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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Monday, February 3, 2014

ASPC-Florence Deaths in Custody: Marcelo Gonzalez, 25.

While Florence was still reeling from the rape and stabbing of a teacher at ASPC-Eyman late last week, another tragedy went down on Sunday, when this happened. My condolences to the family of the Marcelo Gonzalez - this must be heartbreaking. And the family of Jonathan Williams must be distraught as well, albeit grateful that he's the one who survived.

I've received hundreds of letters from prisoners in the past year about the esclaating level of violence on the yards. Even being housed in a single cell in maximum security isn't safe: if you're a target for assault, the other guys will throw hot oil, feces-tipped darts, urine, and other things at you as you're being escorted past their cells on the way to the phone, or the shower, or rec - causing some guys to just stay in their cells 24/7. Guards have all sorts of protective gear to prevent injury, but prisoners in chains generally don't.

Staying holed up doesn't always assure one's safety, though, as the guards sometimes "accidentally" pop the cell doors to let people get assaulted. In fact, I've heard from prisoners across the system that it's also not uncommon for officers to turn the other way when they know a hit is about to go down - or just take a bit longer than necessary getting there to intervene. That seems to be especially the case if the prisoner has been charged with assaulting an officer at any time along the way (the guy who survived this fight was apparently just charged with assaulting staff in October). 

I dont know how someone had the time and ability - perhaps tools - to cut through that fence and be prepared with a weapon to attack the other party, who only the guards should have known would be placed there next to him, without there being officer complicity...I've seen some guys get hurt pretty seriously by the DOC staff getting their revenge.  Though I guess it's possible that this maximum security facility in the center of prison valley would be so lax that it wouldn't take that much for one prisoner to bust through the fence keeping him contained with his bare hands.

It's also interesting that Jonathan Williams (search 222798) is Black and the other guy (search 204980) was Mexican American - usually the races take care of their own, so to speak. There are serious implications if you attack someone of another race - especially if you kill them - without the gang's or yard leader's permission - you could start a race riot that way.  

But that's really just on the lower security yards where prisoners are in dorms or share large common areas and times, like dining and recreation. It's harder to "run" a maximum security yard because everyone is in lockdown, communication and movement is restricted, staff have more control than on the lower custody yards, and so on. Florence Central is max lockdown - they subsist on no meaningful stimulation or programs and a "sedentary diet" that seems to consist mostly of sack lunches eaten alone in their cells. So a cross-racial hit like that to settle a personal grievance or one the assailant's gang or race had with the target isn't out of the question - it's just usually that the whites kill the whites and so on.

Anyway, its really hard to tell what happened here beyond what the DOC has to say (which is generally a whitewash, people). If anyone out there has first hand info on this incident, please contact me. Peggy Plews / 480-580-6807 /

If your loved one is trying to get protective custody because they are in particular danger, by the way, access these links, and contact me.

AZ DOC Protective Custody Battles: Surviving the fight. (August 29, 2013)

AZ DOC's Protective Custody fight: tend to both body and soul. (April 12, 2013)

If you are about to enter prison and are freaking out, hit this link, then contact me.