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, November 5, 2009

Wickenburg and the Real Cost of Prisons

Sorry to be out again so long folks - prolonged illness and some very unusual problems for a week now with my internet connection. Hmm. Quest can't figure it out, and they have no idea how long they might take to do so. Therefore, I'm blogging from the Fair Trade Cafe in downtown Phoenix today.

Just found this article about the CCA and Wickenburg in my box - it came via the guys at Private Corrections Insitute - they specialize in exposing and stopping prison privateers moving in on vulnerable communities like this. Their website is a great resource. So is the site for the Real Cost of Prisons Project: hit the blog, too. These folks have the goods on what prisons really do to places: they corrupt communities. Look at the dialogue already - they dehumanize us all. 

The newspaper article is framed completely to push the prison as an economic advantage, as if they were fronting directly for the CCA - an incredibly evil institution that subsists on the incarceration of masses of people. A close look at Wickenburg politics may reveal some timely contributions to certain people and groups, as is the case at the level of the state legislature, where they're talking about privatizing the whole state system.

It's extremely disturbing, but it's classic politics and prison sales nonsense during down times, and somehow makes sense to ordinary Americans on the surface: let's lock a bunch of poor folks up here -"criminals" - to give other poor people stable jobs. Most Americans just don't comprehend the decay of our prison systems and the seriousness of the criminalization crisis. We lock people away for lifetimes, feeding them as little as possible -with hardly any thought anymore these days of anything but the expense or economic benefits to society of what essentially constitutes subjecting our fellow human beings to enduring torture. We don't even try to do anything called rehabilitation anymore beyond what is necessary for show -we just punish and brutalize people. In fact, when they complain - even when they raise their voices to claim their innocence - we just strip them further of their rights to be protected from the abuses of power that are central to the "successful" operation of such places. 

I  picked up Mona Lynch's book, Sunbelt Justice, finally, by the way. People need to read it - especially if they're considering a prison in their community. It's all about the history of "corrections" in Arizona, if you can call it that, and how our politics around crime and punishment have evolved. I think once folks understand what's going on - once they realize that no one is untouched by men who steal from school children to promote their campaigns of fear on the backs of the poor, minorities, migrants, and deviant women(like myself)- I think they'll start seeing these guys in a more clear light. Of course, Thurgood Marshall thought we would have evolved beyond the death penalty once we were enlightened about how unjust, racist, and classist it is in application. We know all that beyond a shadow of a doubt, now, and still we execute.

Who are we, anyway? 

I think if we fail to answer that question assertively, as a people, we will be defined by those who vote for men like Joe Arpaio and Russ Pearce, and in increasing numbers - as is economical and convenient - we will passively, ignorantly, be criminalized. We have prisons planned fifty years into the future: why can't we plan to give future generations a world that doesn't need to depend on prisons for order and justice - and good jobs, of all things - to begin with? Is it not worth the effort to visualize it or the struggle to bring it into existence? Isn't it even worth trying?

I think it is.

Good luck to the resistance in Wickenburg - let us know if there's anything we can do.


Arizona: CCA wants a 3,000-bed prison

November 4, 2009

By Janet DelTufo, Assistant Editor

Wickenburg’s Economic Development Partnership is currently negotiating with two large corporations in hopes of bringing both to the Forepaugh area for the purpose of creating new jobs.

The partnership has set its sights on Rail America (the Arizona/California Railroad), which would build an intermodal industrial/rail park, and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which would build a private prison.

Comprised of representatives from private businesses, the purpose of the partnership is to find and attract economic development for the Town of Wickenburg.

The partnership is not unanimous in its thinking regarding the direction of the group, and it is somewhat split on the idea of a prison in Forepaugh.

However, partnership chairman and former mayor Ron Badowski said the creation of jobs is what Wickenburg needs now and for its future.

“Visitors and tourists are not going to pull the town out of the financial problems it is facing at this time,” Badowski said. “We need growth, and we need jobs. Both of the projects would provide jobs, and the prison could provide jobs nearly immediately.”

Both projects will require help from the town, but not funding though local taxpayers. The partnership has applied for a $3.5 million grant, which would need to be accepted by the town and then turned over to the rail project.

The grant money is needed to build two roads from U.S. Highway 60 to the railroad tracks and to build a rail spur from the tracks to a warehouse area.

Badowski said the railroad project will take a number of years before it reaches its full potential. It would be built on 1,450 acres, and a number of entities would be established, such as a water and sewer district and a port authority.

Badowski again asked members of the public to contact their state representatives and request that the federal government award the $3.5 million Tiger Discretionary Grant (incident No. 090917-000086) to the Town of Wickenburg.

The prison, a 3,000 bed medium security prison, could be open as soon as 2011. Badowski said CCA would like to arrange a lease agreement with the town on 78 acres of town-owned property located about a third of a mile north of U.S. Highway 60. That property is 15 miles from the traffic light at Tegner Street and Wickenburg Way.

Badowski said CCA would like a no-payment type of lease, which would mean the town would not receive any rent monies. Badowski said that is not an unreasonable request.

“I don’t really see a problem with this, because so far the town has not made $1 on that property,” Badowski said. “This project would generate jobs, generate sales tax, revive the housing market and generate $500,000 in real estate taxes to the school district.”

Badowski said that not everyone in the Forepaugh area has been polled, but a number of property owners have provided positive responses regarding the projects.

“Some people are very happy,” Badowski said. “They expect their property values to increase and some see a potential commercial benefit as well.”

A number of partnership members, several Wickenburg Town Council members, and a number of other community leaders are expected to take a tour of CCA’s prison in Eloy later this week.

If a deal is eventually struck for the prison, it is not yet known which state will contract with CCA to house inmates.

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