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, December 22, 2009

Final Answer this year on Early Relase: No.

Here's to Truth, Peace and Justice - may all prevail in the New Year.

Only a few migrants get to leave early, folks. Sorry. Don't think we won't have influence over this 2010 campaign season, though - I've seen what kind of pounding the families can give their legislators and ADC - you do your thing, we'll do our. Between us, we can make our issues litmus tests, rank the judges and prosecuting attorneys that everyone ignores, and raise CJ reform issues at every campaign event they have - with personal, compelling stories behind them.

Heads up, those of you union members who work for the state: better get some representation on this Privatization Committee she's putting together to trim the budget...

Gov. Brewer unveils fiscal plan

PHOENIX — Saying more needs to be done to balance the budget, Gov. Jan Brewer directed the early release of illegal immigrants from state prisons who have committed serious crimes.

"Extraordinary times call for extraordinary action,'' the governor said Monday in a speech to her Cabinet, a meeting specifically open to the media. Brewer said while the Legislature needs to do more to resolve the current deficit — a figure she put at $1.5 billion even after a just-approved $194 million fix — she also needs to take unilateral action.

"It is the raw truth, filled with unpleasant facts and painful answers,'' she said of her plan.

But there may be less in her plan than meets the eye:

One element requires the Department of Corrections to turn over to Immigation and Customs Enforce any illegal immigrant inmate who is within 90 days of his or her mandatory release date.

Some illegal immigrants already are eligible for deportation after completing half of their sentences under a plan the state has used since 2005. But that program is open only to those who have committed minor felonies and are not repeat offenders.

Interim Corrections Director Charles Ryan, however, minimized the risk for the $1.9 million in savings this year by releasing about 400 inmates who were not eligible for the half-sentence release. He said these people would have to be released to ICE 90 days later no matter what.

Anyway, Ryan said, most would be deported, though ICE could allow some to stay in this country, possibly because they have families here. But to ease legislative concerns, Brewer promised to work with lawmakers to enact stiff penalties for those who reenter this country illegally and commit new crimes.

• The governor said she is "restating'' her directive that state agencies provide benefits only to those in this country legally. That already is law, with the Legislature closing the last loopholes a month ago.

• She told state agencies to take money lawmakers gave them for special programs and instead use those funds for their core operations. Authorization to move around that cash, however, already was granted to agencies by the Legislature.

• Brewer wants "means testing'' for state programs to require a showing of need. But state agencies told Capitol Media Services that already is the case for virtually all of them, the one notable exception being services for the seriously mentally ill.

• The governor ordered a cap on enrollment in a program that provides subsidized child care for needy families. But that cap was put in place in April, with more than 10,300 already on a waiting list.

Separately, the governor directed the Department of Administration to prepare rules to allow a 5 percent cut in pay for state workers.

But gubernatorial press aide Paul Senseman said Brewer is not actually ordering such a move. Instead, she is paving the way for agencies to make those reductions authorized last week by the Legislature as options for state agency chiefs.

Brewer, who read solely from a script, refused to take questions afterward about the plan or why she didn't mention her demand for lawmakers to let voters decide whether to hike state sales taxes.

She also ignored a question of whether the open Cabinet meeting — the only one of her 11-month administration — was staged to burnish her image of being in command of the situation.

But there were political components to the event: In attendance were Grant Woods and Mary Peters, the co-chairs of her 2010 election bid, and Doug Cole, a hired political consultant to the campaign.

One thing made clear is that the state's finances are at a crisis point.

In a presentation to the Cabinet, John Arnold, director of the Governor's Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting, detailed the rising costs of running government.

Since 2004, the state has added nearly 145,000 students into public schools, boosting the price tag of running them by more than $1 billion.

The prison population in the same time has ballooned by 11,600 inmates, to more than 40,000. And enrollment in the state's free health care program is up 475,000 — including 207,800 in the last year alone — to nearly 1.3 million as of last count.

But cuts cannot be made to K-12 education — or universities, for that matter — because the state accepted federal education stimulus dollars. These require the state to repay that cash if funding drops below 2006 levels, which is where it is now.

And the state's acceptance of other stimulus dollars for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System prohibits altering eligibility requirements.

There is no prohibition against cutting prison costs. But lawmakers have refused to alter sentencing laws to reduce the length of terms that judges can impose.

One thing Brewer ordered Monday that is within her authority is prohibit any more families from enrolling in the Kids Care program. It provides nearly free health care to about 47,000 children of the working poor, those families earning too much to qualify for AHCCCS but below twice the federal poverty level, or about $36,620 a year for a family of three.

She also established a Privatization Commission, charged with finding ways to have outside firms do the work now being performed by state employees. Done properly, Brewer said, these outside contracts "will help the state reduce operational costs, improve service delivery and quality, and lead to innovation.''

Brewer also promised to bring together legislative leaders from both her own Republican Party as well as the minority Democratic Party. There were such talks this summer about resolving the budget until the Democrats said they were no longer invited.

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