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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Sunday, December 13, 2009

5th Special Legislative Session AEA Alert

Doug Kilgore's latest post from the AZ teacher's union on the upcoming special session (he refers to Tuesday the 14, which is the 15th, so I'm still confused about exactly who will be at the capitol tomorrow - but that means we may have another day of calling and emailing legislators before the votes are actually in.):

December 7-11, 2009

Inside This Issue...  

  • More Cuts to Public Schools?
  • Legislative Panel Shirks Responsibility on Tuition Tax Credit Problems
  • News Link
Special Session Still in Doubt

Governor Brewer, Senate President Burns, and House Speaker Adams are still attempting to put together an agreement on some solutions to Arizona's continuing budget deficit. As of today, their plan to convene a special session on Tuesday, December 14 appears to be dead and attempts to call legislators together later in the week is looking less and less likely.

Unlike the last special session, there have been discussions with Democrats in both the House and the Senate this time. It seems likely that a Republican-only strategy will not allow enough votes to pass the Governor's proposed temporary sales tax increase. The House Republican Caucus is pushing hard for attaching corporate and personal income tax cuts to the deal which would actually increase Arizona's budget deficit in FY2011. The Senate is more likely to support a bi-partisan solutions with a straight sales tax earmarked for spending in education, health and human services, and public safety.

The Governor has asked the legislature to include a provision that would send a ballot measure to the voters allowing legislators to ignore the Voter Protection Act, a constitutional provision that protects spending on programs passed by the voters from legislative tampering. Such a measure would allow the legislature to raid Proposition 103 education funds and other voter approved programs. Democrats have opposed this and it is unclear if there is enough Republican support to pass it without them.

These discussions continue to center on the same issues that have been addressed and re-addressed since early in the year. There are additional solutions available, including other types of tax increases, closing tax loopholes and tax credits, and some remaining one-time fixes that buy time until a tax increase can be passed. View the latest budget options developed by AEA and the Arizona Budget Coalition.

More Cuts to Public Schools?

Arizona has now cut all that is allowed under the maintenance-of-effort (MOE) provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA - the federal stimulus plan). Some influential legislators like Senator Russell Pearce (R-Mesa) are suggesting that the Governor ask for a waiver from the MOE provision and if the waiver is denied, defy the ARRA provision and risk losing other federal funds. Such an action would also put Arizona out of the running for hundreds of millions of dollars of Race to the Top Grant funds for K-12 education.

It appears that the next budget battle for public education will be to hold the line on additional cuts in order to continue to meet the MOE provisions. Again, the extreme elements that are deeply entrenched in the House and Senate Republican Caucuses will be pushing for more K-12 cuts and must be stopped if Arizona wants a reasoned solution to our deficit.  

Arizona has already spent the entire $1.1 billion provided for public education in the stimulus based on its pledge to abide by the MOE which requires spending for state assistance to public schools to fall no lower than its FY2006 level. Paul Senseman, a spokesman for Governor Brewer, said cutting below "maintenance-of-effort" levels is not an option. Other legislators from her own party will not likely take no for an answer on this issue without a fight if recent history repeats itself.

Legislative Panel Shirks Responsibility on Tuition Tax Credit Problems

In August, the East Valley Tribune published an investigative report that showed the Arizona tuition tax credit for private schools program is often abused, lacks oversight, and has failed to increase to any significant degree the access that disadvantaged children have to private schools. Other media and private citizens' reports uncovered additional violations of the public trust. In response to pressure from Democratic House members who launched their own bi-partisan study and the public, House Speaker Kirk Adams appointed a committee to form recommendations to deal with the issue.

To the surprise of most observers this legislative panel completed its work and recommended increasing the amount of the dollar for dollar tax credits by 50% while rejecting measures to require the funds to be spent on families below certain income levels and limiting the amount of funds being kept by school tuition organizations for their own use and profit. Some reform measures were adopted but lack the fiscal accountability measures that would eliminate the abuses found in the investigative reports. The recommendations fail to disallow wealthy parents from working directly with school tuition organizations to ensure that their children receive the benefits of the tax credit.

These recommendations would still allow owners of school tuition organizations to keep 10% of the tax credit dollars for their own use and use those dollars and dollars from other school tuition organizations to build for-profit business ventures that capitalize on the use of other tax credit dollars. Representative Steve Yarbrough (R - Chandler) has built a multi-million group of businesses using tuition tax credit dollars.

Testimony from Representatives Andy Biggs (R-Gilbert), Rick Murhpy (R-Peoria) and Debbie Lesko (R-Peoria) defended the tuition tax credit program and downplayed the need for many of the recommendations that had been suggested to protect our tax dollars from abuse. Senator Tom Chabin (D-Flagstaff) and Jack Brown (D-St. Johns) argued for stricter oversight, an income threshold for recipients of the tuition funds, and limits on school tuition organizations. Learn more. 

News Links

A legislative panel refused Thursday to recommend changes to Arizona's Private School Tax Credits program that would require income limits for families receiving tuition scholarships or reduce the amount of money charities can use to administer the program.  

Legislature's vote to have impact on local districts
Local school officials are bemoaning the latest round of budget cuts from the state and looking for ways to minimize the damage to education.  

Teachers, businesses say public funding isn't enough for high-quality education
Daisy Alvarez rolls black ink onto a glass surface and presses her fingertips onto it, leaving prints that other seventh- and eighth-graders in her class dust to reveal the swirls and arches that make her unique.

In 1921, California was the first state to establish teacher tenure; in 2009, Arizona became the first state to abolish it. Never one for half-measures, this month the Arizona Legislature eliminated tenure, creating yet another reason for good teachers to teach elsewhere.  

Contact Us
Please contact Doug Kilgore, Government Relations Organizational Consultant, for questions and comments.

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