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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Friday, March 1, 2013

ACT NOW: URGENT appeal to families and friends of prisoners

The following flyer was made with the consent of my friend, C, who was brave enough to out himself on the line for the cause, more than most anyone else would ever do..

(JUNE 7, 2013 UPDATE: "C" was re-classed back down to a 4/4 and moved to a level 4 GP yard, apparently as of 5/20/13. For his safety, in light of that, I'm removing identifying infomration about him. His request for protective custody has clearly once again been denied. I think he was probbly happier -or at least felt safer - in the Supermax than where he is now, which is an especially scary place. Think good things for my friend, people. I think he's being set up to be hurt for being so outspoken...)

So, here's the battle plan (for now):

First, check out this video of a leading AZ legislator calling for an inquiry into the running of the AZ Department of Corrections. Now is the time for us to organize and show our strength, and hit the legislature hard with support for them to follow up. Contact KPNX, please, after you watch Tony Lester die, and thank them for covering it. Thank Wendy Halloran in particular for being so persistent and giving Tony's family a voice and a glimmer of justice -she got an Emmy for the series on Tony's death. 

Please Email those remarks to We need them to do in-depth investigations into the larger issue of violence and despair and mismanagement in  AZ prisons. That's how we get them to do so.

Then let's go after our state legs...

1. Click here or on the flier above for good talking points on why we DON'T need 500 more Supermax beds in AZ. If we're going to invest some $25,000 per year in housing people who really need psychiatric care and basic support, let's give them housing and services in the community, not warehouse them in prisons where they are simply being neglected and repeatedly victimized. Furthermore, the DOC is being sued in a class action, Parsons v Ryan, for putting too many mentally ill people inappropriately into the current Supermax prison, ASPC-Eyman, and NOT providing them with the psychiatric care they need.

2. Please go find your AZ state legislator (and the one in the district your loved one's prison is in), and email your objections to the 50 million dollars being spent to build a Supermax yard at Lewis. Tell them our communities need that money more to treat mental illness and drug addiction and keep more people from being inappropriately criminalized. Be sure to put the AZ House Minority and Majority Leaders (Chad Campbell and David Gowan) in your email to your own legislator.

Make it clear you expect them all to work together to open hearings into the running of the DOC under Charles Ryan - from the doubling of the homicide and suicide rates to the decision to increase incarceration instead of supporting sentencing reforms as a way of coping with over-crowding, his leadership has been bad for Arizona.  

Evidence-based practice (use that term) in corrections isn't a partisan issue - the DOC has a responsibility to return their prisoners to the community in batter shape than they got them in, otherwise they set them up to re-offend. That means the Director needs to be current in his profession - Charles Ryan is a relic of an abusive past at the DOC. If you are a former prisoner or a family member, ask to be involved and informed of hearings so you can offer testimony, if you have some to give. That tells them you expect them to follow through with this.

Please send me (Peggy Plews at a cc of your email to your legislator, and their response, if you get one, with permission to publish it - you and your loved ones can remain anonymous, if you wish. We need to put prisoners' families narratives on the internet for others to find - and if your letters are disseminated widely, the recipients kind of have to respond, since they have more than you in their audience.