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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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Black and Pink: Queer Prisoner Support

This is how they do it in Massachusetts - awesome group; excellent analysis...check out their site for their monthly newsletter - download, print and share!



Black & Pink is an open family of LGBTQ prisoners and “free world” allies who support each other. Our work toward the abolition of the prison industrial complex is rooted in the experience of currently and formerly incarcerated people. We are outraged by the specific violence of the prison industrial complex against LGBTQ people, and respond through advocacy, education, direct service, and organizing.


1. An online pen pal program where LGBTQ prisoners can list their name, address, and 25-word (non-sexual) ad describing what they want from a pen pal.

2. A monthly newsletter made up of stories, poetry, art, and essays by currently and formerly incarcerated LGBTQ people. Currently incarcerated folks are encouraged to share their stories with Black & Pink so we can put them in the newsletter and nurture a sense of connection between LGBTQ people incarcerated around the country.

3. An art project that sells artwork sent to us by LGBTQ prisoners. All of the money we get for the artwork is put back into the commissary accounts of the artists. The artwork supports prisoners who are exploring their creativity and allows them to connect with “free world” folks who purchase and sell their artwork.

4. Direct advocacy and support for a few select individuals who are experiencing harassment, sexual violence, lack of access to health care, mistreatment, etc. We are not able to do advocacy work for everyone at this time because of capacity, but we do the best we can.


Our organizing efforts are guided by a larger goal of collective liberation. We hold strong to a feminist, anti-racist, queer liberationist, anti-capitalist, radical analysis of social, ecological, and economic struggles. We understand the prison industrial complex to be part of a larger system that utilizes systems of oppression to divide people and exploit our individual and collective power. Through movement building and sustained direct action against these systems of violence we will create the world we dream of.

We also celebrate in the beauty of what exists now including our love for each other, the strength of our planet, incredible human resiliency, and all of the power we have to continue existing. While dreaming and struggling for a better world we embody a deep commitment to living in the present.

We understand abolition as not only our end goal but also our pragmatic strategy for action. Any advocacy, services, organizing, and direct action we take will be sure to remove bricks from the system, not put in others we will need to abolish later. We will willingly work with reformist organizations on campaigns we believe are abolitionist, even if they are only small steps at alleviating the suffering caused by the prison industrial complex.

We root our work in the experience of currently and formerly incarcerated people. To best maintain an accountable relationship to incarcerated people, half of those in the leadership circle are currently incarcerated. We also prioritize the voices of formerly incarcerated people as our “free-world” members of the leadership circle. We know that those most impacted by the violence of the prison industrial complex are best equipped with the knowledge of how to tear it down.

As of today Black & Pink’s “free-world” membership is primarily Boston-based. We commit to supporting one another, sharing the work of our organizing efforts, and nurturing the growth of our family both inside and outside the walls. We intend to expand our national and international membership, creating chapters in other cities, towns, schools, neighborhoods, etc.


There are many “buzz” words used in our statement of purpose and shared analysis. We wanted to provide a brief glossary of terms to help clarify our intentions behind our choice of wording.

Prison Industrial Complex – The prison industrial complex is a multifaceted construction of control and domination, most commonly seen as the U.S. prison and jail system, the concrete and steel buildings that warehouse individuals. While prisons and jails are a pivotal aspect, the prison industrial complex includes an entire culture of state and corporate collusion to control, discipline, and torture poor/low-income communities and communities of color. The tactics range from police forces to cameras mounted in communities; from the (in)justice system to corporate profiteering from prison phone calls; from immigration enforcement to media depictions of “criminals”; and on and on. (adapted from Critical Resistance)

Abolition – “Abolition defines both the goal we seek and the way we do our work today. Abolition means a world where we do not use prisons, policing and the larger system of the prison industrial complex as an ‘answer’ to what are social, political, and economic problems. Abolition means that instead we put in place the things that would reduce incidents of harm at the front end and address harm in a non-punitive manner when harm does occur. Abolition means that harm will occur far less often and that, when harm does occur, we address the causes of that harm rather than rely on the failed solutions of punishment. Thus, abolition is taking a harm reductionist approach to our society’s problems. Abolition means creating sustainable, healthy communities empowered to create safety and rooted in accountability, instead of relying on policing, courts, and imprisonment which are not creating safe communities.” ~Rose Braz, former director of Critical Resistance

“Free World” – We understand “free world” people to be those who are not currently in prison/jail/detention/etc. We use quotation marks because we understand the terminology of freedom to be deeply complex. There are those who would suggest that none of us are free as there is such heavy surveillance in our communities—the tentacles of the prison industrial complex are expansive. Others would suggest that freedom exists within ourselves and that it can never be taken from us. Regardless of how one understands freedom, in our terminology “free world” refers to those not currently confined in prison/jail/detention/etc.

LGBTQ – This acronym stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer. We understand that human sexuality and gender is far more complicated than this acronym. We are striving to find better terminology to include all people who identify outside of heterosexual and gender-conforming boundaries. Other identities people have used when writing to us that we are striving to affirm include same gender loving, homosexual, homophile, transsexual, transvestite, nelly, sissy, and dyke, along with many others.

B&P Family Structure

Members: Members are self-defined individuals who agree with our Purpose and Analysis. These people are free world folks, prisoners, pen-pals, outreach folks, newsletter stuffers, etc. All members can share thoughts about B&P activities. Free world members will be provided information by the e-newsletter and/or website, and can give input by email, phone, or in person. Members in prison will be provided information by the monthly Newsletter, and can respond with general input by mail by writing “Leadership” on the address line. When a vote takes place on a decision, a “B&P ballot” will be sent out with the monthly Newsletter and e-newsletter, and 2 votes will be counted for every person in prison voting and 1 for every free world person.

Coordinators: Coordinators are people who have agreed to coordinate a specific project, committee, chapter, or task, i.e. the art program, or campus outreach, or are contact people for a prison or geographic area. They may be members or part of the Leadership Circle. They have responsibility to make decisions about projects, based on collective input, and are accountable to both the members and the leadership circle.

Committees: Committees are groups of people taking on a specific task or projects, for example outreach or the E-newsletter or accountability. They meet as needed. They will check in with the Leadership Circle and the membership before making big decisions.

Chapters: Chapters can be started by free world and members in prison in order to work on advocacy, education, direct service, and/or organizing projects that are in keeping with the Purpose and Analysis of B&P. Chapters are accountable to the membership of their chapter and the Leadership Circle.

Advisory Group: This is a group of people who have experience with anti-prison and anti-oppression activism. The group will be majority formerly incarcerated people. They are recognized for their amazing and valuable experiences and insight, and are invited to provide input and guidance on the analysis, activities and structure of B&P. They are not necessarily involved in the day-to-day activities of the family and don’t have formal decision making power.

Leadership Circle (LC): Leadership can make decisions about B&P as a family, and is responsible to see that the members and activities follow our Purpose and Analysis. LC can update the Purpose and Analysis. Leadership Circle provides strategic short- and long-term planning for B&P. Leadership Circle will be responsible for raising, managing, and using general B&P funds.

  1. The LC will be made up of no more than 10 free world folks and no more than 10 prisoners.
  2. To join, members should have spent 3 months volunteering with B&P or received the Newsletter for 3 months.
  3. Each LC member needs to make a 1 year commitment.
  4. All LC members should agree to the B&P analysis.
  5. LC decisions will be made by consensus, which means that everyone agrees to a decision (not majority rule). In consensus, one person can “block” a decision based on principle, but not preference.
  6. The LC should be made up of people in different places across the country, in prison and out.
  7. Communication between inside/outside will work on a “Buddy system.” Each free world member will be paired with an incarcerated LC member. The free world buddy is responsible for representing the incarcerated person in Leadership Circle meeting/decisions.
  8. The free world LC will meet monthly.

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