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 17, 2014

PUENTE: Fasting for Families at ICE - NOT1More DEPORTATION!

For immediate release // excuse cross-posting //
Contact: Sandra Castro, Puente Movement,, 323-493-2844

Phoenix Parents with Children in Detention Begin Hunger Strike for their Release, 
Call for Not1More Deportation
What: Not1More Deportation Hunger Strike Launch
When: TODAY, Monday February 7 at 5:00pm 
Where: In front of Phoenix ICE Field Office, 2035 N Central Ave
Who: Parents, Spouses, and loved ones of five people currently being held in the Eloy Detention center, members of Puente Arizona, supporters.   

Today, President’s Day, as faith leaders, immigrants, and supporters are praying for an end to deportations in front of the White House, 5 mothers are beginning a hunger strike, having exhausted all other routes to see their children released from the detention centers they're held in pending imminent deportation unless ICE uses its discretion in their cases as it's instructed to do.

Hermina Gallego, a hunger striker and participant in the civil disobedience prayer vigil in Washington, says, "I'm fasting for my daughter because she has been in detention for over 5 months. "My daughter is sick and she is not getting the proper treatment she needs. I am fasting because every day that my daughter is in detention is a day that her health is in danger.  If I don't do anything, she could die."   

Hermina’s daughter’s case highlights the urgent need for the President to take immediate action and stop record deportations. While it is undisputed that the President has the legal authority to expand the deferred action for childhood arrivals program and suspend deportations for all undocumented people, he has chosen not to do so thus far. Recent polls show the majority of Americans believe that the government's main focus should include the undocumented, not deport them.

Lourdes Hernandez, a fast participant whose husband has been detained for over a year after being racially profiled by Phoenix PD, says, "Most undocumented families in the United States have already lived through the risks of getting here and the dangers of the work we do. We've lived through days of unplanned hunger and now accept it willingly."    

Anselma Lopez, another fast participant whose son has been detained for almost 3 years, says, "If there is not room for us, mothers who miss our sons, at the center of this conversation, than we hope our empty stomachs change that conversation. Our sons' imprisonment hasn't been enough to get them to act. We hope our hunger strike will. If not, what happens to us will be on their hands."   

Hunger Striker bios available at

Lourdes Hernandez was on her way home from a evening Christmas party with her husband and three children when they were stopped by the police. Her husband, J Cruz, was wrongfully arrested for a DUI, without so much as a breathalizer test, an act of racist injustice that her daughters witnessed and have not forgotten. Lourdes and her two eldest daughters have done everything they can to defend J Cruz and bring him home: working extra hours to pay hundreds of dollars for lawyers, speaking out against the wrongful arrest, going door-to-door in their neighborhood for petitions to ICE. Seeing her 19 year old daughter working 80-hours a week and fearing that her youngest son will grow up without a father, Lourdes has now decided to fast for 14 days to bring her husband home. Lourdes explains, “My husband has been in detention for over 13 months. My children suffer every day that they are apart from him. My family is not complete without him, I need him home now. I am fasting so that everyone knows that I will put my body on the line to keep my family together.”

Maru Martinez is fasting for her  “big bear”, her eldest son and best friend, Arturo, was arrested for working, taken to jail, and threatened with deportation. She couldn’t sleep and after a few days, told her husband she thought she wouldn’t make it, thinking of taking her life. Coming to the Puente Movement, Maru has found hope, standing side-by-side other mothers in struggle fighting to bring home their children. Maru took her petition to the County Prosecutor, declaring that “working is not a crime”. She has made videos and petitions about her son, spoken at rallies not only for her son, but for all mothers to be reunited with their children, and demonstrated outside of ICE on Christmas, mourning a holiday without her son. When Maru goes to visit her son, they joke together, because they fight hard to keep each other’s spirits high, but in truth, Maru cannot accept seeing her son behind bars any longer. For the next two weeks, she will sit in front of ICE, hungry for justice, hungry to see her family reunited again. “We have to fight”, she says, “we will only win by taking the risk”.

Hermina Gallego and her family, including her daughter Rosy and her sister Margarita, left Mesa for Mexico when Hermina’s father was given one month to live. Hermina couldn’t abandon her father on his death bed. But in Mexico, the family faced violence and persecution, the reason they left in the first place. Returning across the border, Rosy and Margarita were detained. Rosy, a 20-year old DREAMer, is now in Eloy Detention Center, where lawyers say she could be for years. Hermina can’t wait that long. Rosy hasn’t even had the opportunity to finish high school, disrupted by her father’s death. The family has been through too much already, and Hermina is ready to take a daring move to defend her daughter’s life. Hermina explains, “I’m fasting for my daughter because she has been in detention for over 5 months. My daughter is sick and she is not getting the proper treatment she needs. I am fasting because every day that my daughter is in detention is a day that her health is in danger, if I don’t do anything she can die.”

Alejandra Sanchez has been living in Arizona for 13 years. She is a mother of 5 children, 4 of them DREAMERS and one a United States Citizen. Alejandra is a DREAM Mom in Arizona which is a national organization dedicated on organizing undocumented mothers and families. Alejandra  has actively been organizing undocumented mothers and supporting the organizing efforts of her children for the last 3 years. Sanchez is a representative of the national DREAMERS Mothers.  Alejandra and her husband were stopped and arrested in by Border Patrol last month where they exercised their rights and were released within 8 hours. Alejandra has chosen to participate in the hunger strike because she is representing all the mothers who have children in detention centers and are too afraid to come out and fight for their freedom.

Anselma Lopez has been fighting to bring her son, Elder Gomez-Lopez, home from detention since he was picked up near the border two and a half years ago. Elder, the father of two young children, has several serious health conditions that are rapidly deteriorating and he is being denied appropriate medical care while in detention.  In 2000, he was shot in the stomach by gang members while living in Guatemala, leaving him with a colostomy bag.  He has severe and ongoing health issues, including gastritis, ulcers, and a stomach infection, all of which leave him unable to swallow solid food.  Anselma’s fight has been a dramatic and seemingly endless struggle to save her son’s life and ensure that her grandchildren have a father. Anselma has filed applications for asylum, plead for help from the Guatemalan consulate, told her son’s story, marched and protested and gathered thousands of signatures on her son’s petition over the last year and a half. Yet, Anselma still doesn’t know if she will ever see her son outside of detention again, knowing that he will be killed if he is deported to Guatemala. She is tired of seeing her son slowly die in detention without medical treatment, and is willing to risk her life to save her son. “Elder has been in detention for almost 3 years, I am fasting to bring him home. He should not spend another year in detention, his children and family need him home.”

Jose Valdez already lost one son when he was deported to Mexico and killed upon return. Now, Jose is afraid for the life of his youngest son, Jaime Arturo Valdez Reyes. For over a year, Jose has been struggling to bring his son home from detention after he was arrested for a DUI charge. Jose, his wife, and his brother have been marching, protesting, gathering signatures, and supporting other families, but ICE still won’t let Jaime return to their home. Jose’s wife is beside herself with the grief of losing one son and fearing the loss of another, “Do you understand what it’s like for a mother to lose her son? I go to work, I’m thinking about Jaime; I come home work, I’m thinking about Jaime.” Twice a month, Jose and his brother, Luis, visit Jaime in detention, and often worry when they notice his weight dropping and his energy slipping.  Jose says, “I am fasting for my son who is in detention. I am also fasting for the other men and women who sit in detention everyday awaiting to return to their families.”

Jovana Renteria is the legal director for the Puente Movement. Jovana has been a staff of Puente for over 5 years and has been committed to helping reunite families. Jovana is going to fast for 14 days because she has witnessed the suffering that families and detainees endure due to the broken immigration system. As an ally, Jovana believes that she must fast with the families to show her support and let the families know that they are not alone and to reaffirm that the community stands with them.