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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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mother's Day 2013: ASPC-Phoenix.

I made my mom this sand art for her birthday this year, when up in the mountains with the one I love, who I so wish she had the chance to know - Mom died a couple years ago after battling brain cancer. As much as I believe she's always with me now, I still miss her smile and laughter, the love in her voice, and the smell of her presence in my room...

I do a lot of work with moms of prisoners these days - most of them fighting for their kids' lives, and where that is too late, fighting for the lives of the children of others. Mother's day is especially hard for those who have lost their kids to the despair or violence of prison. My friend Kini Seawright approaches holidays like this with growing dread, as the grief she thought once subsided swells again to unbearable levels. She decided this year she needed to do something healing for Mother's Day.

It's heartbreaking for those mothers who are separated from their living children by prison walls as well, knowing they are being subjected to violence and despair, and finding that their arms aren't long enough to reach them, to protect them from the world that envelopes those we banish from the world we think we want to have without them. 

As much as I lament that the prison suicide and homicide rates in AZ doubled under the current administration, the simple fact is that there are NO safe, or decent, or humane prisons - jus tsome that are less horrendous than others. The very architecture of prison is explicitly intended to impose total domination over the minds, enslave the bodies, and surveille the lives of those we have already punished duly with exile. Tossing the most vulnerable in with people who readily exploit, assault and kill them, and putting them in cages and chains as if they might suddenly transform into werewolves and devour everyone around will always be a cruel and unusual punishment, in my book. And disgustingly, it's a growing industry.

 Mother's Day, 2013 begins a week of prison abolition actions and a celebration of sex workers rights - as well as a Kiss for Gabriella and a toast to Marcia Powell at Puente (1306 E. Van Buren, PHX) on Sunday, May 19 at 6pm.

If you want to show support for arizona's prisoners and their families for Mother's Day, come on out to the state prison on Van Buren, between 24th and 28th street. (We think we can get away with parking across the street at the Salvation Army). We'll be at the gate building a silent memorial to honor the mothers who have born the cost of prisons in our communities, and to let prisoners know they have not been forgotten. Bring flowers, a candle, a photo of your loved one in prison, or maybe a sign that suggests liberation and solidarity for those inside. Or just come and say hey to the moms who make it that day.

More on the week of action to follow...RSVP to Peggy with questions at 480-580-6807.