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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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Winslow Private Prison Deal: Ruby Ridge llc (?).

The AZ Fraternal Order of Police (ADC Labor Council) appears to be on top of the corrections news here, with some thoughtful questions about this disturbing development in Winslow...

Done Deal
Director Melissa Wallace, FOP ADC Labor Council, received some disturbing news last week.  By Thursday, November 19, 2009, she had participated in a Winslow City Council Zoning and Planning Hearing.  The only questions allowed were, however, limited to planning and zoning. 

The zoning hearing confirmed that a 26,000 bed new private prison was being built right next to ASPC Winslow.  The new private prison will be just north of ASPC Winslow and south of the city of Winslow.  Ground has already been broken to start construction, with an estimated opening of the first 5000 beds by 2012.

15,000 beds are earmarked for ICE, with the remainder hopefully taking advantage of Arizona’s ever increasing prison population.  The Winslow airport has a runway sufficient to land jets used by the federal government to transport ICE and other federal inmates.  Improvements to the airport may be the city of Winslow’s responsibility.

Wallace has serious reservations about just how such a large project had come so far in the development with little or no public knowledge.  Apparently this has been in development for the past two years.  The project is under the name Ruby Ridge, LLC and does not appear to be part of any of the large private prison corporations well known throughout the nation.

Upon contacting Director Ryan of the Arizona Department of Corrections, Ryan seemed to have little or no knowledge that a project of this magnitude, 26,000 private prison beds, was being built on property adjoining an Arizona Prison Complex.

Director Wallace and Stephen Vandegrift, Labor Services of the FOP ADC Labor Council, met with Scott Smith, Director, Legislative Affairs for Governor Brewer, on Friday, November 20, 2009.  Smith stated he and the Governor’s Office had no prior knowledge of this expansive private prison.  Smith was concerned that a project of this size and scope would have had to have quite a few public hearing on the matter.  The dates and notice for such public hearing will be reviewed for compliance with local and state laws.
Many questions remain.

• Impact on the aquifer.
This aquifer is utilized not only by local citizens of Winslow and the surrounding ranches, but also by both the Hopi and Navajo Nations.  The private prison operation will have more than five acres of waste water treatment ponds.

• Impact on local infrastructure.
Infrastructure includes the potable water system, waste water treatment, local roads and highways as well as the local airport.  Questions still remain on the city of Winslow’s area of financial responsibility.  The 26,000 private beds will also mean a substantial increase in residential needs and the infrastructure to accommodate such expansion.

• Impact on the environment.
It remains unclear what, if any, type of environmental impact studies were concluded by the EPA or the state of Arizona.

 Emergency services.
Winslow is a small community and it is unclear what the proposed emergency response plans will encompass.  Hospital availability and bed space, EMT’s and local police and fire departments would be stressed beyond capacity during any prison riot or medical quarantine. 

The Ruby Ridge project hopes to keep wages for private prison guards approximately one dollar under ADC wages, however there are no benefits other than stock options for employees to purchase and put towards retirement.  Sick leave, generous vacation leave, health and dental coverage as well as life insurance, short term and long term disability all make employment with the state of Arizona more attractive.

The concern for ADC employees as well as all state employees is the current fiscal problems facing Arizona.  Facing a possible 15% reduction in force to help balance the states budget is an ever increasing possibility.  Ruby Ridge LLC may be counting on that to provide trained prison staff in the near future.

Director Wallace represented the concerns of the FOP for Corrections at the local zoning and planning hearing.  The FOP ADC Labor Council will continue its investigation into the lack of public hearings and the corporate financing for this private prison project.  The FOP for Corrections moved quickly to address this project with the Governor’s Office and keep ADC Director Ryan informed.  Wallace provided Director Ryan with copies of the projects schematics, infrastructure drawings, engineering plans and statistics.

Although other ADC employee organizations were aware of the project, representatives from AZCOPS, AZCPOA and ACA were absent at the zoning and planning public hearing.  As our investigation evolves, we will keep our membership advised.


Anonymous said...

Winslow has been a 'Prison Town' for over twenty years. Winslow needs this prison, Winslow is overwhelmingly infavor of having this new prison and welcomes the jobs, housing boom and security it would bring. If this is so bad then why is there a FIGHT for which Arizona town gets it? The Chief of Police himself told me that there has NOT been an increase in crime due to the existing state run prison.

Anonymous said...

WELL I DONT know how this guy sez winslow is overwhelmingly in favor of this project. this is the first ive heard of this thing.
winslow needs all the businesses and job producing projects it can get.
since the state now allows citizens to carry concealed weapons without a permit i dont see much of a problem
myself i went thru the training course and refreshers courses to get my permit
as a bit of information
when the walmart expanded they couldnt find enough potential employees that could pass a drug test so they had to bring in people from other stores. that pretty much tells ya how the new private prison would fit in with the town.
realistically im glad to hear something is coming into winslow that will produce jobs. if they need applicants to pass a drug test tho they may be out of luck
thats just the way it is in winslow
there have been no public hearings on this issue that ive heard of
thats not surprising tho the bunch at the city run the town like its there own business. you cant even get decent police response on crimes so i doubt theyd be much help in case of a prison break
personally im pretty sure the families that follow the prisioners here will be the main
catalyst of new crime which is sure to follow a project such as this
im at a loss as to how a private prison would bring security to winslow
i was the the victim of an attempted home invasion 26 years ago and since that time remain
vigilant. that and an incident of attempted false imprisionment also years ago are about the biggest problems ive had here
i dont know whats up with the pd
i think its just a matter of who you are and if they feel like doing something when it comes to protecting the community against crime.
there was a murder long ago that was only solved after the murderer himself got drunk and slipped up and told about murdering his cousin and burying him outside of town. till that time the murder was unsolved. your best bet here is to have a gun and know how to use it

Anonymous said...

You are complaining about a prison in Winslow..Most of us wish it would go further away. I have had to leave my home twice to prison breaks in Winslow. I don't think you guys need a bigger prison when you can't really take care of the one you have...The unknown name I understand what you mean that anyone going to Winslow should have a gun..I personally hate Winslow, Arizona and wish it would be wiped off the map completely. I know Holbrook needs more businesses but wouldn't want anything to do with bringing a prison here. Our jails are over crowded and people are getting away with everything here...The HUGE problem with the Police Departments in Navajo County are that SO MANY of THEM ARE DIRTY..They are doing the crimes along with all the other people on the streets doing the crimes trying to make themselves look like role models is ridiculous and I say that knowing that Holbrook isn't much better than Winslow when it comes to crimes... Drugs and gangs are a big issue in both towns and these wanna-be gang members need to find something else to do other than harass others. There are tons of unsolved murders in Navajo County but there is also nothing anyone can do about it.....Undercover