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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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

ACLU-AZ on SB1070 "show me your papers" law: illegal enforcement must stop.

thank you, ACLU-AZ!

ACLU Challenges the Implementation of Section 2(B) of SB 1070 in Arizona
In first-of-its-kind legal action, the ACLU says the South Tucson Police Department is violating constitutional rights in use of the ‘show me your papers’ law

En Español
Nov. 12, 2013

Steve Kilar, ACLU of Arizona, (602) 492-8540,
Isabel Alegria, ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, 415-343-0785, 646-438-4146,

TUCSON – The American Civil Liberties Union is putting law enforcement agencies across Arizona on notice that they will be held accountable for constitutional violations that result from the implementation of the state’s “show me your papers” law, Section 2(B) of SB 1070, an anti-immigrant statute enacted nearly three years ago.

The ACLU has initiated a legal claim against the South Tucson Police Department on behalf of Alex Valenzuela, a DREAMer who was unlawfully detained and taken to Border Patrol this summer by South Tucson officers.

The organization today sent a “notice of claim” letter to the police department, the first step in pursuing relief on Alex’s behalf. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to enjoin Section 2(B) because it found a “basic uncertainty” about what the provision actually requires of law enforcement officers. Alex’s situation, and numerous others around the state, demonstrate that—just as the ACLU and other civil rights groups have argued—the law unconstitutionally authorizes and encourages illegal police practices. This is the first challenge to Section 2(B) since it went into effect in September of 2012.

Alex, 23, was a passenger in a parked car on July 13 when South Tucson police officers detained him in order to question him about his citizenship. Even though he provided multiple forms of identification and had not committed any crime, the officers unlawfully arrested and drove Alex to Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector headquarters where he was detained for an additional five hours.

“It didn’t matter to the officers that I hadn’t committed a crime,” Alex said. “This is what happens when you let police act like immigration officials and it’s another example of why the police have lost the community’s trust.”

The South Tucson police detained Alex for no reason other than to investigate his citizenship and immigration status. Alex was not charged with a crime arising out of the incident at the time of the illegal detention nor has he been since. The notice of claim explains that the South Tucson police officers’ actions amounted to false arrest, violated Alex’s right to equal protection of the law and trampled his right to be free from unreasonable seizures.

“We’ve been informed of dozens of incidents where police have violated individuals’ rights because of the ‘show me your papers’ law,” said James Lyall, the ACLU of Arizona’s Tucson-based border litigation attorney. “Officers are routinely harassing people who have committed no crime by demanding identification. Without major improvements to police policies and practices, these rights violations will persist. As the ACLU’s recent victory against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio shows, the courts will hold Arizona police departments accountable for continued constitutional violations.”

Other abuses documented by the ACLU that have occurred because of Section 2(B) include:
  • Mesa Police’s jailing of a 67-year-old Latino citizen after he picked a water bottle out of a trash can at a convenience store;
  • Casa Grande Police’s jailing and transporting to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement a passenger of a car that was stopped for having a burnt-out taillight;
  • Tucson Police’s questioning of a woman about her immigration status after she called on them to assist her in a domestic violence situation; and
  • Phoenix Police’s unconstitutional search and detention of a legal resident who was questioned about his immigration status while picking up his car from an impound lot.
“Alex’s claim against South Tucson PD is representative of policing problems throughout Arizona that have arisen since the enactment of Section 2(B),” said Christine P. Sun, an attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Law enforcement should be protecting the community and ensuring public safety, not engaging in practices that single people out for treatment that is unlawful under our Constitution.”

In addition to this legal claim, the ACLU and its partners have been talking with police departments and local governments across the state to inform them about the law’s basic failings, explaining that SB 1070 doesn’t trump the U.S. Constitution or provide an excuse for discriminatory policing.

Click here for a copy of the ACLU’s notice of claim on Alex’s behalf.