punishment.
In the name of our own "protection" we succumb to a similar mindset as that of our perpetrators.

This is how we have justified things such as the genocide of Native Americans, the demonization and overwhelming oppression of dark-skinned immigrants and descendants of those we have enslaved and colonized, and the persistence of grossly inhumane conditions in American jails and prisons. We are rarely even moved by stories of the innocent victimized by our laws and our Anglo-American Manifest Destinies, we so want to believe that we are just in the eyes of the Creator even as we destroy lives.

I realize I may often confuse my readers with contradictions of opinion and sympathy. That's because I have no clear-cut answers - we tread in many gray areas here where interests and perspectives in total opposition don't automatically invalidate the other. In fact, one of our biggest problems with "justice", it seems, is that we too often adhere to rigid, Old Testament notions of what exactly that might constitute, and too seldom explore the contradictions.

With that, I give you the voice of one survivor of Clark Fish's indoctrination into violence - one which began when guns were toys and wars were games - and his decision to act it out on one more vulnerable than himself. Those of us who challenge the state on the conduct of its more disturbed soldiers - and those of us who do not accept the death penalty as a solution - especially need to hear what Dave Friedel has to say. I imagine he did not extend himself to talk about this issue without experiencing considerable pain in the process, and am grateful that he gave me permission to reprint his words here. I owe both him and his family my apologies and condolences.


Dave Friedel Thu, Jul 29, 2010 at 8:38 PM
Reading your article; specifically the video from the Huffington Post (
) is very disturbing because the slant this piece about Clark Fish provides ZERO information around the 4 months of torture of Elizabeth Anne Friedel endured (restraining orders, 911 calls, Police engagements, etc), harassment against the family seeking to help her, the AWOL status of Clark Fish and lastly the threats AFTER her murder by Clark.

How do I know ALL of this??? Because I am the victim's brother and know firsthand as I desperately tried to help her. I sat through the entire trial, heard all the facts, and listened to the 911 calls of Beth pleading for help. This is the sort of HACK journalism which FAILS the public by not reporting the COMPLETE story.

I fully support our troops and believe programs should be offered to treat PTSD but you cannot dismiss their actions if they FAIL to seek help, take medicine, or be civil in society. Shame on you Mr Larsen for tainting our troops efforts by showcasing a poor example of what they experience. Clark never was on the line and never was put into battle (confined to guard duty on the base) because of his conduct. He volunteered in that hospital because of his prior AWOL status in which he served in Military prison for 6 months until he changed his mind to serve along with our honorable men and women.

Dave Friedel

Peggy Plews Fri, Jul 30, 2010 at 9:28 PM
To: Dave Friedel
Dear Mr. Friedel,

I appreciated your note - albeit a painful one, understandably. I'm not a journalist myself - you landed on my personal blogs where I had re-posted Larsen's Huffington post article. I had received a number of inquiries from readers about how to contact Fish (I am based in Phoenix), so made a second post about him which included his address and the link to the video piece "War Crimes" that Larsen did. The connection between PTSD and violent crime (not only among veterans) concerns me; I'm adamantly opposed to the death penalty myself; and Larsen's article was indeed sympathetic to Fish after following him for over two years. So, in my own editorializing I was also sympathetic to what he faces now without giving sufficient thought to evidence that he was repeatedly abusive to your sister and may well have killed her. For the injury that my thoughtlessness may have compounded, I am truly sorry.

I would be willing to post either an article you recommend that presents the other side of Clark Fish's story - your sister's side - or something you want to write yourself. I would even post the following letter as a guest editorial if you want - a criticism of my decision to post what Larsen wrote in the first place. I can handle the criticism. It will make me think twice the next time. Your perspective is certainly one that should be heard on the issue. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems, and shouldn't be left to one person to tell.

Please let me know how you would like to proceed on this, if at all. I don't think that even among my small audience your voice will fall on deaf ears. I can't speak for Larsen, however.

My condolences for the terrible loss of your sister.


Peggy Plews
“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881)

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Dave Friedel Sun, Aug 1, 2010 at 1:08 AM
To: Peggy Plews
I can appreciate your objection to the death penalty, although I do not share it and here is why. The objection is based on the belief that people are all inherently good, sometimes make mistakes and want to do the right thing. After all, society functions quite well and everyone basically operates within the structure to the benefit of the whole even if the economics of it are based on the "Invisible Hand" that Adam Smith so eloquently outlined. I can fully appreciate this and by all means, I too would count myself among you in this thinking.

But the reality is, this is simply not true for all of us. The fact is 1 in 25 people who walk among us have a deficiency (or advantage depending on how you look at it) to avoid the conscious will to be good or reflect the other person's pain; the root of all religions aka the Golden Rule. For this reason, it leaves quite a few people with a vulnerability which can be exploited to the determinant of us and others. This is not to say all psychopaths are murderers or are evil, but they have the ability to shut off that which society deems as the governor to regulate compassion. I have spent quite amount of time and research to understand psychopathy and degrees in which they operate with in society. Clark Fish had 3 of the 4 common markers for psychopathy and trust me, when I initially met him, he was perceived as charming but I also was at the brunt of his unbelievable hate as I tried very hard to intervene and help my sister. So much in fact, that he wrecked my car, threatened my life to the point of filing a restraining order myself, and eventually blaming me for my sisters death (saying if I tried harder she would be alive today).

In fact, it was my family that told the district attorney (whom I have the deepest respect for) to provide Life without Parole as an option when the 12th juror broke the law by initially telling the other jurors she would never consider the death penalty. Everyone was prepared to seek the death penalty again and on July 29th 2010, Clark did end up taking the offer for Life in Prison. Does he deserve to live his life in prison? No, but those of you against this process are ignorant to the realities that these viruses do exist and only after being personally impacted can a person truly appreciate the realities of surviving such an ordeal. I have a new found respect for the individuals who live through pandemics, especially when they could be prevented by a unified society approach. Our appeal process provides 18 years to correct a wrong, but the cancer that lives within our prisons will continue to spread as we move psychopaths into general population with other inmates trying to serve time for far less crimes. Do not think for ONE MOMENT, Clark will not feed on the other weaker people in prison - trust me he will. It is exactly the undeniable compassion people possess which makes it so hard to convict and protect our society.

As for posting my replies on your blog, I will leave that up to you. I would be just as understanding if you removed the article to begin with.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My name is Sean Paul Began. Clark has been my best friend since we were 14. I grew up with him. And in 2013/2014 spent 2 years in smu1 with him. He was my neighbor upstairs from me, and lived with John eastlack. Clark is a good man. I believe on many levels the relationship that existed between him and Ms. Friedel was dysfunctional. I firmly belive,although I am clearly partial to Clark, that he did NOT kill this woman.