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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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Colorado Sentencing Policy Task Force

from Think Outside the Cage, the blog of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Association. They really seem to have it together; we can learn from our activist neighbors.


Colorado Panel Eyes Sentencing Reform

State Bill News

DENVER — After some fireworks earlier this year, Colorado’s Sentencing Policy Task Force has begun meetings to tackle ways to reduce recidivism. The 23-person task force was spawned from Senate Bill 286, which proposed sweeping reform to sentencing guidelines.

When the bill was introduced, district attorneys in this year’s legislative session were irked, and complained the proposal had not been properly vetted. Among other details, the bill proposed to lower penalties for nonviolent property and drug offenses, including eliminating jail time.

The bill, brought late in the session, ultimately died when the interested parties agreed to spend a portion of the summer hammering out legislative recommendations that both sides can live with.

Colorado’s Public Defender Doug Wilson is participating on the task force, as is Attorney General John Suthers, a Republican, and four Colorado district attorneys representing both sides of the political aisle. Many others, with vast and varied areas of expertise in the subject, are also represented.

“The Senate Bill 286 approach is what we’re all trying to avoid,” said Boulder DA Stan Garnett, who is also participating.

Target dates for completion

So far the task force, which is a subcommittee of Colorado’s Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, has met three times. Splitting into subgroups, members shave been delving into topics ranging from specific sentencing guidelines, including driving with a suspended license and the penalties for escaping from halfway houses.

The group plans to meet regularly through the fall, with the target date of Oct. 9 to present preliminary recommendations, and then present a rough draft to the full commission on Nov. 13. The commission will vote in December on recommended legislation that will be formally presented to legislators for consideration.

Public Defender Wilson identified mandatory minimum sentences as one area in need of review. It’s problematic, he says, when judges have no discretion when meting out sentences. He cites, by way of example, minimum mandatory sentences for assault on a police officer, which currently nets at least five years in jail.

“I’m not suggesting people should hit cops, but if I punch someone and he says ‘ouch’ that [is] a misdemeanor,” Wilson said. According to current sentencing requirements, “If you have a badge on, I have to do five years in prison, and there is no judicial discretion.”

What’s working, what’s not

Mandatory minimums drive up prison costs, Wilson notes, drawing agreement from defense attorney Lee Foreman.

“The bottom line is the state can’t afford to unnecessarily incarcerate people when it doesn’t do much to advance public safety,” Foreman said.

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