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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Thursday, December 15, 2011

ARPAIO and the DOJ: We want a perp walk.

The DOJ just released a 22-page letter of findings, concluding that the practices of Joe Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office violate the 1st, 4th, and 14th Amendments to the US Constitution, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, and Section 14141 of the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act. The feds threaten a civil suit to convince him to change his ways. It's just a letter, though, not an indictment - never mind the blood dripping from Joe Arpaio's hands. 

People have been harassed, detained, arrested, abused, and neglected to death in Arpaio's custody, and yet his treatment of them doesn't appear to be a criminal case - not yet, anyway. I "loitered" in a public park after the posted hours at a protest, though, and immediately did 18 hours in Arpaio's jail. I may face more time yet for my graffiti and activism on behalf of human rights, and he's taking campaign donations as if he's running for office again. Texas Governor Rick Perry even courted good old Sheriff Joe's endorsement for the 2012 Republican presidential ticket...that sure says a lot about Perry's character, doesn't it?

I assume that the letter of the DOJ's findings is addressed to Bill Montgomery, Maricopa County Attorney, because his office will represent the county against any suit the DOJ actually brings (Arpaio's office has a private attorney) - all parties will fight at our expense, of course. Then there are the individual civil suits against the county and Arpaio that will all be bolstered by this finding; And there's the $99 million that he "misappropriated"; this man is costing American taxpayers a fortune. 

What Arpaio's term in office has cost us, though, far exceeds the expense involved in both prosecuting and defending him - he also cost the public our safety through his harassment and by clearing real crimes by "exceptional" means. He pursued his racist agenda and employed discriminatory tactics chasing down "aliens" at the expense of solving child sexual abuse cases, rapes and homicides - is it any wonder that so many of the victims his office ignored were children of undocumented latinos?

For the harm he's perpetrated all of our communities - flagrantly violating human and constitutional rights in the process - I want to see that man prosecuted. He owes hundreds of millions of dollars in restitution to his victims and has done violence to people's lives, as far as I'm concerned, but right now the DOJ is just talking about "reform" and "remediation". Someday I hope we have no prisons, but until we come up with a better way to protect the public from racist, abusive and dangerous people, I want to see Joe Arpaio locked away by the feds, not put into outpatient rehab. We have far too many people locked up on drug charges to be squandering resources rehabilitating him. It's time to indict this Criminal Joe - and let our people go.

4th Avenue Jail, Phoenix
Chalk the Police Day 2011

Investigation of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office

In June 2008, the Civil Rights Division opened an investigation of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Following a comprehensive investigation, on December 15, 2011, the Justice Department announced its findings that MCSO has engaged in a pattern or practice of misconduct that violates the Constitution and federal law. The documents on this page provide more information about the investigation, the Justice Department's findings, and next steps.

Findings Letter:
English   |   Spanish

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