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, May 2, 2010

San Luis Detention Center Occupancy falls short.

Frankly, I think it's a good thing there aren't enough people in their little prison, and I don't feel too sorry for the town not collecting what they hoped for in revenue from every migrant body expected to be processed and stored there. What's Emerald going to do to bring up the body count - round up undocumented Latinos with their own militia? You can bet their lobbyists were pushing for the passage of SB 1070.

Poor San Luis should have invested in something more promising for their Field of Dreams than a prison for migrants and refugees. That's about the lousiest gift a generation can leave their youth: prison jobs for the kids and grandkids, and even deeper indoctrination into a culture that exiles and disposes of human beings without much thought for their families, lives, or realities. They are just numbered beings to be confined and controlled until eventual deportation at the least possible expense to maximize profit.

Accommodating that kind of mind-set causes a soul-sickness that goes deeper than any kind of economic harm this town might be subject to if their prison beds remain empty.
Is that really how San Luis wants to educate their children?

What's with the "Community Education Centers" people, anyway? Are they really calling their prisons that? How twisted.

Hopefully other Arizona communities being wooed by prison profiteers right now will have second thoughts about the promises these people make. If your profit and success depends on the expansion of a system that delivers punishment and misery to a higher percentage of people than anywhere else in the world, then you're in serious spiritual and moral trouble.

Whether or not you make a killing at it, it will be impossible to do so without inflicting suffering - especially if you've hired someone else to do the job for you. That's what prisons offer the most - not "rehabilitation" or even "safety" for those whose behavior endangers themselves - and there's really no evidence (despite the AZ Department of Corrections' insistence) that prisons make us any more safe in society. Prisons depend on violence to maintain order, and offer far more misery to prisoners and their families than most people can imagine.

Being removed from one's family and community is hard enough, and that's supposed be the punishment. But living with the daily threat of state violence for non-compliance with petty rules - or interpersonal violence for reasons one can't even control - takes a hell of a toll that's left out of "truth-in-sentencing", and the poor medical care in prisons and detention centers is so notorious that people die needlessly all the time - from "natural causes", of course. Sadly, as far as I can see, no "victims rights" groups really give a shit what happens to people in prison, because they profit from their misery, too. They don't even seem to care much about the men, women, and youth being raped in there.
Who is supposed to look out for their interests? The prison will protect itself before its prisoners, so we can't count on them.

I don't see how anyone can argue that our current system of punishment produces healthier, more whole citizens who will emerge from prison empowered to support themselves and their families, and contribute to their communities. Our immigrant detention centers are even worse, by and large.
We just drag out the brutalization of people before exiling them because doing so gives some of us "good jobs" - like those that San Luis was counting on with its revenues.

How is such a job "good", I keep wondering?

The following article, by the way, comes via Ken's listserve at the
Private Corrections Working Group. The links for the prison contractors are to their rap sheets at the PCWG website. None were apparently chosen by San Luis for their stellar human rights records - probably more likely just for the profits they promised instead.

Yuma Sun
May 01, 2010 11:29 AM

SAN LUIS, Ariz. — A legal battle is shaping up between San Luis and the company contracted to manage the city-owned prison for federal inmates.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars could be at stake. City officials declined to discuss the amount or any other details about the money they say Civigenics owes.

The city council last week voted to authorize the city to proceed with a lawsuit against Civigenics and Community Education Centers (CEC) to recover money San Luis says the firm owes the city from the two-year period that they operated the San Luis Regional Detention Center.

Asked to comment in response to the council's action, CEC said in an e-mailed statement to Bajo El Sol that it "reserves comment as to the specifics set forth by the city, as CEC is currently pursuing litigation against the city for nearly one million dollars in due and unpaid monies for services CEC rendered under its contract."

Now based in New Jersey, the firm was contracted by San Luis in 2006 to build the prison, at a cost of $27 million funded by municipal bonds, then take over its operation. 

The city anticipated receiving between $200,000 and $400,000 annually in payments from the federal government for housing federal prisoners in the 500-bed prison. The bonds were to be paid off with money from the payments.

The prison opened in February 2007 with a 450-bed capacity, and Civigenics committed to expand it to house 500 within a year, according to city officials. But as of April 2008, it was holding only 330, and Civigenics asked the city for more time to bring up the inmate population.

The design of the prison, located on Avenue D on the east side of the city, allows for an expansion to accommodate up to 1,000 prisoners held by the federal government pending determination of their immigration status.

In August, the city switched to a new contractor to manage the prison, Emerald Companies, after Civigenics failed to reach occupancy goals. Louisiana-based Emerald continues to operate the prison.

"I can't say anything about the lawsuit. We don't know what it's going to be until its prepared," Vice Mayor Marco Antonio Reyes Jr. said after the council's vote Wednesday. "What we did today was approve the process starting."

City Attorney Glenn Gimbut said the lawsuit would be filed next week.

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