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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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Prescott Valley: If They Build it, Who Will Come?

*Actually, the prisoners of private sector incarcerators are probably the least you need to worry about - the privates get the cream of the crop in most states - the first time non-violent offenders in on drug charges or hit multiple times for economic crimes (like bouncing checks, shoplifting, etc. People lose their freedom, kids, homes, and chunks of their lives trying not to hurt others while they do what they need to in order to survive. Frankly, state prisoners and their families are more decent folk than most people could ever imagine...).

Check out CCA's history. Its' been their guards who rape, abuse, and violate others once given the power to do so, not so much their prisoners. The CCA suits marketing detention centers and prisons to gullible, desperate communities across the country are complicit. Since it's so hard for prisoners to sue or even get emergency relief from abuse, corporate risk assessors must have determined that it would be more profitable to hire, train and staff on the cheap (and settle abuse complaints as they arise) than to make sure their employees meet even minimum standards before entrusting the lives of so many people to their care. That's the negative influence I'd be worried about letting into my town - if they can so easily dehumanize one person's family, why wouldn't they do the same to mine, if it profited them?

In the meantime, these town leaders should really boycott further invitation-only meetings with CCA, lest their integrity be compromised before they even know what they're getting into. That's downright anti-democratic.


By Ken Hedler
The Daily Courier

Friday, December 18, 2009

PRESCOTT VALLEY - Town government officials plan to gauge public attitudes about a proposed prison before deciding whether to call for a popular vote.

However, they said any discussion about plans for a private prison in Prescott Valley is at best premature now. Public opposition prompted the Town Council against endorsing plans more the two years ago by Management & Training Corp. of Centerville, Utah, to locate a 2,000-bed prison here off Fain Road.

"We absolutely do not have enough information," Vice Mayor Lora Lee Nye said. "There are more questions here than there are conclusions, and the educational process is paramount."

Nye, Mayor Harvey Skoog and Town Manager Larry Tarkowski reacted Friday morning to an announcement from the Prescott Valley Economic Development Foundation that Corrections Corporation of America is considering Prescott Valley as a site for a private prison. The company, based in Nashville, Tenn., is considering the same area off Fain Road.

"We have had 24 hours to think about this," Skoog said.

He clarified a quote attributed to him in a press release that the foundation issued Thursday.

"I support us getting jobs," Skoog said. "The question (is) whether I support the prison."

Skoog was among more than 60 people who attended an invitation-only meeting Thursday at the StoneRidge subdivision in which Brad Wiggins, senior director for site acquisition for CCA, spoke.

Wiggins reportedly told his audience of business leaders and public officials that a prison would be a $200 million capital investment that would create 300 to 400 construction jobs and 400 full-time jobs once the prison opens. Wiggins was unavailable for comment Friday.

CCA representatives approached the foundation, said Gary Marks, foundation executive director. He said other prison companies have contacted him as well.

The meeting with Wiggins took place the same day that the Joint Legislative Budget Committee canceled a meeting in Phoenix that included a review of a request for proposals for 5,000 private prison beds. The committee canceled the meeting because Gov. Jan Brewer called a special session of the state Legislature on Thursday.

The request for proposals (RFP) will allow awarding one or more contracts; permit the private sector to bid on all or a portion of the beds; allow the beds to be located at new, existing or expanded prisons; and specify a maximum contract of 20 years.

The deadline for awarding all contracts to private operators is June 30, 2010.

Prescott Valley could lose out to other communities, town government officials acknowledged.

"We don't even know if we are going to be the chosen site," Nye said.

The proposed prison has sparked some opposition since the foundation issued the press release Thursday.

Resident George Orlik said it is "astonishing" for town officials to consider a private prison two years after they encountered massive opposition. "I'm against it because it would marginalize the town," said Orlik, a retired New York City police officer who has lived in Prescott Valley for five years. "It would lower property values dramatically. It would bring in prisoners, murderers, rapists, pedophiles from all over the country."

The RFP for the private prison companies does not indicate whether the 5,000 beds would house minimum-, medium- or maximum-security inmates.(*)

The next step is for CCA to conduct a meeting to discuss its plans with the public, Tarkowski said. He added the council authorized him to hire a company that has worked with Prescott Valley in the past to poll residents on their thoughts about a private prison.

"A survey is only valid after the community has had an opportunity to become informed and then weigh in and give the council their opinions," Tarkowski said.

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