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

Copwatch and Anarchists help bring down Sheriff Joe; Homeland Security finally ends 287g with MCSO

My earlier post was critical that the US Department of Justice hasn't gone far enough to prosecute Joe Arpaio, but my Spacebook community reminds me that a lot of people helped move the feds to act as they did today, and that was no small piece of ground we just took. It led to the decision by Homeland Security to finally cancel the 287g agreement they have with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO), as noted below by Janet Napolitano. 

Without the work as well as the sacrifice of a lot of people - folks who don't put on body armor and guns, but have taken great personal risk nonetheless to document and fight our dear sheriff's crimes - today's DOJ ultimatum to Maricopa County never would have come. So, while I wish we were getting more from the feds (and sooner), I'm grateful to all those in this community that helped get us this far. 

Much of the evidence the DOJ and ACLU have against the MCSO - particularly in regards to their practice of racial profiling - was provided by people like Dennis Gilman and a fleet of observers with camcorders (organized by everyone from the unions to PUENTE) trained by Phoenix Copwatch (full of anarchists).  Props to the undocumented targets of racism, the UUs and black bloc(kers) alike who turned out for the protests when they were both big and small, to keep Arpaio's criminality and his incompetence in the public eye. Finally, thanks to all those journalists, (left and center) and bloggers who have helped amplify the voice of resistance out here, too, rather than just echo what comes out of the MCSO's propaganda machine.

So, relish this day and what comes of it; let's just not forget that the bigger picture without this one man - the capitalist, white supremacist patriarchy and prison industrial complex that have devastated so many lives and communities - will continue to exist long after he's history. Remember, too, that our dear DOJ is still part of that tyranny as well.


Statement by Secretary Napolitano on DOJ’s Findings of Discriminatory Policing in Maricopa County

Release Date: December 15, 2011
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

“The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is troubled by the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) findings of discriminatory policing practices within the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO).   Discrimination undermines law enforcement and erodes the public trust.  DHS will not be a party to such practices. Accordingly, and effective immediately, DHS is terminating MCSO’s 287(g) jail model agreement and is restricting the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office access to the Secure Communities program.  DHS will utilize federal resources for the purpose of identifying and detaining those individuals who meet U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) immigration enforcement priorities.  The Department will continue to enforce federal immigration laws in Maricopa County in smart, effective ways that focus our resources on criminal aliens, recent border crossers, repeat and egregious immigration law violators and employers who knowingly hire illegal labor.”

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