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, September 7, 2011

ACLU, Prison Legal News Sue Sheriff Babeu to End Censorship at Pinal County Jail

From Prison Legal News and the ACLU-AZ


Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Arizona: Alessandra Soler Meetze, ACLU of Arizona, (602) 773-6006 (office)

Washington: Paul Wright, Prison Legal News, (802) 257-1342,

Phoenix, AZ – Prison Legal News (PLN), represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona (ACLU) and the law firm of Rosen, Bien & Galvan LLP, today filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a Pinal County Jail policy that prohibits inmates from receiving any magazines, hardcover books or letters of more than one page in length. The lawsuit, which was filed against Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu and Pinal County, argues this “postcard-only” policy amounts to censorship and prevents inmates from receiving Prison Legal News, a non- profit monthly journal that reports on corrections news and prisoners’ rights issues.

“Publishers have a well-established First Amendment right to send their publications and books to prisoners, and it is unfortunate that rather than respect the rights of publishers to communicate with inmates Sheriff Babeu continues to try to defend the indefensible by banning our books and magazines," said Paul Wright editor of PLN, which distributes approximately 40 book titles including self-help, educational and criminal justice-related publications.

According to the complaint, paperback books (limited to 3) are the only exception to the policy and those must be from “an approved publisher.” Over the past six months, jail officials have refused to deliver several PLN publications, including Prison Legal News and other informational brochures, citing “not allowed,” “only 1-page letters allowed,” or “not from an approved publisher,” and have also failed to deliver copies of PLN’s paperback books. The materials provide inmates with information on matters of concern, ranging from addressing their basic health and safety needs to litigating federal civil rights claims.

“As implemented by Sheriff Babeu, the postcard-only policy is clearly unconstitutional and serves as an excuse to censor books and magazines for no good reason,” added ACLU of Arizona Legal Director Dan Pochoda. “Jail officials who are serious about lowering recidivism and increasing public safety recognize that cutting inmates off from the outside world and denying them access to periodicals is counterproductive.”

PLN is asking the court to order Sheriff Babeu to cease the unconstitutional practice of censoring PLN and limiting inmate mail to short messages on postcards, and to compensate PLN for past and continuing injuries caused by the censorship. The case is Prison Legal News v. Babeu, U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. In addition to Pochoda, PLN also is represented by Ernest Galvan and Kenneth M. Walczak of Rosen, Bien & Galvan, LLP in San Francisco, and Lance Weber, in-house counsel for the non-profit Human Rights Defense Center, the parent organization of Prison Legal News.

Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), founded in 1990 with offices in Brattleboro, Vermont, is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human rights in U.S. detention facilities. HRDC publishes Prison Legal News, a monthly magazine that includes reports, reviews and analysis of court rulings and news related to prisoners’ rights and criminal justice issues. PLN has approximately 7,000 subscribers nationwide and operates a website ( that includes a comprehensive database of prison and jail-related articles, news reports, court rulings, verdicts, settlements and related documents.

The complaint is available on-line at:

--American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
of Arizona - Media Relations Office
P.O. Box 17148
Phoenix, AZ 85011
Tel: 602-650-1854 Fax: 602-650-1376

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