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:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rewrite the laws of the land: Contact legislators on key bills.

This comes from some of our friends at David's Hope and the AZ Alliance for the Mentally Ill.


Urgent Action Alert!!!

Speaker and President: Tell your Judiciary Chairs to do their jobs.

The Judiciary Committee hears most bills having to do with criminal justice issues. Committee chairs have the power to decide which bills will get a hearing in their committees and which ones won’t. Senator Gould, Chair of Senate Judiciary, has stated publicly that he refuses to allow any bills on sentencing reform or private prison oversight to be heard in his committee. The Chair of Judiciary in the House has also not scheduled these bills for hearings.

THIS FRIDAY, February 18, is the deadline for bills to have a hearing in their first committee. Any bills that haven’t been heard by the 18th are effectively dead. PLEASE CALL OR EMAIL TODAY!

The President of the Senate and Speaker of the House are effectively the committee chairs’ bosses. They have an obligation to keep their committee chairs in line. They needs to tell Sen. Gould and Rep. Farnsworth to do their jobs and give these bills a fair hearing.

Why these bills deserve a hearing:

1. Private prisons in Arizona need oversight

If the escapes from Kingman weren’t enough to prove this, there is a host of research data that shows that private prisons are less safe for staff, inmates, and surrounding communities.

Unlike our current public Department of Corrections, these corporations, as for-profit, private entities, have almost no accountability to the public. They are exempted from public scrutiny under Arizona's Open Records Act. Arizona for-profits are not even required to reveal what types of prisoners they may be importing or alert local law enforcement during escapes or riots.

Rep. Campbell and Sen. Lopez have each introduced several bills to place oversight and reporting requirements on private prisons in Arizona.

2. Millions of tax dollars are at stake in our criminal justice policies

The Arizona Auditor General reports that Arizona is set to add 6,500 private beds at an estimated cost of $640 million through 2017. This year, our corrections budget is over $1 billion, consuming 11% of the state general fund.

In the midst of a crippling budget crisis, as devastating cuts are continuing in the areas of health care and K-12 education, Arizona is poised to award more multi-million dollar contracts to these corporations with absolutely no guarantee that they save money or are safe for our communities.

3. Sentencing reform saves millions, improves public safety

Other states, which formerly had sentencing laws similar to those now in effect in Arizona, enacted sentencing reforms between 1999 and 2010. States saw reductions in prison populations while violent and other crime rates fell significantly. Annual savings in these states are estimated at as much as $80 million annually.

Rep. Ash has introduced several bills that would reduce prison populations and save millions of taxpayer dollars.

What YOU can do….

Contact Senator Pearce and Rep. Adams and ask them to tell their Judiciary Chairmen to give sentencing reform and private prison oversight bills a fair hearing.

Arizona Speaker of the House Kirk Adams

602.926.5495 ph,

Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce


Be sure to cc the Judiciary Chairmen on your message:

Senator Ron Gould


Representative Eddie Farnsworth


If you can blind copy us, we will have a better idea how effective this initiative is. If you receive responses, even boiler plate ones, please share those with us, if possible.

Thanks for all your continuing assistance. Together we can make a difference!

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