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, June 5, 2014

De-criminalize Queerness and HIV: A Roadmap for Change!

art by Margie Diddams / Photography by Margaret Jean Plews
Phoenix, AZ February 2013

Over the course of the past 12 months or so, I've had intensive correspondence with a number of gay men and transgender women imprisoned in the AZ Department of Corrections. Of all the stuff I've read on the LGBT community and criminalization, the best stuff seems to come from the prison abolitionists, like Dean Spade. This PDF is worth reading if you're studying or planning to act on issues related to the criminalization of LGBT people and people living with HIV.

A Roadmap for Change: Federal Policy Recommendations for Addressing the Criminalization of LGBT People and People with HIV by Catherine Hanssens, Aisha C. Moodie-Mills, Andrea J. Ritchie, Dean Spade, and Urvashi Vaid

the following graphic from American Progress introduces the document well...


Infographic: Why Are So Many LGBT People and People Living with HIV Behind Bars?

The pervasive profiling, arrest, and incarceration of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, people and people living with HIV, or PLWH—especially those who are people of color—are not simply a response to higher rates of illicit behavior within those communities. The range of unequal laws and policies that dehumanize, victimize, and criminalize people because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status perpetuates these high rates of contact with the criminal system. In fact, one study found that a startling 73 percent of LGBT people and PLWH have had run-ins with police in the past five years. 

Police, for example, often profile transgender women and use possession of condoms as evidence of prostitution-related offenses and grounds for arrest. Additionally, PLWH in 36 states can be charged with felonies for having consensual sex, biting, and spitting—even when there is no transmission of the virus. And LGBT youth are more likely to be arrested for status offenses—charges that relate to family rejection and hostile school climates, such as running away, sleeping outside, violating curfew laws, and truancy infractions—than criminal activity.

What’s more, LGBT people and PLWH often experience police misconduct such as false arrests and verbal, physical, and sexual abuse while in police custody. They also face harsh sentences, experience a lack of appropriate healthcare, and are sometimes placed in solitary confinement as a safeguard—although this isolation is often more punitive and stigmatizing than protective.

These cycles of criminalization and discriminatory treatment of LGBT people and PLWH often trigger a lifetime of economic and social instability. We can and must dismantle these cycles through federal policy measures that address abusive policing practices, improve conditions
for LGBT prisoners and immigrants in detention, decriminalize HIV, and prevent LGBT
youth from coming into contact with the system in the first place.

Learn more: A Roadmap for Change: Federal Policy Recommendations for Addressing the Criminalization of LGBT People and People with HIV by Catherine Hanssens, Aisha C. Moodie-Mills, Andrea J. Ritchie, Dean Spade, and Urvashi Vaid

Aisha C. Moodie-Mills is a Senior Fellow and Director of the FIRE Initiative at the Center for American Progress.