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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AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bring Oprah to perryville this season.

Friends of Marcia Powell and AZ prisoners:

I actually wrote this weekend to invite Oprah to help us pass Marcia's law (a bill of rights for AZ prisoners), feeling that drawing her into the scene at Perryville would open up the avenue to all other prisoner rights' issues, there and elsewhere.

You should write as well,
(that link goes to "who do you want to see interviewed?") especially if you have loved ones enduring conditions at Perryville, so they know it's more than just me concerned. Mention Marcia's death, in case they miss my email. Try to get others to do the same. If enough of us (women and men alike) write about these issues from across the country (world), I bet her producers look into covering an angle. We need mainstream attention to elevate prisoners rights to the level of public discussion here before the legislature convenes in Jan. If Oprah comes, the rest of the media will follow.

Please take a minute and hit her site - we have nothing to lose if we're ignored, and prisoners everywhere have a lot to gain if our collective voice is heard.

Here's what I said in the first category I made an entry in (who to interview - meaning as many women at Perryville as possible):

"Marcia Powell was nobody - just a mentally ill, drug-addicted prostitute and prisoner of the state of Arizona when she was locked in an outdoor cage in 108 degree heat last May after stating she was suicidal. For nearly four hours guards ignored and mocked her as she begged for water, pleaded to get out of the sun, and defecated on herself. She died with second degree burns on her body, and no family willing to claim her remains. No one responsible is being prosecuted; some have their jobs back. Please remember her and the women still suffering in AZ's Perryville state prison. Help us pass Marcia's Law so that this never happens again. I could have been Marcia Powell."

Here's the link for the most incredible cancer survivor story. I submitted Sue Ellen Allen's story in that category... here's what I said there:

Sue Ellen Allen is an extraordinary woman who survived cancer in jail and prison in AZ. Her essay on the experience ( won a PEN American Center prison writing contest in 2009:


"Someone told me there are 365 references in the Bible to fear. Basically, all of them say, “Fear not, for I, the Lord thy God, am with you.” So, with my faith that I treasure, why am I afraid, always afraid?

It started in (Sheriff Joe Arpaio's) Estrella Jail where the incessant noise, violence, hostility, and indifference overwhelmed me. It is a hellish place for a healthy person. Everyone is in black and white stripes and the conditions breed anxiety and stress....

All of these women are going to court. Not me. I am going to Maricopa Medical Center for a mastectomy...

That’s the real fear . . . my helplessness in the face of a medical department that is incompetent and apathetic. My life is literally in their hands and I’ve come to feel they don’t give a damn. I am not a patient with cancer. I am an inmate with cancer and that is full of hidden meaning..."

Sue Ellen's 25 y.o. cellmate, Gina, died in Perryville prison for lack of diagnosis and treatment - all too common a story there. She formed GINA's Team ( when she got out, to help other imprisoned women. Sue Ellen is a truly amazing survivor giving back to those the world would just as soon forget are dying inside.

Please pass this email on to anyone inside that you can. Women writing from prison should send their suggestions directly to:

Jon Sinclair/Vice President

Keisha McClellan/Director

Kathleen Penny/Associate Director

Harpo Creative Works
110 N. Carpenter St.
Chicago, IL 60607

Finally, please let me know if you or someone you know left her producers a plug for Perryville or Marcia's law, so I can blog updates on our efforts. It should only take 5 minutes.
Use my name and number (Peggy Plews 480-580-6807) as a contact or back up number if you want.


"Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness, and our ability to tell our own stories..."

- Arundhati Roy

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