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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AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Thursday, July 25, 2013

AFSC-Tucson calls on Brewer to pull her head out of the sand.

"Help Wanted"
AZ DOC Central Office: Phoenix 
(July 24, 2013)

all photos by Mahatma Hemry 
art of protest and post-development rendering by Margaret J Plews

That title is my own paraphrase (and my art, above) - the folks at AFSC-Tucson are more diplomatic. They do great work. If you need to talk to anyone about prison privatization, solitary confinement, or other prison reform issues in AZ, talk to them. In the meantime check out some of their resources. The report on Solitary Confinement in AZ, "Buried Alive" is pretty powerful. And Check out the Stopmax Campaign

AFSC-Tucson Contact info:

Caroline Isaacs or Matt Lowen
American Friends Service Committee-Tucson

103 N Park Avenue, Suite 111
Tucson, AZ  85719


Follow their Blog: Cell-out Arizona at the Tucson Citizen

I'd also encourage people to call the governor's office this week to urge her to fire Chuck Ryan, among other things. The DOC is going to need a major overhaul and intensive public oversight - better yet, let's just abolish the thing while we have the chance... 

Enough vulnerable people have died giving that guy a chance to prove he can be as big a bully as Terry Stewart was.  Stewart was brutal - which is how AZ voters like their paid thugs - but Ryan is just an embarrassment to the Governor's office, with all the death row and mentally ill prisoners killing themselves and languishing in Supermax, gangs running the yards, race riots breaking out, sexual expolitation and abuse, a class action suit over pervasive neglect, skyrocketing violence, and so on. She might need us to point those items out to her, though. Chad Campbell's 10-point letter was pretty good, though it missed the race riots.

The AZ Governor's contact info:

The Honorable Janice K. Brewer
Arizona Governor
Executive Tower
1700 West Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85007

Phoenix Office: (602) 542-4331 
Tucson Office: (520) 628-6580
In-state toll-free 1-800-253-0883  
(outside Maricopa County only)

Finally, don't forget to contact your legislators, or those of your loved one in prison. Tell them your story, and ask them to intervene if your family needs help with the AZ DOC. I'm not the one that will open doors for you there. By involving them more personally as champions in your struggle with the DOC, you humanize this crisis while educating them onn the realities of dealing with the AZ DOC, which also helps those prisoners who have no one left out here to speak on their behalf. It involves vulnerability, but I think most legislators will be quite respectful of your privacy, frustration, rage, and grief...

AZ State Legislature
1700 W. Washington St.
Phoenix, AZ 85007
(602) 926-3559
Toll Free: 1-800-352-8404

Please, whenever you feel safe sharing your letters to legislators, I'd love to post some of them. I also need to know who is and isn't responding supportively to you in the house or senate, so please keep me posted at

----from the Tucson Weekly----------

AFSC Ask Guv to Establish Prison Oversight Committee, Investigation

Posted by Mari Herreras

Wed, Jul 24, 2013 at 1:54 PM

Yesterday, House Minority Leader Chad Campbell called for the immediate resignation of Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan. Today, the American Friends Service Committee has asked Gov. Jan Brewer to create an oversight committee over the ADOC.

The Phoenix Democrat has been a vocal advocate for prison reform and private prison issues alongside AFSC. His call for Ryan's resignation follows a recent Buckeye prison inmate death.

“Director Ryan has exhibited a pattern of mismanagement and a lack of leadership resulting in an unsafe corrections system in our state,” Campbell said in a press release. “Under his direction, our corrections system has wasted tax dollars, jeopardized people’s lives and damaged the state’s credibility.”

Campbell said he's seen reports that Arizona's prison suicide rate was 60 percent higher than the national average between the years of 2010 and 2012.

“In addition to this, the attempt to cover up what happened to an inmate allowed to bleed to death in front of prison guards is a gruesome consequence of Ryan’s negligence," Campbell said, adding that he believes Ryan has failed to properly supervise private prison contracts, such as a private facility in Kingman, where three inmates escaped in 2010 and committed murder and armed robbery. “Following this incident, Ryan admitted that the DOC didn’t properly monitor this facility. This is a community safety issue."

Campbell also said that private prisons cost more than state-run prisons and the DOC has failed to hold the private prison companies accountable for the terms of their contracts with the state. He complained that the state awards contracts in a manner that is not transparent and seems indicative of cronyism. An example of this occurred earlier this year, when the DOC terminated a contract with Wexford Health Sources, a private company that provided healthcare for inmates statewide.

“The (DOC) contracted with a company that has a controversial record of service. In fact, one of Wexford’s employees exposed more than 100 people to hepatitis C in a prison in Buckeye,” Campbell said. “The DOC terminates that contract and replaces Wexford with Corizon, another company surrounded by controversy that also happens to have ties to people who are close to the governor. This situation reeks of patronage.”

And Campbell used the taxpayer argument—specifically, that for-profit, private prisons are misusing taxpayer money.

According to Campbell, last year, Republicans repealed a state law in the budget requiring a comparison of state and private prisons every two years to ensure that private prisons were providing the same quality of services as state prisons at a lower cost. DOC Per Capita Cost Reports compiled over five years consistently show that the state is losing money on private prisons, and security audits show serious safety flaws in all of Arizona’s for-profit prisons, including malfunctioning cameras and alarm systems.

In a letter to Brewer, the AFSC asked the governor that the oversight committee they are asking for be meaningful and independent.

“Such an oversight committee would allow for better institutional transparency and substantial responses to grievances of inadequate medical and mental health care within the ADC facilities,” says AFSC Program Director Caroline Isaacs.

Here is the AFSC letter to Brewer:


AFSC also asked that Brewer investigate the charges against Ryan and determine whether he is fit to serve.

Isaacs points out that while it is important to hold ADC Directors accountable for the gross failings of their tenure, “putting a new Director into an old and failed system won’t change the outcome.” She added, “Ryan’s failures reveal a total lack of public oversight over our prisons.”

The oversight committee that AFSC Arizona proposes in the letter to Brewer must have the ability to hold the ADC accountable in a meaningful way, and must include individuals outside of the framework of political influence.

In the letter, AFSC cites overuse of solitary confinement in maximum-security units, a reliance on private for-profit prison companies, and lack of adequate medical and mental health care as prime examples of the need for such oversight. It reads, “[T]he numerous issues raised in Rep. Campbell’s letter are extremely serious, costing taxpayers millions of dollars and undermining public safety as well as the safety and health of prisoners and corrections staff.”