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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AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Racial Disparities in Prison: Remedies.

The evidence has long been in that the justice system is inherently a tool of racial, class, and gender oppression. I think we all need to form one of these task forces for our states and figure out how to dismantle it...

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Archive for the ‘Racial Disparity Prison’ Category

State Lawmakers, Criminal Justice Experts to Scrutinize Racial Impact of Illinois Drug Laws

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Springfield, IL – State legislative and criminal justice leaders gathered in Chicago on Monday to evaluate the impact of Illinois drug laws on minority communities. Members of the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission will begin work to determine if current state laws and policies contribute to the disproportionate percentages of minorities in jails and prisons.

The Commission, co-chaired by State Senator Mattie Hunter (D- Chicago) and State Representative Art Turner (D-Chicago), is the outcome of Senate Bill 2476, which passed the Illinois Senate and the Illinois House unanimously last year and became Public Act 095-0995.

Commission members, named in the law or appointed by the Senate and House leaders, will examine the causes and consequences of findings such as these:

  • In Illinois in 2005, whites comprised 66% of the general population, African-Americans 15%. That same year, whites comprised only 28% of the Illinois prison population, and African-Americans 61%.[1]

  • In 2005, African Americans were 9.1 times more likely to be incarcerated in prison or jail in Illinois than whites, ranking Illinois 14th worst in the nation, and well above the national average of 5.6 times more likely.[2]

  • From 1990 to 2000, the number of African Americans admitted to prison in Illinois for drug offenses grew six-fold from 1,421 to 9,088. In contrast, the number of whites admitted to prison for drug offenses remained relatively stable.[3]

  • The proportion of African Americans arrested for drug offenses in Illinois increased steadily from 1983 to 1992, from 46% to 82% of those arrested for such crimes. The proportions of whites arrested decreased steadily during those years, from 41% to 11%.[4]

These significant disparities exist despite the fact that rates of illicit drug use vary relatively little by ethnicity. The just-released 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows rates of past month illicit drug use among persons 12 or older to be 10.1% among African Americans, 8.2% for whites, and 6.2% for Latinos.

“These incarceration trends are disturbing and we need to remedy them,” says Senator Hunter, who co-sponsored the legislation creating the Commission. “When rates of drug use among minorities are relatively similar, but rates of incarceration are wildly disproportionate, we need to understand why that is happening and what we can do about it.”

According to a 2008 report by the Center for Health and Justice at TASC, the disparities in incarceration trends relate in part to changes in the drug laws in the late 1980s. Between 1986 and 1991, the number of African Americans incarcerated for drug crimes rose four times as fast as the number of whites.

No legislature sets out to make a law that disproportionately imprisons a particular racial community, but I believe our laws here in Illinois do just that,” says Senator Hunter. “Now we have an opportunity to examine what’s happening and right the wrong.”

The Commission’s work will yield legislative and other policy recommendations designed to address any disproportionate impact found to result from state drug laws and/or their application.

State budget woes have cut funding for alternatives to incarceration, including the statewide TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities) program, which places and monitors nonviolent, drug-using offenders in substance abuse treatment as a condition of their probation.

“When the State cuts funding for drug treatment, alternatives to incarceration, and community probation and supervision, the consequences of those cuts are felt by minority communities that are already being affected disproportionately by current drug laws,” says Pamela Rodriguez, president of TASC and its Center for Health and Justice, which is assisting the work of the Commission. “We need to be vigilant about not cutting the very programs that divert nonviolent, drug-using offenders out of the justice system and into community-based treatment.”

The Commission’s work will be informed by advisory groups that examine research, policy, and economic impact. The research advisory group comprises researchers from Loyola University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Roosevelt University, the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, and the Illinois Department of Corrections, along with staff researchers and legal and policy consultants from the Center for Health and Justice at TASC. The policy and economic impact advisory groups will be composed of a variety of university and community members with interest and expertise in economics and public policy related to criminal justice.

[1] U.S Census Bureau and Illinois Department of Corrections, 2005 Department Data.

[2] Uneven Justice: State Rates of Incarceration by Race and Ethnicity, Marc Mauer and Ryan S. King, Sentencing Project, July 2007.

[3] The Disproportionate Incarceration of African Americans for Drug Crimes: The Illinois Perspective. Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, Arthur J. Lurigio and Mary Harkenrider, November 2005.

[4] Ibid.

Written by dbaille

September 21, 2009 at 2:51 PM

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