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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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sad Solstice: Remembering Brenda Todd

Six months ago this week, on January 21, 2011, Brenda Todd died in Perryville state prison begging for medical attention that never came. That's part of a twisted pattern of neglect and gross indifference to human life at the AZ Department of Corrections - particularly at the AZ state women's prison.

Urged on by prisoners who were there when she died, we tracked down Brenda's father to make sure that her family members know to file suit because of the circumstances, though I don't know if he's in time to file a Notice of Claim against the state - there's generally a six-month deadline for grieving families to be on top of (and no one ever tells them that). I referred him to a good attorney who will find out, no doubt.

Brenda's dad isn't on-line and the family never saw the Phoenix New Times story or my blog posts about how she died - or all the letters we received from the other women about what happened - and the State only notified him last week that the death certificate is ready, so I think the courts should grant him an extens
ion to file. He had no way of knowing that her death was wrongful until now. It goes beyond simple negligence.

The family can still file suit in federal court, however, I believe under civil rights law. There's a two-year deadline for prisoners to file Section 1983 CR suits, at least, so survivors of prison violence who have missed filing deadlines for the state should still speak to an attorney as soon as possible. Do NOT wait for or trust the AZ Department of Corrections or the AZ Attorney General's office to give you timely, accurate information about your loved one's death - they're just trying to avoid your lawsuits. Unfortunately, it seems the only way they change is when someone wins in court - and we need to stop them from killing these women now, so please exercise all your rights to fight back.

Our condolences go out to all of Brenda's loved ones. Feel free to contact me (Peggy at 480-580-6807) if there's anything I might be able to do. If nothing else, I can put you in touch with other families who share your struggle - just let me know.

June 23, 2011: CORRECTION:

It's only been five months since Brenda died. That means that - thanks to my friend Matt's work - we're in time to help her family with a claim against the state. Unfortunately, litigation seems to be the only thing that makes them clean up the prisons, and Brenda's family has one hell of a suit...she could end up sparing a lot of other women from the hell she went through. From what I've been told, she'd probably give her blessings to that struggle

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