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's Field of Dreams: CCA?

Thought I put this up when I found it a couple of days ago, but it appears as if I didn't. There are already more articles on this now to post. Arizona's going to be booming with more prisons soon, and it won't mean growth for the corrections officers' unions - though they will no doubt be exploited to support this kind of development. The threat to privatize the existing state prison system looks like just a ruse to distract the unions from the real strategy for decimating them; I think the ADC's just going to keep doing rfps for new prisons as we continue to exceed capacity, and as old facilities decay they'll just stop creating new jobs and phase out state employees..

This is all pretty troubling. Look at Winslow, Wickenburg, the Tohono O'odham Nation and now Prescott Valley...tens of thousands of new prisoners are being planned for the state with talks about contracts stretching 20 years into the future...what kind of vision do Arizona's economic development leaders have, anyway? What kind of vision do those who comprise our legal system have, for that matter?  

We are so entrenched in this cycle of violence and retribution that we aren't even considering meaningful alternatives; we appear resigned to this fate, which means we've condemned our children to it. How can anyone consider a prison to be a gift to future generations? Once dependent on the prison industrial complex for their survival, they will have no reason to celebrate the day when institutionalized racism, classism, misogyny, and homophobia, among other things, no longer fill jails and prisons with society's misfits and malcontents.

The private prison industry is seeking out communities where they can be the main employer so they depend on perpetuating this system we have of punishment for poverty and color in America, regardless of whether or not it's just, effective, or humane. They don't want to reduce crime rates: if we really succeed in reducing crime because we finally begin to get to the roots of it, we'll put them out of business and these little prison towns under. 

Think about the implications of that. If the practice of mass incarceration was ever really threatened - which I hope it will be - townspeople in places like Winslow and Wickenburg would be pushed into advocating for the continuance of a system which destroys other communities in order to save their own.

The industry knows all this – their job is to market and justify incarceration as  punishment for a whole range of “crimes”, some of which are yet to be invented.  They fund a huge part of the wall of opposition to criminal justice reforms that would decrease incarceration rates. That's precisely why Israel's high court found private operation of prisons to be unconstitutional: the profit-motive has too much potential in it for gross violations of human rights to be perpetrated on prisoners, who the state has a special duty to protect from harm, and the private sector has a special interest in exploiting as cheap labor and consumers. I guess their constitution protects people better than ours.

So, here's the article that just triggered all that: more of the same from CCA. 

I hope people in Prescott Valley recognize that this CCA/town “leadership” meeting was carefully staged to allow CCA to control how they were introduced to the community; this invitation-only event would have excluded anyone who might have expressed dissent to the media covering it; that’s why the article reads more like a CCA press release than anything. This way they make it look as if the overwhelming majority of community "leaders" are well-informed and supportive of the idea before they hear opposing arguments or public opinion has a chance to set in. 

So, organize and register your resistance, folks, before it's too late. Once the prison is planted, CCA has moved in and their warden becomes the mayor, you can be sure that resistance to mass incarceration will be harder to mount, no matter how visible its negative consequences to the community may be.  Whether or not they agree with my stance on prisons, I do hope that at the very least the people of these communities don't let their "leaders" deal them out of invitation-only events that will change the course and character of their community forever. They should be in on planning their collective future from the beginning – not sidelined by CCA.

More to follow shortly. I’m still catching up here.

Marks says it's different from 2 years ago

By Ken Hedler
The Daily Courier

Thursday, December 17, 2009

PRESCOTT VALLEY - A proposal for a private prison drew support from elected and business officials who attended an invitation-only meeting Thursday morning.

"We need the jobs," Mayor Harvey Skoog said in a prepared statement that the Prescott Valley Economic Development Foundation issued Thursday afternoon. "I support this 100 percent."

Skoog and more than 60 others who attended the meeting at the StoneRidge country club listened to a presentation from Brad Wiggins, senior director for site acquisition for Corrections Corporation of America. Wiggins discussed a capital investment of $200 million as well as 300 to 400 construction jobs and 400 full-time jobs a prison would create.

CCA, which is based in Nashville, Tenn., is considering a site off Fain Road for the potential prison, foundation Executive Director Gary Marks said.

Reminded of opposition more than two years ago to plans by Management & Training Corp. of Centerville, Utah, to build a private prison at the site, Marks said, "It is a different project. This is just a response and a discussion and waiting for the RFP to come out."

Marks was referring to a request for proposals that the Arizona Department of Corrections plans to issue to recruit a contractor, or contractors, to house 5,000 inmates.

The RFP process faced a setback Thursday because the Joint Legislative Budget Committee canceled a meeting that included an agenda item for reviewing for RFP. The committee canceled the meeting because the state Legislature met in special session, and has not rescheduled the meeting.

The Criminal Justice Budget Reconciliation Bill authorizes the Department of Corrections to issue an RFP for 5,000 new private prison beds, according to the website for the budget committee. The 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 facilities; and specify a maximum contract period of 20 years.

The Department of Corrections has a deadline of June 30, 2010, for awarding all contracts.

The RFP does not indicate whether the prisons will house minimum-medium or maximum-security inmates, according to a staffer for the committee.

Support for the private prison could come from other communities in the state, Marks acknowledged. He added other prison companies besides CCA could be vying for contracts as well.

CCA states on its website that it was founded more than 25 years ago, and houses approximately 75,000 offenders and detainees in more than 60 sites. It has partnerships with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Marshals Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, nearly half of the states and more than a dozen municipalities.

This article was first posted at 4:40 p.m. Thursday. Watch for updates as this story develops.

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