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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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Arizona's Imprisoned Women & Re-entry

Unfortunately, these resources aren't necessarily accessible to all women upon leaving prison in AZ...

Agency Offers Mental Health Services For Women Transitioning from Prison

Rebecca Morgan is a human resources associate at Televerde, a marketing company in Phoenix that has a partnership with the Arizona prison system. She is also a convicted felon, but no one would guess that after having a conversation with her.

“People hear ‘prison’ and they just think of what they saw in the movies,” Morgan said.

Arizona’s female prison population has increased by 60 percent in the last 10 years, according to a report by the Women’s Prison Association. 

Marie Sullivan, the President and CEO of Arizona Women’s Education and Employment, Inc., said this increase can be partly attributed to a higher rate of prosecution for drug-related crimes, which usually have a mandatory prison sentencing.

Whether or not the crime is drug related, women who are reentering society after prison face different challenges than men do.

Men can usually find jobs in construction or other labor-intense areas of employment, Morgan said. These jobs pay well but are not an option for women.

Sullivan said over time, employers have become stricter about hiring people with a felony conviction. Arizona Women’s Education and Employment, Inc. offers assistance with the job searching process, which has been made even more difficult by the economic recession.

“Women get very easily discouraged,” Sullivan said. “Rebuilding the self-esteem is critical.”

Morgan said many employers might not be aware that they receive a tax benefit for hiring people with a felony conviction. She added that women in transition after prison can be ideal employees because they are in such need of work.

“They’re really going to value that job,” Morgan said.

Securing a job is not the only challenge women face with re-entry into society. Shawn Lamb, TOPS Manager at Televerde, said women often experience sensory overload after living such a structured life in prison.

“There are cars moving, people moving, there’s color. Even the TV is sensory overload,” Lamb said, adding that women in transition often have trouble making everyday decisions since they had minimal options in prison.

Morgan said her biggest challenge was the “reality check” of having responsibilities again, such as keeping a job and paying the bills.

Sullivan said women also suffer from tremendous guilt, particularly if they have a family.

“They are guilty they turned their back on their kids and were not around to see them grow,” Sullivan said.
Lamb said being reunited with children can be overwhelming for women, especially on top of the stress of finding a job and sometimes even a place to live.

“It’s a ripple effect of things that will happen,” Lamb said.

In the three years she spent incarcerated, Morgan said she was able to see her daughter every weekend.

“I was very lucky because I had a lot of family support,” Morgan said. But each situation is different. “I’ve heard some real horror stories,” Morgan said.

Sullivan said that Arizona Women’s Education and Employment, Inc. also provides assistance with the family unification process. In addition to teaching parenting skills, AWEE plans parent-child events such as picnics and holiday parties. These occasions give parents the chance to demonstrate that they can support their children, Sullivan said.

Another important part of the reentry process is interaction between women with similar experiences.
“I can’t stress this mentoring stuff enough,” Sullivan said, adding that AWEE has found women to be much more successful when they work together.

AWEE is one of the largest programs in Arizona that offers resources to the increasing number of women reentering society after prison.

“This is becoming a big challenge for the community,” Sullivan said. “It can be a long term problem if we don’t deal with it.”

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