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, March 13, 2010

The Cosequences of Eradictating Hope.

I agree with much of this -was also wondering whatever happened to Webb's committee. But I'd focus more on the criminal code and sentencing than prison, because these folks shouldn't be i prison in the first place...


What Happened to Prison Reform?

Published March 09, 2010 @ 08:09AM PT

I've become discouraged about the prospect for meaningful prison reform. In March of 2008, Senator Jim Webb introduced a Senate bill to form a commission that would study our criminal justice system from top to bottom. Slamming America's prison system as a national disgrace, the Virginia senator urged reform. But after extensive media coverage when Senator Webb announced his bill, we haven't heard much about it. Despite bi-partisan support in the Senate, the House of Representatives has yet to introduce a companion bill. Now we've begun a new congressional election year and, judging by the Republican legislature to health care reform, it doesn't look like legislation for prison reform will make it through this Congress.

How long will Congress ignore the need for meaningful prison reform? Our prison system confines more than 2.2 million people, costing taxpayers $60 billion every year to operate. What do Americans receive in return for this massive public expenditure? When we consider recidivism rates of 70%, it's clear that rather than making communities safer, prisons breed continuing cycles of failure. That's why we need to reform the prison system from one that extracts vengeance to one that operates with a more intelligent design.

The biggest problem with our federal prison system is that it extinguishes hope. Each federal institution ought to hang the sign Danté wrote about at the entrance to his home: Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

Once the courts finalize a prison term, the system does not offer a mechanism through which offenders can work to reconcile with society, to redeem themselves, to earn freedom while working to restore their good citizenship. All that matters is the passing of time, frequently multiple decades for non-violent offenders convicted of selling drugs. That is the fundamental flaw of the federal prison system. Rather than encouraging offenders to work toward becoming one with the fabric of society, the federal prison system obliterates hope, and in the process, it inadvertently perpetuates failure as high recidivism rates and their accompanying expenditures confirm.

Eradicating hope comes with harmful consequences for society. When offenders begin serving lengthy sentences, and the system repeatedly tells them they've "got nothin' comin'," it hardens many prisoners who would have welcomed opportunities to reform, making some susceptible to radicalization. Without hope of returning to society as contributing citizens, many in prison commit themselves further to criminal organizations, prison gangs and, sometimes, terrorist sympathizers. Instead of protecting society, the harsher system breeds a cancer that spreads out from prison boundaries to threaten communities across America.

From the Middle East we hear about military strategies that encourage combatants to abandon allegiances to terrorist organizations and join law-abiding society. We need prison reforms that would make use of similar tactics.

Prisons should not exist solely to punish those convicted of crime. They should also encourage offenders to work toward becoming one with law-abiding society. Instead of alienating non-violent and non-threatening offenders from family and community, rendering those people less likely to emerge from the prison experience as contributing citizens, prisons should offer pathways for non-violent offenders to work toward earning freedom through merit in incremental steps.

With annual costs to taxpayers of $25,000 per year to confine each offender, society should welcome reforms that would make better use of its limited prison resources. After all, every dollar that taxpayers waste locking a man in a cage is a dollar less that is available for health care, education, or other social services. Meaningful prison reforms would bring opportunities for prisoners to work toward earning freedom. Such reforms would lower operating costs and contribute to safer communities. For those reasons, we need more than fading headlines. We need congressional action that will bring prison reform now.

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