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, January 10, 2010

Private Prison Politicians in Prescott Valley.

This is a partner to the next post, which cites a couple of our legislators who want private prisons to take over the incarceration industry in the state (not because they have anything against unions, of course).  

First an excerpt from a post I made when I first started AZ Prison Watch. The clip is from an email alert sent out in July by the Tucson office of the American Friends Service Committee. Note that they didn't have more recent campaign contribution information - what I'd be even more interested in, though, is where these guys have their money invested. Are our legislators invested in a future of perpetual victimization and crime? Mass incarceration? 

They sure aren't prone to invest our resources where they would prevent crime...

---------------------- from AFSC-Tucson--------------

...None of the corporations in the running for these contracts is based in the state of Arizona, so all the dollars spent on administrative costs would flow out of the state into the pockets of out-of-state corporate CEO’s.

4. Arizona legislators, including several members of the Republican leadership that brokered this deal, are in the pocket of the private prison industry.

All the major private prison corporations have numerous, highly paid lobbyists working day and night to influence our elected officials.

These lobbyists and other private prison interests gave $77,267 to Arizona candidates during the 2002 and 2004 election cycles. Republicans received nearly 90% of industry contributions.

Is it any wonder that some of the biggest beneficiaries of these contributions are now the ones leading the charge to privatize Arizona’s prisons?:

RECIPIENT 2002 2004
Sen. Russell Pearce (R-18) $880 $2,400
Sen. Robert Burns (R-9) $1,735 $736
Sen. Robert Waring (R-7) $650 $1,595
Sen. Thayer Verschoor (R-22) $0 $1,130
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-22) $0 $675
Sen. Jack Harper (R-4) $0 $625
  (that's's the investments, not the campaign contributions, that are key...)

Keep in mind, Arizona’s contribution limits are among the lowest in the country, at $270 per legislative candidate per election in 2002 and $280 in 2004. Unfortunately, no comparable statistics were available for the 2006 or 2008 elections.

Source: The Institute on Money in State Politics, “Policy Lock-Down: Prison Interests Court Political Players.” April, 2006.

--------------- now here's your news article----------------- 

By Ken Hedler
The Daily Courier

Friday, January 08, 2010

PRESCOTT VALLEY - Former Town Councilman Tom Steele sought to rally opposition to the proposed private prison by urging people to attend the first regularly scheduled council meeting set for this coming Thursday.

However, town staff did not place the item on the agenda for the meeting.

"There is no action being contemplated by the town," Town Manager Larry Tarkowski said Thursday. He said people may speak out on the matter during the Call to the Public period at the end of the meeting.

Steele said he plans to attend and notify others at the meeting that the item will not be on the agenda.

"I have not decided yet" whether to speak, Steele said.

Steele promoted awareness of the meeting by posting it on the anti-prison website,, and by circulating 500 fliers throughout the community. He added he prepared a package on private prisons for council members to review.

"They have to look at the negatives," he said.

Prison supporters have not organized a campaign yet to counter the opposition, Gary Marks, executive director of the Prescott Valley Economic Development Foundation, said. He said the campaign would challenge the "misinformation and attempts to mislead."

Opposition surfaced immediately after Marks issued a press release Dec. 17 announcing that an invitation-only group met with Brad Wiggins, senior director, site acquisition, for Corrections Corporation of America. Wiggins also spoke Wednesday at a luncheon of the Arizona Business League at Giovanni's Pizza & Pasta restaurant.

Opponents successfully fought similar plans in fall 2007 from Management & Training Corp. of Centerville, Utah. They have expressed concerns about higher crime, lower property values and the stigma about having a prison in their community.

Like MTC, CCA is considering land off Fain Road that the Fain family owns.

Responding to opposition to CCA's plans, Ron Fain, managing partner for the Fain Signature Group in Prescott Valley, said, "My only thoughts are that Fain is a community builder and we see a need for jobs in our community."

CCA, Marks and town officials acknowledge the next step is for the state to issue a request for proposals to recruit a company or companies to fill 5,000 prison beds.

"Last I heard, the RFP is supposed to go out at the end of January," state Rep. Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, said Thursday.

Tobin and state Sens. Steve Pierce, R-Prescott, and Jack Harper, R-Surprise, said that they support the expansion of private prisons because they will save the state money.

"It's all about the money," Harper said. "We've got to make our budget balanced."

Harper, Pierce and Tobin said opposition to unions, which represent correctional officers in state prisons and tend to back Democratic candidates, is not why they support private prisons.

Arizona is a right-to-work state, and that status "has been attractive to us," said Louise Grant, vice president of communications at CCA's headquarters in Nashville, Tenn.

"We want to save taxpayer dollars, and we also offer very attractive salaries and benefits," Grant said.

Grant said CCA pays $500,000 to $1 million a year in property taxes to local jurisdictions where the company operates prisons. She was unaware Prescott Valley has no property tax.

"We have had such great experiences in the past 10 years in Pinal County, and we have six facilities in Pinal County with more than 2,500 employees," she said.

CCA is currently facing more than 10 lawsuits in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, according to court records. One of the plaintiffs, former employee Robert McDonald of Mesa, has a lawsuit in federal court alleging employment discrimination.

"They treat their employees poorly - just with supervisors not being qualified," said McDonald, a former correctional officer at CCA's Eloy Detention Center and Florence Correctional Center in Pinal County.

McDonald said CCA fired him from his job in Florence on July 4, 2007, two days after an inmate on suicide watch tried to stab him in the chest and arms with a sharp piece of plastic. He sustained scratches and a bruise.

His attorney, Tamra Facciola of Tempe, did not return calls to the Daily Courier.

Grant said, "We do not respond to individual litigation suits."

She said CCA has 17,000 employees in 19 states and the District of Columbia. She added Forbes Magazine named CCA the best-managed company of its kind in America in January 2007.

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