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, February 16, 2010

Brewer should Veto Tax Cuts: $940 Million Revenue Loss.

This is a good article explaining effects of the HB 2250 Tax Cuts for businesses/wealthy. The full effect of this bill is to occur in 2017. Imagine how much more in the way of services we'll have to cut, then, because we have another budget "deficit". This may have actually passed all the way up to the Governor by now. Urge her to veto (which she won’t, since it has her sales tax in it, but we should put into writing for her and our legislators our objections and warnings about how devastating this will be to the working class and the poor).

Check out the "comments" from my post on JD for a contrary opinion regarding taxes, by the way. At least the author sounds more articulate than JD or Pearce. I still think we need to tax the rich more. I guess it's okay with some folks, though, to extract taxes from hard-working poor people in order to pay for munitions with depleted uranium to drop on Afghan villages - it's just not okay to take tax money for medical or dental care for our own children. I don't see the logic, there. 

Would the author support the government allowing us to designate how our tax dollars are spent, so that those of us who are resisting the war don't get prosecuted, and those who want to resist health care for fellow Americans can do so as well? I don't know how feasible that would be - people would insist that "their" money not fund sex education, the United Nations, Martin Luther King Day festivities, etc.  

I'm not happy with where a lot of my tax dollars are going, either, and would like more choice about it. But I think for the common good it's necessary to raise taxes through progressive policies to fund schools, fire departments, Medicaid, and other institutions we need right now to function - cut everything to the working poor (while at the same time raising our sales tax), and we'll be sure to be spending that money we "save" in exponential amounts at the AZ Department of Corrections not far down the road.  

CCA has already invested a lot of money in this state, and GEO is making serious inquiries(those are the corporate giants in the prison industry). That means they're buds with some of our legislators and local officials. Their lobby here is big and growing – pretty soon they’ll be writing our laws and minimum mandatories. We can guess who will be investing stock in Arizona's private prisons; the same people would also have a vested interest in gutting schools and pushing poor people into low-wage jobs in order to keep a certain segment of the population trapped in the least desirable jobs in the service sector. If they have to work two jobs to keep their family afloat, then at least they won’t have time to make trouble for the power elite.  

Their banker buddies will foreclose on our houses, while their relatives rush in and snatch them up to turn them into rentals, which increasing numbers of us will need, as we're too poor to buy a home, even at these prices. Their kids will be protected in the higher tax brackets because they are entitled "property owners", and will jam us low-lifes for high rent even though they won't have to pay any property taxes.  

Making higher education accessible to poor and middle class youth just makes it more likely that you'll be graduating students who will not vote conservatively, and may actively resist the direction of politics in this state. So there's a certain amount of sense in jacking up the cost of school for everything from tuition to the parking meters (now at $50 for an expired one - and if you stay for a 3-hour class and don't hit the meter in time, you can get two tickets - $100 for a little over 2 hours at a meter. That's criminal.). Squeeze the malcontents out, and those who could really challenge the power structure in ASU and society. Find out a way to make it seem as if it's their own fault for not working hard enough to support themselves through school, or something.  

But the legislature and governor's kids/grandkids won't have to worry about any of this belt-tightening at all - their folks passing these budget cuts can still afford their education, and raising college tuition will cut down on the competition they might have if too many poor people were allowed to smarten up (some of them are already pretty smart, you know?).

Don't believe for a minute that Medicaid, Food Stamps, and energy assistance for low-income households are the cause of our financial woes. The legacy in this state of massive tax cuts and budget cuts has a lot to do with where we are now - because Arizona likes to do it's human services on the cheap, which is costing us a fortune by shifting the poor from DES lines to prison. War's taking a much bigger chunk of our income as well.  
If these tax cuts go into effect, we're really going to be screwed.  

That gives us just five years to turn the entire legislature over and seize the governor's office, then strip the state laws of all the damage done by these people over the past ten (or thirty) years. I'll say it again: I really don't want more self-absorbed, self-interested, rich people moving here who are willing to just brutalize the rest of us, and who do it with pride while waving the Red, White, and Blue. That's sick, it's un-American, and those are the kind of people who should be criminalized.  

So, I disagree strongly with the individual who commented on the previous article about JD, but I do appreciate that they commented. I'd like to hear more voices here. I'm pretty hot about how it's okay to bury us in sales taxes and all sorts of fees to do anything in this state - including going to jail - because they want us to pay for their cops to put us in their prisons which are built and funded by our tax dollars  - but they don't want to share any of their wealth to assure that everyone in Arizona can access medical care, has quality k-12 education, and to make sure that the tuition at the state universities is as affordable as possible. So once again, it's the little people who get hit by the legislature's tax cuts, and big money is being invited to just stroll in and feast at our table while our children go hungry.

This legislature should be ashamed of itself. As should the Governor.

They're so selfish and pathetic that they even raised the medical co-pay for prisoners by $2 (and may do so again), many of who earn only ten cents an hour, if they're lucky. The state knows that just discourages people who need medical care from seeking it out until there's an expensive medical crisis, which doesn't seem like it would save money - unless you just let the person die during that crisis. By saving two bucks here and there - money taken out of the poorest of the poor's health care - they're going to end up spending a fortune in caring for late-stage chronic illnesses - much money and additional human suffering that could have been avoided. I still say that's not consistent with conservative values. It's just plain too foolish. 

Same with selling off our properties then leasing them back - paying an extraordinary amount of interest rates that will go into the accounts of profiteers, not come back to our communities in any meaningful way. 

Wealth, by the way, in large part comes from the few exploiting the rest of us, and our laws regarding wealth in America continue to favor the old Anglo-European families and exclude the poor (and in so doing, severely limit opportunities for upward mobility among people of color). An excellent book on this is "The Color of Wealth." (New Press: 2006). A current, on-going source of critical analysis of state and federal budgets is the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Another excellent resource on economic policy alternatives is the Economic Policy Institute.


Arizona House OKs series of tax cuts

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services/East Valley Tribune
February 12, 2010

A House-passed package of tax cuts will cut state revenues by more than $940 million a year by the time it is fully implemented seven years from now, a new report shows.

The study by the staff of the nonpartisan Joint Legislative Budget Committee says the biggest hit would come from a 10 percent across-the-board cut in individual income taxes. That has a price tag of $360.8 million.

Eliminating the state property tax would take away another $301.9 million. And a 28 percent cut in corporate income taxes reduces collections close to another $200 million.

But House Speaker Kirk Adams, R-Mesa, who pushed HB 2250 through his chamber, said the study is, in some ways, misleading.

Most notably, he said, it does not consider how much new business the changes in tax policy will generate in the state. And Adams said something major like this clearly needs to be done to deal with the fact that the number of people now working in Arizona is 276,000 less than the peak just three years ago.

The report, though, will just add fuel to claims by Democrats that the Republican-controlled Legislature is busy shifting the tax burden from businesses to residents. They point out that the sales tax proposal that voters will decide on May 18, if approved, would raise about $1 billion a year.

Adams, however, said the two issues are unrelated.

He said the tax hike, which would last for three years, is designed to get the state through the current fiscal crisis. Adams said the package of tax cuts — along with other measures in HB 2250 designed to promote economic development — will help Arizona better weather the next recession by diversifying the economy.

That leaves the question of whether the legislation makes economic sense to lawmakers.

Adams said that $940 million figure is inflated, as it represents losses in 2017 dollars when the overall state budget will be much larger and when inflation will make it worth less in current dollars.

He acknowledged, though, if his legislation becomes law it will cut tax collections by some figure.

But what is also missing, Adams said, is a “dynamic” analysis of the effect of HB 2250 in 2017.

In his report, budget analyst Hans Olofsson acknowledged that the figures are based on a “static” model. That takes current conditions, makes a few assumptions about population growth and computes the effects of the measure based on that.

So figuring out how much the state would forfeit by cutting corporate income taxes amounts to applying that 28 percent rate cut to anticipated corporate earnings in the 2017 fiscal year.

Adams said a “dynamic” analysis would consider the economic growth that will occur with lower taxes. He said that would show a net gain, though he acknowledged the figure is “incalculable” at this time.

“But we know that states that have these policies in place do much better than we do,” he said.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said that’s pure speculation.

She said there is evidence that targeted tax breaks, like special incentives given by lawmakers last year to lure companies that manufacture solar equipment to the state, do convince firms to locate and expand here.

“But just randomly cutting some things across the board, there’s no evidence whatsoever at the state or the national level that shows that you bring in more jobs or more revenue streams to the state,” she said.

The report does not consider the impact to local governments and schools caused that would be caused by another provision in the measure which reduces the way business property is assessed for tax purposes. But the analysis says there won’t be any actual lost dollars if these local governments simply shift the burden to owners of residential property.

Sinema also took a swipe at Adams who earlier in the session promised that the House would not vote on the legislation until legislative budget staffers analyzed the fiscal impact of the measure. While that report came out Friday, Adams pushed it through the House on Jan. 28.

For the moment, though, the legislation is stalled. Senate President Bob Burns, R-Peoria, said he will not bring it up for a vote in his chamber until lawmakers fix not only the deficit in this year’s budget but also adopt a balanced spending plan for the coming fiscal year.

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