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, January 29, 2014

Prosecuting Innocence: Phoenix Arson Squad can't be trusted.

 Those of you who think everyone in Sheriff Joe's jail or AZ state prisons "belongs there" and "deserves what they get", pay attention: the state is hardly always right. You could even be next. Below, emmy-winning investigative reporter Wendy Halloran and the Channel 12 News team pursued the truth of Barbara Sloan's and Carl Caples' prosecutions to the end, and the FBI is now stepping in to investigate civil rights violations by the Phoenix Fire Investigations' Unit under Captain Sam Richardson.

Here's a link to Barbara Sloan's story and petition  at

Despite 12News' prior coverage of Barbara Sloan's case, Chief Bob Khan is apparently oblivious to the shoddy, arguably criminal work of the Fire Investigations' Unit. That guy needs to go. So does Jack Ballantine.

Thank you, Wendy Halloran, for your commitment to helping citizens seek true justice from this corrupt system.

---------------from Gannett's KPNX 12News-------- 

12 News |  
Tue Jan 28, 2014 3:24 PM
The FBI is investigating allegations that members of the Phoenix Fire Department violated the civil rights of two people who were arrested and charged with arson despite no evidence connecting them to the burnings of their homes.

The cases against Barbara Sloan and Carl Caples were dropped by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.

Sloan said she spent $300,000 to defend herself; Caples spent 16 months in jail awaiting trial.

In April, Sloan and Caples filed complaints against the Fire Department with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Phoenix.

Phoenix Fire Chief Bob Khan sent a memo, dated April 15, to City Manager David Cavazos announcing that he had formed a Fire Investigation Review Committee.

Document: Creation of review committee 

The panel will review the methods, data and performance used to calculate the department’s arson-case clearance rate — the percentage of fires determined to be arson that result in arrests.

The department in May 2012 said that it had one of the highest arson clearance rates in the country, at 57 percent.

Khan will head the committee, which will include retired Superior Court Chief Justice Jim Keppel, Mesa Assistant Police Chief Heston Silbert and six others.

The Fire Department’s internal investigation follows a 12 News investigation that aired in February profiling the Sloan case.

Sloan’s home, near Roma Avenue and Camelback Road, burned down May 13, 2009. Two Phoenix arson investigators, Capt.Sam Richardson and Capt. Fred Andes, concluded that Sloan had committed arson after she wasn’t able to sell the home.

The County Attorney’s Office dropped the charges on Oct. 15, 2010, after Richardson admitted he had Sloan arrested solely because she was the homeowner and that he had no evidence tying her to the fire.
Richardson’s and Andes’ colleagues and two independent arson experts determined the fire started in Sloan’s car, which was parked in the garage. No accelerant was found.

Richardson also was the lead investigator in the Caples case.

The home Caples was renting near 19th Avenue and Union Hills Drive burned May 7, 2009.

Richardson concluded that Caples poured gasoline on three areas in the back of the home. A separate investigation by Caples’ defense expert concluded that the fire started in the attic and was caused by a short in the electrical system.

On Sept. 27, 2010, the day Caples’ trial was to begin, the County Attorney’s Office dropped the charges.
The FBI has no timetable for its investigation.

Khan said the executive review committee will present its findings and recommendations by the end of the summer.

The members of the Fire Investigation Review Committee are:

Committee members