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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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Deaths in CCA Custody: Michael Patrick McNaughton, 55: murdered.

Michael Patrick McNaughton, 55, was beaten to death last weekend in a federal lock-up run by Corrections Corporation of America in Florence, AZ. Headlines widely reported it as a "fight", but all that the text of those articles said was that officers witnessed this man being assaulted by his cellie. CCA was quick to deny that there was any sign of problems between the two, so I don't know why they said it was a "fight" in their press releases, too. They must have had indication that the two men weren't getting along to characterize it that way - or else they're trying to blame the victim for his own death by suggesting he willingly participated in it. This is the only article I've seen that flat out calls it an assault.

In any case, condolences to this victim's family. I hope you hire an attorney to do an indepedent investigation of how this happened - you really need one who understand laws specific to suing prisons, so here are some I know who have litigated wrongful deaths and injuries of prisoners in Arizona, often on contingency:

If there's anything I might be able to do to help you through the aftermath of losing  a loved one in prison, too, please let me know. My name is Peggy Plews; my contact info is 480-580-6807 / I'm not a professional anything - I'm just an artist and activist. But I've heard from a lot of families in your shoes over the past few years, and will do what I can to support you. Just don't count on the Feds or CCA to tell you the truth - do your own investigation, requesting records from the hospital, 911 operators and paramedics, as well as from CCA.

Good luck and take care. 


Victim, suspect in fatal prison assault ID'd

November 17, 2013 3:47 pm  • 

Authorities have identified the victim and suspect involved in a fatal assault at a Florence prison Saturday.
Corrections officers at the Corrections Corporation of America, a private prison, saw 43-year-old Roberto Venegas-Fernandez assault his cell mate, 55-year-old Michael Patrick McNaughton during an inspection Saturday morning, according to a news release from the Pinal County Sheriff's Office.

Corrections officers entered the cell and subdued Venegas-Fernandez, the release said.

McNaughton was pronounced dead at the scene.

Both men, who are from the San Diego area, were transported to the prison from a Southern California facility Friday night and neither men expressed any concern about being housed together, the release said.
The men were being held in the Florence prison pending their transfer to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.