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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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Judge Wake re: Graves v Arpaio: jail medical care still sucks.

I heard some time ago that supervision of the MCSOs health and mental health care services for prisoners was going to be winding down due to their increasing compliance, though I kept hearing horror stories coming out of Joe's jails - like the young woman who lost her unborn child due to food poisoning last winter, soon before the men and women alike tried to launch a hunger strike to protest being fed garbage unfit for human consumption (Arpaio made it sound like they were just upset about going vegetarian - like they really wanted that green bologna and mystery meat back). 

The MCSO is also holding mentally ill children in solitary confinement - which has been shown to be devastating to such prisoners' mental health. I'd love to see the ACLU and Judge Wake take that one on next. Then again, maybe this current suit would cover solitary for those kids, if I can get evidence to the court that it's damaging already-compromised, mentally ill youth, and that their ultra-isolation isn't serving any penological interest. Hmm...

Also, check this link out in re the racial profiling lawsuit against Sheriff Joe and the MCSO, now under orders to reform by US District Judge Murray Snow:

"The ACLU of Arizona has launched a website, (in English)/ (in Spanish), so that the public can keep up with the court-ordered reforms of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office."

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

Arpaio's Jails Ordered to Stop Endangering Prisoners' Health

Judge Finds Maricopa County Jails Fail to Provide Adequate Medical and Mental Health Care

September 30, 2014

Alexandra Ringe, ACLU national,
Steve Kilar, ACLU of Arizona, (602) 773-6007,

PHOENIX – More than four years after a federal judge put the Maricopa County jails operated by Sheriff Joseph Arpaio under court order for neglect of detainees, that same judge, Neil Wake, has ruled that the jails must remain under the order. Judge Wake found that the jails continue to provide detainees with inadequate medical and mental health care. The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Arizona showed during an evidentiary hearing that concluded in March that the scarcity and poor quality of the jails' medical and mental health care caused unnecessary suffering.

"Those in charge of Maricopa County's jails can no longer skirt their constitutional responsibility for detainees' health," said Eric Balaban, staff attorney for the ACLU's National Prison Project. "Judge Wake found severe problems with the jails' medical care, from intake to treatment. Detainees have had serious illnesses that the jails' staff missed or ignored, causing permanent injuries and even deaths. With today’s decision, every detainee at Maricopa County should have access to adequate medical and mental health care. At last."

In August 2013, Maricopa County commissioners and the Sheriff asked the court to lift the order placed on it in 2008 – an order which itself resulted from the jails' failure to provide constitutionally adequate health care and abide by the terms of a 1995 federal court order requiring improvements in health services.

As Balaban explained, "Last year, the Maricopa County jails requested an end to the 2008 court order, claiming that they'd done what was necessary for the detainees' mental and physical health. We said, 'Not so fast.' We investigated, bringing medical and mental health experts to the jail, and what we found showed Judge Wake that the jails have a long way to go before his order can be lifted."

In addition to the ACLU and the ACLU of Arizona, Osborne Maledon, P.A., has assisted on the case.

Read the ruling here: