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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Thursday, September 9, 2010

ASPC-Yuma: Prison Experience Workshop Program

Since I've been naming all the bad guys lately, I thought it would be appropriate to tell you who seems to be doing something right at the AZ Department of Corrections, too. It's good to see that prisoners and staff can work together so co-operatively on a creative project like this.

What follows is a press release I just stumbled across - doesn't appear to have been picked up by mainstream media yet. If there's anyone out there with first-hand experience of this program, please leave your comment below. In the meantime, I think I'll drop them a line.


Arizona Department of Corrections Staff and Inmate Peer Mentors are Working Together to Battle Recidivism, Reports "FromHereToTheStreets"

Despite shocking conditions, inmate peer mentoring program succeeds

For Immediate Release

YUMA, Ariz./EWORLDWIRE/Sep. 8, 2010 --- The Prison Experience Workshop Program (P.E.W.P.) and its inmate peer mentors are taking their activities to greater heights with the help of the staff at the Cheyenne Unit at ASPC Yuma. Without any state funding and only small donations from an Arizona 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Gold Canyon Heart and Home, the Prison Experience Workshop Program is experiencing great success due to support it receives from the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADOC) staff at Cheyenne Unit.

Since its inception in 2005, the Prison Experience Workshop Program has graduated hundreds of participants.

An updated evidence-based survey conducted on 211 graduates who took the classes - between 2006 and 2009 - has shown that 70 graduates were released from custody, with only 9 re-offending and returned to prison. This gives the program graduates an average recidivism rate of approximately 13 percent.

Graduates have little or no disciplinary issues and participate in many other self-help programs to aid in their successful return to the community.

The program claims its incredible 87 percent success rates result from the focus on developing life skills such as effective communication, integrity, work ethics, and community betterment.

Graduates of the program are also offered an opportunity to become peer mentors and facilitate future classes. This pay-it-forward approach allows inmates serving lengthy sentences to help communities by sending other inmates home with the tools they need to succeed rather than the same habits that caused them to victimize those communities in the first place.

The staff at Cheyenne Unit supports this program under the most difficult circumstances. Two of the Unit's primary buildings were condemned in May of 2009. These buildings housed the offices of the chief of security, the unit programs supervisor, yard offices, operations supervisors, the corrections industry facility, and several other areas supporting normal daily operations. The inmate chow hall is also condemned, and the feeding of inmates must take place in the unit visitation areas as a "carry-out" process that has already cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional costs to the department. Even with those obstacles, the staff at Cheyenne Unit is instrumental in the P.E.W. Program's continued success.

Deputy Warden Franco, Associate Deputy Warden Ayala, COP! Zaragoza, Captain Thompson, COIII Lien, COIII Trepanier, COIII Rodriguez, and most of the uniformed and non-uniformed staff make daily contributions to the inmate mentors by supporting their daily activities despite the lack of working space, difficult conditions, and continued financial constraints.

The program is constantly evolving and is currently incorporating pre-release/reentry materials, small business development, and health education into its curriculum.

Those interested in learning more about the Prison Experience Workshop Program may view or download the materials free of charge. The P.E.W. Program books are available in 6 PDF files on (

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