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, February 3, 2011

Charges dismissed against the Arpaio 5.

Been battling dental oppression lately which derailed me early into Garyn and Claire's trial today, so I missed the grand finale, personally, and haven't seen much of a write up yet from others. As court was getting underway this AM - the prosecution having rested yesterday on the conflicting testimony of several cops - the defense was busy working on photographs and videos they had to submit into evidence. (If you ever need that for your own trial, bring a back-up machine - they don't have prompt service if their own projector or other equipment fails). The judge heard "Rule 20" motions from both defense attorneys. Rule 20 states the following:

Rule 20. Judgment of Acquittal

a. Before Verdict. On motion of a defendant or on its own initiative, the court shall enter a judgment of acquittal of one or more offenses charged in an indictment, information or complaint after the evidence on either side is closed, if there is no substantial evidence to warrant a conviction. In an aggravation hearing, after the evidence on either side is closed, on a motion of a defendant or on its own initiative, the court shall enter a judgment that an aggravating circumstance was not proven if there is no substantial evidence to warrant the allegation. The court's decision on a defendant's motion shall not be reserved, but shall be made with all possible speed.

b. After Verdict. A motion for judgment of acquittal made before verdict may be renewed by a defendant within 10 days after the verdict was returned.

The defense put up their first witness, a photographer who was present at the rally on January 16, 2010. They adjourned for lunch to research a few things, then reconvened and the judge dismissed charges due to lack of evidence that the state could obtain a conviction on any count if they proceeded. In other words, we ended up with a fair and honest judge, this time, and the cops who could have so easily compared their stories and lied to make for a better case, didn't. Maybe they were all satisfied with the jail time they nailed Grace with in her plea bargain.

I had to leave before lunch, but it's my understanding that the charges are all dismissed with prejudice, meaning that the state can't turn around and charge Claire or Garyn again. YAY!!! Way to hang in there, you two.

I learned a lot from the cops about riot control procedures during this trial, and about their own vulnerabilities when it comes to making arrests that can actually be prosecuted. The cops couldn't even identify each other in the march, much less individual protestors. They were disoriented and confused when the pepper spray hit, even the ones in gas maks. Their testimony was conflicting, except that all indicated pepper spray was deployed, it was a chaotic atmosphere, it was hard to hear and see, and no one identified themselves as police to Garyn or Claire until after they were in custody.

Garyn was arrested on the word and gesture of a cop whose glimpse of a similarly-dressed bottle-thrower was immediately obscured by pepper spray; an officer who couldn't even identify him as the thrower in the aftermath. He was handed off to several other officers for detention, arrest, and booking, such that it sounds as if the booking officer never even heard the integrity of the direct testimony of the witness. That was how the cops were organized out there to function, too - the front line would hand suspects out to the arrest team with a brief synopsis of what happened, then fall back in line, not follow through with the booking themselves - not really even know who was doing it, apparently.

The myth that made Claire an accomplice to Garyn's non-act of resisting arrest - supposedly chaining herself by the neck to his body in an attempt to obstruct police - was repeated by every cop that testified about her yesterday, but no one had any evidence of such a chain or leash, no did any of them see Claire wearing anything resembling a collar. The only possible explanation for this phenomena seems to be that Claire's purse strap got caught on Garyn somehow and when the police tried to take him town, they dragged her down on top of him, kicking and screaming with no idea of what was happening. It's a wonder no one got seriously hurt.

It was also clear from police testimony that they were expecting "trouble" from the anarchists by the time the marchers reached the site where the pepper spray was deployed - it sounds like they were trying to provoke it along the route. I saw photos and heard testimony myself that cops were punching people in the black bloc crowd before any bottles were thrown.

That all said, I think Stephen Lemons and the Phoenix New Times owe the Arpaio 5 a big apology for convicting them before trial last year, and not showing up to see how the real thing turned out.

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