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, August 3, 2009

287g and Arpaio: AP

Arizona sheriff balks at feds' enforcement change

By AMANDA LEE MYERS (AP) – 3 days ago

PHOENIX — The self-proclaimed "toughest sheriff in America" has never gotten so much resistance from the federal government.

The Homeland Security Department wants Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Ariz., to stop arresting illegal immigrants whose only crime was crossing the U.S.-Mexico border without documents.

The thing is, Arpaio doesn't much care.

"I'm not going to bend to the federal government, I'm going to do my job," he said. "I don't report to the federal government, I report to the people."

Shifting winds in Washington have led the Homeland Security Department to rework a federal program that has allowed Arpaio's deputies to make federal immigration arrests since February 2007.

It's not yet known whether Arpaio — who has 160 deputies and jail officers trained to make federal immigration arrests and speed up deportations — will sign the new deal.

If he doesn't, the feds say he would lose his authority to make any federal immigration arrests.

The revamped program would require Arpaio to clear plans for immigration sweeps beforehand with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and coordinate with ICE before releasing information about such enforcement actions to the news media.

Those requirements don't sit well with the sheriff, who is known for his independence and well-oiled media operation.

Even as he considered whether to sign the deal, Arpaio launched a three-day immigration sweep east of metro Phoenix on July 24. Deputies arrested 74 people; 25 of them were illegal immigrants.

Ten of the illegal immigrants were released because they had committed no other crimes, and that fact pitted Arpaio against Homeland Security. Arpaio says the feds told his deputies to let them go, while Homeland Security says the decision was exclusively Arpaio's.

That sweep was the latest of 10 Arpaio has conducted in the last two and a half years. Many were held in heavily Latino areas in metropolitan Phoenix, with deputies stopping drivers for traffic violations.

The sweeps sparked several angry protests from critics who said they amounted to racial profiling and led to a Justice Department investigation of Arpaio. Arpaio said the people who were pulled over were approached because deputies had probable cause to believe they had committed crimes.

Homeland Security's revamped program focuses on the most serious criminals and creates three priority levels for immigrants who are to be arrested and detained. Immigrants convicted or arrested of major drug offenses or violent offenses such as murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery or kidnapping are the top priority.

The other two levels pertain to immigrants with prior convictions, but people whose only crime is being in the country illegally are not covered under the program.

Eleven agencies in the country have signed the new so-called 287(g) agreement, while 66 agencies operating under the old program — including Arpaio's — were given 90 days starting July 10 to decide whether they want to agree to follow the revamped program, said DHS spokesman Matthew Chandler.

Arpaio called the new program an amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Chandler said changes to the new program were designed to spend Homeland Security resources wisely. "We feel that, you know, with the limited resources we have we need to be focused on criminal aliens who pose a public safety threat," he said.

Chandler declined to say whether DHS could take away Arpaio's option to sign the agreement.

Even if Arpaio doesn't sign it, he vows to continue cracking down on illegal immigration. He will do so by enforcing more limited state immigration laws that prohibit immigrant smuggling and ban employers from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants. Just on Wednesday, his deputies arrested 52 illegal immigrants, 48 of whom will face human
smuggling charges.

In a news release about the arrests, Arpaio said: "This is yet another example of my continued promise to enforce all the illegal immigration laws in Maricopa County regardless of the ever-changing policies emanating from Washington, D.C."

Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the anti-illegal immigration group Federation for American Immigration Reform, said it supports allowing local law enforcement agencies to make federal immigration arrests and that Arpaio should not be limited to targeting only serious criminals.

"If all police departments did was go after serious crimes, most of their other functions would fall by the wayside," he said. "Just because there are murderers in Phoenix doesn't mean cops shouldn't pull someone over for speeding and running a red light."

Alessandra Soler-Meetze, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, said her group doesn't believe local agencies should be allowed to make any immigration arrests and that Arpaio has abused his power long enough.

"He's a rogue sheriff, and he is the clearest, most visible example of why these 287g ordinances are bad for local communities," she said. "Arpaio demonstrates what happens when there's absolutely no federal oversight of a program that has really led to some serious civil rights abuses."

On the Net:

* Maricopa County Sheriff's Office:
* Homeland Security Department:
* American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona:
* Federation for American Immigration Reform:

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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