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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AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Friday, October 30, 2009

AZ Taking Risk -w- Privatization

No to private prisons
Arizona taking a risk with its plan to privatize nearly the entire state prison system
Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009 | 2:07 a.m.

Arizona officials, trying to save money, are on the verge of seeking bids from private prison companies, which would share the job of managing the state’s 40,000 inmates.

The state will likely come to regret passing this critical function on to the private sector.

It is a government responsibility to arrest, charge, try and sentence those who are found guilty of crimes. It follows that it should be the government’s responsibility to oversee those persons sentenced to jail or prison.

Trying to dodge accountability to the public for such responsibilities as jail and prison conditions, security, the training of corrections officers and the treatment of prisoners could end up costing the state more money in the long run.

Hiring a less-accountable private company — on the provision that it spend far less money on all of those jobs than the government is spending — incurs high risk. And it does not, in the end, save money, as has been proven.

In 2001, for example, the Justice Department studied the trend toward private prisons, which began in the early 1980s. It discovered that projected savings never materialized.

Additionally, Nevada’s eight-year experiment with allowing a private company to run the women’s prison in North Las Vegas ended miserably. There were security problems — as there are at a lot of private prisons — and the company failed to meet even minimum standards for inmate health care. The state was forced to take over the facility in 2004.

Arizona has several private prisons that take in felons from other states. A state official told The New York Times that “we are very happy” with their performance. Yet The Arizona Republic last year wrote that the private prisons were virtually unregulated and that an escape by two killers had raised security concerns.

The concerns will surely escalate if private prison companies take over the state prison system, including the buildings housing death-row prisoners. That’s not a job for companies that have a mandate to cut costs.

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