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, October 26, 2009

Private Prison Watch: Arizona Seeks Bids for Death Row to Reduce Deficit

Another resource on the privatization scene - the author is Andrew Strong, here's his site Private Prison Watch
Arizona Seeks Bids for Death Row to Reduce Deficit
Guards escort an inmate in a privately-run Arizona facility.
Arizona is currently in the midst of a $2 billion budget deficit, up from $1.5 billion in midyear; roughly a fifth of the budget (AP). This increase in deficit is due to drops in tax collections, social safety-net spending (food stamps, subsidized transportation, etc.) and vetoed measures to reduce the budget gap by the Arizona governor. Because of the condition of the Arizona economy, many state officials are calling for budget cuts. Arizona House Appropriations Chairman John Kavanagh says, "I don't see how you get out of a $2 billion hole without using every resource you have" (AP). One of the resources that Arizona plans to use to reduce the deficit is to privatize 9 of their 10 remaining public facilities. CCA already operates six facilities in the state, and ten are privatized in total, holding a total of 30% of their inmates (NYT). "We're going to have to cut government big time," Kavanagh says (AP).

One of the largest costs to any government is the housing of prisoners. Because the public sector sees no return on the money spent on criminal detention, it is usually a large piece of the deficit pie in a mismanaged budget like Arizona's. Because of this, it is not unusual that a state would first plan to cut detention funding in times of deficit. One proposal calls for the early release of a quarter of the felon inmates who are close to the end of their sentence as well as cutting healthcare for children (DD). But would privatization really help in the long-run?

The New York Times reports that, "[A] 2001 study found that private prisons save most states very little money. Indeed, many states, struggling to keep up with the cost of corrections, have closed prisons when possible and sought changes in sentencing to reduce crowding in the past two years" (RS). This might not be a bad idea for Arizona, either. Given that Arizona's recidivism rate is one of the lowest in the county, at 24.5%, it might be wise to close some of their prisons outright and let their inmate education programs pay off in the community (LVS). But in an act of desperation, the Arizona government has decided to put their prisons up for privatization in hopes of receiving $100 million upfront upon signing the contract -- a band-aid solution where a cast is needed (NYT). 

This call to privatize death row is the first in American history. Because of the enormous costs of housing the highest-risk inmates and the high transparency it is doubtful to some that a private company would even agree to take on a death row venture. Death row facilities are "very visible...and if something bad happens there, you will have a pretty big news story for the Legislature and governor to explain," says James Austin, a co-author of a 2001 Department of Corrections report on prison privatization (NYT). Despite the facilities being owned by a private company, the New York Times reports that the executions of the inmates would still be delegated by the State of Arizona, reducing some, but not all, of the liability in operating a death row detention center.

I am very interested to see if CCA or another company picks up the deal for a the death row facility. It is likely that the other facilities up for privatization will go under contract, but a death row facility just seems too high risk for a private company to want to take control of. However, I never cease to be surprised by the outcomes and decisions of the private prison industry. Check back here for the latest news in Arizona's widespread prison bid-off.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Thanks for the plug, APW.