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)


ANTICOLONIAL zines, stickers, actions, power

Taala Hooghan Infoshop

Kinlani/Flagstaff Mutual AID


The group for direct action against the prison state!

Black Lives Matter PHOENIX METRO

Black Lives Matter PHOENIX METRO
(accept no substitutions)



PHOENIX: Trans Queer Pueblo


AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Wendy Halloran rocks! Once-touted PHX arson squad under heavy fire.

When I started Arizona Prison Watch 5 years ago, one of my main reasons for doing so was my lack of confidence in the mainstream media's interest in publishing the truth about Power and their police in this state. I've always been highly critical of TV news, for good reason, I think. They mostly serve the interests of the power I fight, particularly police power, by being the primary medium by which the state exploits racism and xenophobia and oppression through outright propaganda. 

Furthermore, the state leaks information about arrests and misrepresents "facts" they cant prove in court all the time to tip the scales of justice against the accused, and the media so often plays along. Once you're condemned there, a plea deal favorable to the prosecution is much easier to obtain - as are a conviction and severe sentence if the defendant dares go to trial. Never mind that "innocent until proven guilty" standard you learned in civics class - you're pretty much done in America's injustice system if the news gets a hold of you before the jury ever hears a word.

No, as far as I was concerned, despite an occasional exception, neither the liberal "alternative" press or conservative local  media could be trusted to get to the bottom of what this state was doing to those of us it accused or held in custody any more than Joe Arpaio could be counted on to care who died on his watch. The only stories that would ever play here would be those who served the corporate media's own interests - or the state's. 

After the death of AZ state prisoner Marcia Powell in 2009 I began blogging and trying to figure out  how to get at the truth and put it out there myself, cursing the cowardice of journalists and news outlets in this state (except for the guy who followed her case more closely, Stephen Lemons at the PHX New Times, that is...). My favorite target of criticism for pandering to police and political power was the Arizona Republic - albeit a favorite target of the right, as well, for not being loyal enough to conservative mores. As far as I was concerned, they did the dirty work of the state whenever bidden to do so by publishing their press releases as if they were "truth", which was all I needed to know.  The only people I could really trust were fellow bloggers, it seemed. 

Since then, this blog has resulted in literally hundreds of letters and phone calls from prisoners and their families with information about abuses in the state prison system, as well as local jails and police departments. Unfortunately, no matter what I learned in my work with prisoners (and their survivors, in cases where they died in custody), I didn't have enough audience to ever impact a state policy or liberate someone wrongfully imprisoned, so I nevertheless often appealed to mainstream journalists to help those I couldn't. They seldom ever did. I really resented Arizona's media for awhile for whitewashing the DOC with silence on the state's real crimes, in fact. Big media, especially, was wholly knowingly complicit, as far as I was concerned. 

Then I noticed investigative journalist Wendy Halloran covering what was happening in the prisons, the courts and the larger world of crime and punishment that I'm now tuned into. She exposed the gross neglect of Tony Lester as he lay bleeding to death, unassisted in any way by the first responders of the AZ Department of Corrections. Her investigations into the DOC's,  Wexford's, and Corizon's shoddy treatment of the sick and mentally ill has helped bring the problems of prisoner's health care to the forefront, such that there is now a class action suit alleging system-wide negligence and abuse. And she's gone after corruption, racism and shady cops in the MesaPhoenix, and Goodyear police departments fearlessly in the past few years. She sticks up for the underdog behind the scenes, too - she's not just out for her own glory, she's out for justice.

Because of their willingness to believe the unbelievable about the conduct of state agents, Wendy Halloran and the folks at 12news/KPNX have now helped bring about a criminal investigation into the conduct of the "crack" Phoenix arson squad, demanding justice for those wrongfully targeted by them. She and her station went out on a limb doing so, too. I even worry for Wendy's safety due to the heat she's brought down on powerful people in this state, so when you see her out and about in the Valley of the Sun, dear People, please watch this woman's back. After all, she's been watching ours...

Here's the latest in Wendy Halloran's coverage of the Phoenix Fire Department's Arson Squad, followed by links to the rest of her work on that case. Thank you, KPNX/ AZCentral and Gannett News, for supporting this kind of  journalism, and Wendy Halloran for your courage and commitment to pursuing the truth. 

-----from CH12/AZCENTRAL.COM----

3 Phoenix arson investigators put on paid leave

DPS recommending criminal charges against two for acts of dishonesty during investigation. 

"Three members of the Phoenix Fire Department's once highly touted arson squad were put on leave Friday in the face of the release of a state criminal investigation, according to a departmental news release released to the media.

Capts. Sam Richardson and Fred Andes and unit director Jack Ballentine were placed on paid administrative leave a day after the Arizona Department of Public Safety reported it had concluded a criminal investigation into the members' alleged misconduct and improper investigative techniques.

A final, redacted review has not yet been released to fire officials.

The DPS review came at the request of the department after a series of 12 News reports into the squad.

1.       Raked Over the Coals

2.       Phoenix City Councilman calls for inquiry into arson unit

3.       Mayor responds to investigation

4.       FBI Launches probe/The Captain, His Crew and Carl Caples

5.       Phoenix Fire Department Captain insists his investigation was solid

6.       Phoenix Fire Department releases findings from arson review

7.       Which Lab is Better? The chocolate lab or the crime lab?

8.       One-on-one with Phoenix Fire Chief Bob Khan –Phoenix Fire Department inflates arson clearance rates

9.       Officials want outside inquiry into Phoenix Fire Department

10.  Judge Orders depositions of fire investigators in death penalty case