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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AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Federal precedent set: Jail mail "postcard-only" policies unconstitutional.

"Funk Sheriff Joe" Campaign
28th and Indian School, Phoenix, 2012

This goes out to prisoners of the Maricopa County Jails: 

The end of the postcard-only policy will come to this state only if you file grievances and appeal them all the way to the top, then file suit. Please do so if you plan to be there at least another 6 months.

Your grievances should specify that the policy is a violation of your first amendment rights. Note the reasons raised below that the court said such a policy is a constitutional violation in Oregon (article 2). Itemize the kinds of consequences that the policy has had to you, personally (ie: increased isolation, despair and loss of intimacy; loss of housing or defaulting on debts or missing critical information for being unable to attend to personal business; decreased likelihood of staying out of jail/prison if close relationships are disrupted; lack of information about current events may impede your ability to participate in your defense; and so on.) Tell them the remedy you desire is the end of the policy and the allowance of regular mail again.

In the meantime, you should check out the library at the jail for legal resources, and ask for a "Section 1983 Civil Suit filing packet". The most recent version should be May 2013. Get to know the library's resources, you'll need them. Be good to your librarian, too - you need them a s well. Dont go around talking about suing, either - keep it on the down low or face harassment and retaliation by officers and administrators. But let other prisoners know what you are doing, in the hopes they will join in.

At the same time you try to get the info from the library, write to the US District Court and ask for a current "packet for prisoners needing to file pro se" (with no attorney). They will send you the forms and instructions, including for how to file if you have no money to put down up front for the filing fee ($400) - that should not stop you. See who comes through with the right documents for you the fastest. Always trust the courts before you trust the jail's instructions and paperwork, though. Here's the addy:

US District Court: Arizona  / Sandra Day O'Connor Courthouse
410 W. Washington Street Suite 130  / Phoenix, AZ 85003                 

 If the jail staff are intimidating you or impeding your ability to file a lawsuit in any way, send what evidence you have of their conduct to the ACLU, below. If at all possible, though, you need to have a loved one run a shadow file for you of all your important documents from this point forward. Once they realize what we're doing, the jail will tear up your houses and try to destroy any evidence you have that could be used against them, so mail all your docs out somewhere safe and retrievable ASAP.

You cannot file a lawsuit or a complaint with the ACLU until you have completed the jail's grievance process, appealing every denial. Get a copy of the policy and follow it to the letter. Send copies of your completed, denied grievances, with the enclosed complaint form (or a letter) to:ACLU of Arizona  / P.O. Box 17148 / Phoenix, AZ 85011
Tell the ACLU you want to file a Section 1983 federal civil rights suit to seek an injunction to end the postcard-only policy of Sheriff Joe's. It's being thrown out by the federal courts all across the country. Ask them to help you and other prisoners fight it. The more who write to them, having completed the grievance process, the more likely they will be to deal with it. They aren't inviting you to do this, by the way - I'm suggesting it as our strategy to elicit their help. No guarantee that they will have the capacity to, though, even if they desire to.

Families of MCSO prisoners: you also have standing to sue, if this policy is infringing on your first amendment rights, too. Talk to the ACLU-AZ about what you might be able to do, too.

I write the blog Arizona Prison Watch, by the way, from my home, and I'm no attorney, just a well-intended anarchist; this is how I fight the state. My address is PO Box 20494 / Phoenix, AZ 85036 - phone is 480-580-6807. email is I'd love it if you'd all keep me in the loop too - I can run a shadow file for prisoners if you are willing to commit to this effort and send me your documentation.

Finally, if you're going to be doing all this because you expect to be stuck in jail for awhile,  subscribe to Prison Legal News, PO Box 1151, Lake Worth, FL 33460. Its only $30 a year for prisoners, and well worth it.

Good luck, and blessings. May we all someday live free.

Peggy Plews

----------------------from the ACLU----------

ACLU-MO Challenges Jail’s Postcard-Only Policy in Federal Court