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, December 3, 2009

Douglas State Prison; Privatization; Budget Updates

Looks like pretty thorough coverage from the Douglas Dispatch: 

Little, no chance prison closing, says area legislators
By Larry Blaskey
Douglas Dispatch

There is little to no chance that the Douglas State Prison is going to close.

That was the message echoed by all three District 25 state legislators during a town hall meeting sponsored by the City of Douglas Monday night.

Attending were Rep David Stevens and Patricia Fleming and Sen. Manny Alvarez.

More than 75 attended the one-and-a-half hour meeting. Many in attendance were from the local prison.

Along with the prison, the still unapproved budget dominated much of the discussion.

At the end of the meeting, all three legislators agreed that there would be almost no way the prison would close this year, and Stevens doesn’t expect it to close in the near future.

Douglas State Prison

 “I don’t foresee any change occurring over the next few years,” Alvarez said.

“I don’t think early release will occur, it would take legislative action”

 Stevens agreed with Alvarez’ assessment and went a bit further.

“I don’t see us ever getting to the point of privatization of the prison system, especially once all the details come out.”

“It will be much cheaper for the state to remain in the prison business rather than having a private company run the facilities,” Alvarez added.

The Douglas prison contributes $27 million in payroll annually in addition to providing 300 inmates that work for the city, county and other entities.  If the city had to pay minimum wage for all of the prison work it receives, it would cost the city an additional $310,000 annually.

State Budget

“This is the worst situation I have seen in my seven years at the Legislature,” Alvarez said.
“It is sad to see what is taking place. The rural communities are those getting hurt the worst.”

Of the 30 legislative districts, only seven are rural (not affiliated with Pima or Maricopa counties).

During her opening presentation, Fleming presented Budgeting 101 for the audience, a budgeting basics program to show where the legislature is currently at in the 2009-10 budget.

“The current deficit is $1.5 billion, and the reason behind the deficit include the National recession, increased demands on state services, Voter Required/Protected Funding and tax cuts.

“Challenges for the next session include the existing $1.5 billion deficit, possibility of additional cuts, a “No New Tax Pledge” from the Democratic party and questions concerning a possible 1 cent sales tax.”

The state budget is affecting Douglas and Cochise County in several areas:

• Revenue sharing funding from the state for the city will drop from $2.6 million in 2009, to $2.2 million in 2010 and finally to $1.7 million in 2011. That is a drop of more than a third in revenue in just two years.

• Special Session cuts: $144 million in soft capital, $155 million from DES. The soft capital will result in a $588,000 cut for the Douglas Unified School District.

• 15 percent cuts in all areas could impact the Douglas State Prison, and force Cochise Collee to increase its tuition to an additional $10 per credit hour.

David Stevens said a viable plan was presented at the begging of the session but was voted down by Democrats.

“The budget plan we presented in August would have balanced the budget without the most recent set of cuts,” Stevens said.

The budget plan included the

• Three-year 1 cent sales tax increase.
• Property tax freeze
• Three years state spending freeze.

“The plan would have opened the state up to attracting new business. When you compare our corporate tax structure it would have moved us from the 22 most competitive to seventh.

 “We need to grow the state and the economic engine. We cannot continue just to cut. We need to find additional ways to general revenue,” Stevens said.

The state is having a problem even collecting the taxes that is due to it. Cuts in personnel in the Revenue Department has even made it more difficult to collect past due taxes.

1-cent sale tax

Some of the budget discussion during the meeting centered around the proposed 1 cent sales tax which would be limited to three years.

If approved, the tax would have created $600 million in new revenue each year, or about 40 percent of the current deficit.

“I understand that one cent doesn’t sound like much. The problem I had was the referral for the people to decide the issue. We were elected to make those types of decisions. I really had a problem with taking the vote away from the legislature. They need to retain their votes,” Fleming said.

Not a single Democrat voted for the sales tax increase.

What to do

If there are changes citizens want to be made, write, email, call those in power at the state level, all three legislators urged.

A complete listing of state leaders incommoding committee chairman can be found at

“It is important to follow through because a lot of the legislators don’t even know where Douglas is. Your calls and letters will help them find out and know how important your issues are,” said Alvarez.

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