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 24, 2009

Free the Sick and Dying.

Plan to free state prison inmates moves ahead
Friday, August 21, 2009
Sacramento - The state Senate on Thursday narrowly approved a prison bill brokered by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic lawmakers that would save the state $525 million this year by reducing the prison population by 27,000 inmates.

The legislation includes controversial plans such as allowing nonviolent elderly and sick inmates to finish their sentences outside prison walls in homes or community hospitals, where they would be monitored with GPS devices. The bill also includes the creation of a sentencing commission that would revamp the state's punishment and parole rules.

Republicans argued strongly against the bill.

"If this becomes law, the people of California will become less safe, pure and simple," said Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Thousand Oaks (Ventura County).

GOP lawmakers also warned that the sentencing commission, which would include a nonvoting former inmate, would weaken the state's tough-on-crime laws.

"You have the gall to put a felon on there?" Senate Republican leader Dennis Hollingsworth of Murrieta (Riverside County) asked Democrats during the spirited and contentious debate.

Close vote

After more than four hours, the Senate voted 21-19 to approve the bill, barely clearing the simple-majority hurdle.

The Assembly adjourned at midnight Thursday without debating the bill and will return Monday.

Speaker Karen Bass, D-Baldwin Vista (Los Angeles County), said the Assembly bill would differ from the version passed by the Senate. Those changes include eliminating so-called "wobbler" crimes that would reduce some felonies to misdemeanors and eliminating alternative sentencing, such as moving old and sick inmates out of prisons and into hospitals or nursing homes.

The changes would mean a loss of about $200 million in savings and Bass said she did not know how the Legislature would make that up.

There also would be changes to the sentencing commission, including eliminating a nonvoting seat for a former inmate. The changes would reduce the prison population by about 10,000 fewer inmates than the Senate plan would over two years.

Bass said she is concerned that waiting until Monday could be a political risk, but she said she thought it ultimately would not derail the plan.

"I just wasn't going to hold people here for three more hours ... and know there would still be members uncomfortable because their constituents hadn't had a chance to see it," Bass said.

Earlier, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said he agreed with Republicans that public safety should be the No. 1 concern, but argued that the bill would result in greater public safety because it would allow authorities to focus more of their resources on violent criminals.

For example, the Senate bill would lower the ratio between parole agents and parolees from the current 70 to 1 to 45 to 1.

"Does this plan do more to protect people from more violent predators?" he said. "I would argue ... that it does."

Sen. Roderick Wright, D-Inglewood (Los Angeles County), said it makes sense to move old and seriously ill inmates out of prison into home detention or community hospitals with GPS tracking devices because the state would save money without endangering citizens.

"We have guys sitting in the joint who've had strokes," he said. "If you're blind and have one leg ... I won't worry about you anyway."

The bill was part of a plan to cut prison spending by $1.2 billion this year to help reduce the state's $24 billion deficit.

Administrative cuts

Besides the $525 million in savings in the bill, another $665 million would be saved by Schwarzenegger's actions. For example, the governor plans to use his authority to commute the sentences of some nonviolent illegal immigrant inmates and hand them over to federal authorities for deportation.

The governor also plans to cut costs by eliminating vacant administrative positions at the corrections department's Sacramento headquarters and reduce funding for rehabilitation programs.

The provisions of the bill that the Senate approved are:

-- $42 million saved by allowing the early release of inmates who complete certain rehabilitation programs, such as by earning GEDs and taking vocational training classes.

-- $134 million saved by reducing the influx of new prisoners by changing some property crimes that now qualify as felonies to misdemeanors. Petty thefts, writing bad checks and receiving stolen property would no longer be charged as felonies. Stealing cars valued at $2,500 or less could be charged as misdemeanors instead of an automatic felony.

-- $120.5 million saved by allowing certain inmates to finish their sentences at homes or hospitals under GPS monitoring. Qualifying inmates would need to be at least 60 years old or severely ill and have less than one year to serve.

-- $30 million saved by allowing certain felons who violate probation to serve time in county jails instead of having them sent back to prisons.

-- $198.5 million saved by changing the state's parole system so that some low- and moderate-risk offenders would not be subject to parole revocation. Also, certain serious offenders would be eligible for early parole discharge if they successfully complete drug treatment.

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