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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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

SB 1070 Resistance Dancin' in the Streets!

This is long and a few days late (so I know I'm not stealing anyone's audience), but it's such a joyful Feathered Bastard that I still can't resist. There's a tune I've been listening to lately called "The Great Stone Wall" by Jim Page, that reminds me that things haven't always been so dark, so bitter, and so hateful on this planet as it seems to be here and now some days. We're so indoctrinated to the way things are that we fail to understand that things haven't always been this way - and its not the only way for them to be tomorrow, either. Ordinary people really can change the world.

Now, read on about the all night party outside of Sheriff Joe's jail while supporters waited for civil rights organizer Sal Reza to be released after his second arrest last week. And hit Stephen's blog (this week's is too funny) at the Phoenix New Times often for updates on what's happening in this place. Between the protests, parties, patrols, prisoners, people power (check out Guadalupe's resistance, too, folks), and my own personal battles (as well as the theft of my laptop from my home), I can't begin to tell you myself what's going on from day to day. So, I'm going to keep hitting up the New Times until they tell me to stop.

Enjoy the Feathered Bastard now, knowing that no matter what the mainstream media reports and pollsters tell you about popular opinion in Arizona, Sheriff Joe is eating a lot of crow these days - spoonfed by people of every age, color and creed. And PLEASE - regardless of anything else you hear, beg Natalie Merchant and all those superstars heading to the Dodge Theater this month to cancel their engagements - we need their moral support more than their money now more than ever. Tell them to come join the people dancing in the streets.


As civil rights leader Salvador Reza stood in stripes before a night court judge around 3:30 a.m. this morning at the Fourth Avenue Jail in downtown Phoenix, the county prosecutor made an eye-popping admission.

"This is really my review," he stated cautiously of a statement from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office before him. "I did not see that this rose to the level of probable cause."

Reza's attorney Robert Pastor immediately pounced.

"Your honor," said Pastor, "I just heard the prosecutor tell the court that there's not enough evidence here to suggest that Mr. Reza committed a crime. I ask that the charge be dismissed and he be released immediately."

Of Reza's bogus charge for "obstructing a judicial proceeding," the judge herself seemed skeptical.

"I do not have enough information to find probable cause in this matter, sir," she told the county attorney.

She declined to dismiss the charge, but she released Reza on his own recognizance and set his next court date for August 18.

Reza, leader of the organization Puente, had been arrested late Friday afternoon after watching a band of protesters engage in civil disobedience by blocking Sheriff Joe Arpaio's command post for the MCSO's latest anti-immigrant sweep. The post was located near 35th Avenue and Lower Buckeye, close to the Lower Buckeye Jail. Reza was across the street in an unpaved parking lot.

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Reza, after being released Saturday morning

Though Reza was not participating in civil disobedience that day, a pack of aggro sheriff's deputies ran across 35th Avenue and arrested him. Arpaio, MCSO Chief Brian Sands, and MCSO flack Brian Lee have all been videotaped stating that the arrest was because Reza had violated his order of release after he'd been let go on bond the night before for taking part in civil disobedience on July 29. This, as part of a "national day of non-compliance" to SB 1070.

After court was adjourned with Reza's O.R., a crowd of about sixty supporters, who had crammed into a viewing room to watch the proceedings from a TV monitor, erupted into applause. They then filed outside to wait another two hours-plus before Reza and the others arrested that day were set free.

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Supporters danced all night waiting for Reza to be let go

The main entrance to the Fourth Avenue Jail had turned into an all-night block party for Reza supporters, with speakers blaring cumbia and protesters dancing in the middle of the street, sometimes in the pouring rain. At one point the crowd of Reza supporters numbered more than 100, and included numerous members of Unitarian Universalist Churches (referred to as "UUs") from across the country, who were in town to protest SB 1070 going into effect.

Sheriff's deputies and detention officers looked on from the roof, and from the corners of the building, but did nothing to stop the crowd. I asked one deputy why he and his compadres were seemingly okay with the revelry.

He simply shrugged and said, "It's a free country."

Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, was present in a parking lot with Reza as sheriff's deputies arrested the longtime anti-Arpaio activist. He said NDLON regarded Reza as a political prisoner, and that in the first two hours of putting up an online petition to "Free Sal Reza," NDLON had garnered 900 signers-on.

"They arrested him for no reason," he told me, as we all awaited Reza's release. "He was doing nothing. They just took him. To me it's clear that it's retaliation, because he's been highly critical of the sheriff. They [Arpaio and his staff] don't like him. They hate him."

Indeed, Reza has led several massive marches aimed directly at ending Arpaio's rule, as well as daily protests outside the Wells Fargo Building in downtown Phoenix, where Arpaio keeps two floors of pricey executive offices. Reza's Wells Fargo campaign ended with the bank asking Arpaio to leave, forcing the county to find another building for the MCSO, which Arpaio will likely move into sometime in 2011.

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No one parties like a Unitarian...

When Reza finally emerged from jail Saturday morning, the sun was up, and his fellow activists were overjoyed to see him.

Reza said he was shocked by the arrest, which came without warning, just as he was about to leave for an interview.

"When I saw them coming, I thought they were coming for the people in the street," he explained. "But then they just passed them and went for me."

Regarding who actually ordered his arrest, Reza believes it was MCSO Deputy Chief Brian Sands, one of Arpaio's top henchmen, a man who looks like he would have felt right at home in the KGB.

"It was Sands," Reza contended. "Sands was in command."

MSCO thugs hustled a cuffed Reza to a van, where he remained for hours by himself. At one point, the MCSO opened up the van to display Reza to photographers and journalists like a captured prisoner of war.

"If they can do this to me," he told the reporters present before refusing interviews, "what do you expect they can do to anybody else."

Reza was transported to Fourth Avenue, booked, and forced to change into county stripes. As he was the night before, he was placed in solitary confinement. Reza said he was allowed no phone call, and there was no phone in the cell. He also stated that deputies never read him his Miranda rights.

I asked if he thought the MCSO was trying to break him.

"I think it's going to be a long time before they break me," he laughed. "I was ready to go eighteen days...that's when the court date is."

I wondered if he planned to sue the MCSO, as so many of Arpaio's victims have done, earning massive payouts from county coffers. Reza didn't say yea or nay.

"I just wish the [ U.S. Department of Justice] would get on the ball and do something about it," he replied. "I don't know what else they want...It's very clear."

The DOJ has been investigating Arpaio for more than a year now for civil rights violations. There's also a federal grand jury in Phoenix looking into Arpaio and the MCSO for criminal abuse of power.

Concerning the detention officers, Reza said he actually got along with some this time.

"Some of them are nice," he said. "Some of them, they basically don't like Arpaio."

This sentiment was echoed to some degree by Sarahi Uribe, a Yale graduate and organizer with NDLON, who'd been one of the protesters blocking sheriff's patrol cars from leaving for the sweep. She, too, was released on her own recognizance by the judge.

"One of the clerks or one of the officers inside slapped a message on the window [of the cell] that said, `By the way, what you guys are doing is awesome,' and walked away," Uribe told me.

Still, she was interrogated repeatedly by 287(g) officers in the jail, even though she's an American citizen. This, likely because she's not white and she initially refused to tell them her country of origin.

She also described "disgusting" conditions in the holding cell where she was kept with several other women. Uribe said women were sleeping on a floor littered with feces. Like Reza, she was never Mirandized.

Before he headed out to get some much needed rest, I asked Reza if he had any words for Sheriff Arpaio.

"Yeah," he said. "Come back to civilization."

Fat chance of that. They don't call it "Mari-Kafka County" for nothin'. For those of you reading who loathe Reza because of his politics, keep this in mind: There was no probable cause for his arrest. And if you want Arizona to resemble part of America, rather than a Third World junta, you should denounce his detention just as if you were one of his supporters.

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