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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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

ASPC-Lewis Death in Custody: Rafael Guevara, 23.

It seems like an awful lot of prisoners are dying young under Jan Brewer's administration; this fellow was only 23. Usually when I see "unknown causes" with a prisoner that age, it means he likely died of a drug overdose - occasionally it's something like an aneurysm. AZ DOC staff already have an idea of what happened from their investigation, I suspect, but they won't have pathology results for awhile, at which time they won't be putting out a new press release  - not unless they know they'll be liable for something and they want to make their victim (the dead prisoner) look especially unsympathetic.  

The AZ DOC can't be trusted to give mothers accurate information about the deaths of their children, either. And the media seldom follows up on these cases when the word does come back about what really happened, so without other sources we could all stay in the dark. The darkness is what breeds all this violence, addiction, and despair behind prison walls, these days, folks - we need to bring this kind of thing into the light. That's one reason I do what I do...

"The Governor's Ghosts..."
40-foot sidewalk chalk memorial for Jan Brewer's dead prisoners.
Photographed from the roof of the Firehouse Gallery, Phoenix (July 2012)

That said, our condolences to Rafael's family, whatever the cause of his passing. If anyone is in touch with them, please pass my contact info along (Peggy Plews at or 480-580-6807) and let them know I'm here to help with information and support however I can. I've seen too many other families go through this - they've been organizing, though, and they're here and willing to be of help, too.

Also, if anyone else out there knows about what happened to Rafael, please let me know so I can stay on top of what's happening inside and pass relevant info along to his family or their attorneys. They need to know about the class action lawsuit, Parsons v Ryan;  the riots and the proliferation of drugs, gangs and violence in AZ's prisons these days; the lack of substance abuse treatment behind bars; and the doubling of the suicide and homicide rates under the current directorship of Chuck Ryan. 

All of those things together suggest that the level of deliberate indifference to prisoners' lives is institutional and comes from the top, not from just a few bad apples in brown with badges, as the state wanted us to believe when Marcia Powell died in that cage four years ago.

I'm also open to feedback from you, Bill Lamoreaux, if you or Chuck think I'm representing the ADC unfairly and  your propaganda machine can't keep up. You know where to find me.

Finally, if you have a friend or loved one in jail or prison and need help or support dealing with the system, come find the Seawright Prison Justice Project every Saturday from 4 - 6pm at PUENTE (1306 E. Van Buren, PHX).