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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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wall Tappings: Voices from Perryville Prison.

("Who was Brenda Todd?" Arizona State Capitol/Wes Bolin Memorial Plaza, Phoenix. February 17, 2011)

I haven't received word from any of the AZ state prisons for a week now - which hasn't happened in months. I seem to be persona non grata at the ADC these days. I think they've stopped my mail from prisoners because I was encouraging people to fight for their rights and offering to help them gather evidence they aren't aware is out here for their 8th Amendment lawsuits. Either that or they think that I might be scheming a Georgia-style action or something (wouldn't think of it - prisoners aren't allowed to strike, anyway). In any case, I suspect they are not pleased with me.

Anyway, as some people know, state prisoner
Leona Nieves, who told Stephen Lemons all about Brenda Todd's death, was violated on her probation with the state the morning the article came off the presses, so to speak - before it was even on-line. She'd only been free for a few days. She's back at Perryville for another 3.5 years now for violating probation. Since I'm not getting my mail out of there, though, I don't know how she is.

I naturally wondered if the ADC tracked Leona down and had her PO dig garbage up on her as soon as we started making inquiries for records about Brenda's death that week - and made that allegation pretty directly, asking a couple of legislators to investigate. The ADC was no help in clearing that up for us (they're ignoring my emails, now, too - it's creepy), but the court records are all on-line now and I spent some time with them, as did Stephen. Here's the scoop, to the best of my understanding:

Leona had just done her time in prison on a DUI from LaPaz, but that offense was a violation of a 2009 probation she was on in Maricopa County from math tells me she should have seen this coming, but I really don't think she did (or she would have probably tried to stay under their radar before going back in there). I doubt she expected the consequences to be so severe, in any case, since the probation was originally only for two years. She plead guilty and was on her way back to prison within four minutes of appearing in court...nice to know that judges put so much time and thought into sentencing before they chew up a piece of someone's life; she was probably just following the ADC PO's recommendations, though. Can't imagine why they came down so hard on Leona like that.

Anyway, since my communication with prisoners has apparently been cut off (I'll retract that one, too, if I'm wrong), let's try this: Renee, a courageous blogger at Jon's Jail Journal (awesome prisoner journal hosted by an ex-Tent City resident from Great Britain) happens to be a prisoner at Perryville in Goodyear, where Marcia Powell was killed, and where Brenda Todd just died. I'm posting the link to one of her latest pieces here, in which she comes out and talks about the loneliness of prison. Leave an encouraging comment for her; the Journal will get the word to her somehow, and she can let the other women inside know that folks are listening to them out here. It makes a huge difference.

I think this would be important because even if the ADC didn't target Leona for speaking out, all the women must know she was the one by now, and saw her come back in just days wearing orange and chains. For all I know they stopped writing about the conditions in there on their own, fearful of the possible consequences. Bottom line is that no matter our intentions, there's little we can do to protect them from the state if it really wants to hurt them, short of trying to bring their struggle to public light and asserting our expectations that their rights are to be respected. Knowing someone is bearing witness also makes resistance to one's oppressors stronger.

It would be especially cool if folks would write to Leona to thank her for going out on that limb that just got cut out from under her, since I don't know if my mail is getting in to prison, either. She wasn't picking fights with power, like I do, and probably doesn't want to be a "political" prisoner (which would kind of suggest she was a threat to the institution, which could restrict her movement and activities) - Leona was just trying to do the right thing by the women she thought she left behind. Just give her some credit for putting her name out there to give Brenda's death a real witness. Her address is:

Leona Nieves 259842

PO Box 3000

Goodyear, AZ 85395

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