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, September 6, 2013

Prosecuting Innocence: Condemned Debra Milke finally free!

 This woman has been punished long enough, I think, for something she quite possibly didn't even do. Arizona's prosecutors should stuff their politics for once, and let the woman be. This is one really good reason why we shouldn't be so quick to believe the cops' version of things and execute people willy nilly.

The following clip is for those of you still eager to see a woman get executed, though, since so many Arizonan's are disappointed now. The movie is Dancer in the Dark. Enjoy.

For those of you who find executing human beings offensive, on the other hand, please come to a legislative summit on the death penalty in Arizona, which is second only to Texas in the number of prisoners we executed last year. 

Here is the flyer

Legislative Summit
 Death Penalty Alternatives for Arizona
AZ Senate Building , Hearing Room 1  
(1700 W, Washington St. Phoenix)
September 13th at 9am 


Debra Milke, Arizona woman who had murder conviction tossed, freed

By Greg Botelho, CNN

updated 6:18 PM EDT, Fri September 6, 2013
(CNN) -- For the first time in well over (two decades) -- and in the months since a federal judge overturned her murder conviction -- Debra Milke is free.

A short time after the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office indicated she'd be leaving, video showed someone who appeared to be Milke being driven away Friday from the Lower Buckeye Jail in Phoenix. Sheriff's office spokesman Brandon Jones subsequently confirmed that Milke had been released.

Even though she's no longer behind bars -- leaving the jail without addressing reporters -- Milke's legal ordeal may not be over.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said in March that his office would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court the judge's decision to toss her conviction and the death sentence that went with it.

9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' Chief Judge Alex Kozinski ruled this spring that Milke did not receive a fair trial.

Milke still faces charges and was released on bond pending the possibility of a retrial.

Milke's legal team will at some point address the media about their client's release, though it's not known when, said one of the lawyers, Lori Voepel.

A jury convicted Milke of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, child abuse and kidnapping on October 12, 1990, less than a year after her 4-year-old son was found dead. She was sentenced to death a few months later.

A day after seeing Santa Claus at a mall, young Christopher Milke asked his mother if he could go again. 
That was the plan, she said, when the boy got into the car with Milke's roommate, James Styers.

Styers picked up a friend, "but instead of heading to the mall, the two men drove the boy out of town to a secluded ravine, where Styers shot Christopher three times in the head," according to Kozinski's summary of the case. Styers was convicted of first-degree murder in the boy's killing and sentenced to death.

During her trial, "no ... witnesses or direct evidence (linked) Milke to the crime" other than Phoenix police Detective Armando Saldate Jr., according to Kozinski.

The detective questioned Milke -- an interrogation that wasn't recorded or seen by anyone else -- and later claimed she'd confessed to her role in the murder conspiracy, saying it was a "bad judgment call."

But Milke offered a vastly different view of the interrogation and denied that she had admitted to any role in a murder plot.

"The judge and jury believed Saldate," Kozinski wrote in his March ruling overturning Milke's murder conviciton. "But they didn't know about Saldate's long history of lying under oath and other misconduct."

The judge explained that he'd made his decision because prosecutors did not disclose the "history of misconduct" of its key witness.

Unbeknown to the defense or to the jury, previous judges had tossed out four confessions or indictments because Saldate had lied under oath, among other issues.

Horne, the Arizona attorney general, has argued the woman should remain on death row, given his understanding of what happened.

"After dressing him up and telling him he was going to the mall to see Santa Claus, Milke was convicted of sending her young son off to be shot, execution style, in a desert wash," he said.