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)


ANTICOLONIAL zines, stickers, actions, power

Taala Hooghan Infoshop

Kinlani/Flagstaff Mutual AID


The group for direct action against the prison state!

Black Lives Matter PHOENIX METRO

Black Lives Matter PHOENIX METRO
(accept no substitutions)



PHOENIX: Trans Queer Pueblo


AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Thursday, June 24, 2010

AZ, the Prison State, and the failed services economy.

Interesting analysis of how we got here from the author of Accidental Felons. I think he's done his homework for this. Thanks, Dan.


Arizona, The Prison State Emerges In The Failed Services Economy

American Chronicle
Daniel L Horne
Arizona is an excellent case study in the effects of the Services Economy. Maricopa County, Arizona contains 60 percent of the state´s population and for all practical purposes controls the state´s government with an iron fist—an iron fist that is full bore in support of the Services Economy and is bankrupting the state in the process.

This article begins with a brief look at several Maricopa County politicians who are extremist advocates of the Services Economy. The first is State Senator Russell Pierce, a hard-liner if ever there was one. Senator Pierce is without question the most powerful man in the Arizona State Legislature. Second, from January 2004 until last month is Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, and the third is Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is probably the most widely known sheriff in the world for a number of reasons—all of the negative.

Before examining "reasons why" these three are the poster children for the criminal justice segment of the Services Economy, let me state some facts that support my supposition they are "extremists" before I the state´s collapsed financial condition.

  • Senator Pierce is author of the recent immigration law (SB1070) that has the nation in an uproar about civil rights in Arizona.

  • Senator Pierce is author of the law that made Arizona the first state in America to sell its entire penal system to the notorious For-profit Prison Industry.

  • County Attorney Thomas interpreted the criminal laws of Arizona to the extreme that he drove Arizona from the ninth most dangerous state in America to number three in his first two years in office—and held it there for years afterward.

  • County Attorney Thomas charged so many Arizona residents with capital crimes that he drained the entire state of defense resources for the defendants and created a one-year backlog for such cases to be tried.

  • By the end of Andrew Thomas´ six-year term one Arizona resident went to prison every forty-five minutes.

  • Within weeks after County Attorney Thomas resigned his position to run for State Attorney General, the inmate population in Maricopa County´s jail dropped by over 2,700 county residents. (Source: Maricopa County Office of Management & Budget)

  • Former County Attorney Thomas is currently being investigated by a State Grand Jury and by the Arizona State Bar for wrong-doing.

  • Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is the most sued sheriff in America. Tens of millions of dollars have been awarded to victims (and victim's families for those who died) of the sheriff´s abuse and millions of tax dollars spent in defending the sheriff´s office, almost always losing the case.

  • Sheriff Joe Arpaio is internationally famous for his Tent City and his use of Chain Gangs. The media routinely portrays the fact that he dresses inmates in pink underwear an feeds them food unfit for human consumption. The media seldom addresses the wide-spread illness, injury, and deaths that occur, nor the fact that over 6,000 of those 10,000 incarcerated prisoners are unsentenced, some of them not even charged with a crime.

  • At present Sheriff Joe Arpaio is under investigation by the House Judiciary Committee, the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department, a Federal Grand Jury, and a State Grand Jury.

  • Books have been written on the human rights violations that exist in the Maricopa County Jail where serious injury and death, not pink underwear and bad food, are the topics these groups examining Sheriff Arpaio are concerned about. People are surprised when they discover that the Maricopa County jail has held a population of 9,500 to 10,000 county residents since 2005 (after the election of County Attorney Thomas) or that the sheriff's Tent City consists of 2,000 people who survive in the open desert with little to no protection for up to two years.

    If you want to learn more about County Attorney Thomas and Sheriff Arpaio, you can read my book, Accidental Felons. There you will breath-taking detail of life in what can only be accurately described the first Prisoner of War Camp on American soil since the Civil War. A place where people routinely perish from any number of avoidable causes. You can also search with the phrase "Daniel Horne Accidental Felons" and find numerous television interviews with me on these subjects.

    These three friends Pierce, Thomas, and Arpaio lunch together and are reputed to form a Troika of sorts, so let me guide you through Arizona´s present day Failed Services Economy.

    A trip to the Arizona State Legislature´s Joint Legislative Budget Committee´s (JLBC) website reveals a financial train wreck in poor fiscal management. Arizona´s economy has historically been built first on agriculture and second on tourism. Visitors coming here to vacation, see Arizona's natural wonders, and then returning home after leaving a hefty amount of money behind in the form of sales taxes has always been critical to Arizona's economy. Income taxes are a big source of revenue for Arizona governments and personal income tax forms 80 percent of the total income tax collected. As Maricopa County is where most of Arizona´s workforce is located, we can apply the assumption that is where Arizona´s core income tax revenues come from. As Maricopa County is home to Arizona´s major Airport (Sky Harbor) its major Convention Centers, its Sports Complexes, and Arizona State University, it is reasonable to assume that much of Arizona´s sales tax revenues also come from this geographic area of the state. Remembering the above three Maricopa County politicians, look at the two charts below from the JLBC.

    State Tax Source Annual Change, Income Tax

    State Tax Source Annual Change, Sales Tax

    Remember that County Attorney Andrew Thomas assumed office in January 2005, when income tax revenues reversed their direction. And, that within a year after that (known as economic lag), sales tax revenues also began a continuing trend of collapse.

    Looking at the top nine items on this agricultural-tourist state´s current budget, you see a monumental growth in the state´s Medicaid (AHCCCS) budget. As a finance professional, I take a conservative 10 percent of that Medicaid budget and impute it to the Corrections budget to more accurately reflect the "true cost" of The Services Economy with such extraordinary focus on Judicial Services in the state. When I correct for "true cost", the Department of Corrections is the number two driver of government spending for the entire state, superseded only by the K-12 education budget. With opportunity like this, is it any wonder the for-profit prison industry has lobbied so heavily in Arizona? (Author's Note: While Arizona is the case study in this article, these sort of examples exist in the legal system, the medical system, the social welfare system, and other artificially grown segments of The Services Economy too.)

    9 largest AZ Budgets

    Recall, I am examining a case study of a state whose number one product in its GDP is Agriculture and number two is Tourism. Yet, I see nothing to reflect any effort by the state to promote agriculture, parks and recreation, or fund the state´s Department of Commerce. Nothing to show any effort to reduce crime through programs that might add to the tax base and reverse its downward trend in lost sales tax.

    During the period 2004 to 2010, County Attorney Andrew Thomas´s policies eventually began incarcerating people at twice the rate they are moving to Arizona.

    During that time, the media repeatedly reported Arizona as one of the fastest growing states in the United States. What I did not hear was that Arizona grew its crop of prisoners at double the rate it was growing its taxpayers.

    9 people a day sent to prison

    Richare (Rick) Romley was county attorney prior to Andrew Thomas. His policies were tough and he is a staunch Conservative Republican. He retired in 2004. In 2008, Rick Romley came out of retirement in television ads to ask Arizona voters to vote for the Democratic challenger rather than the Republican incumbent, Andrew Thomas, for County Attorney because of Thomas' consistent abuse of power.

    I have postulated that a Failed Services Economy in Arizona has created a collapsing government because it has cannibalized on its population to the extreme that it destroyed its tax base while increasing the size and cost of government. In 2009 the Arizona Legislature was forced to sell all tax-payer-owned assets (reverse mortgages) to private investors, becoming renters to fund the state´s general operations beginning in 2010.

    Looking at the figures on the X-axis in the chart below you can see the dramatic deficits in billions of dollars that the state began running in 2006 (FY07) and the drastic flattening of tax revenues that also occurred at the same time. This chart is in dollars where as the above graphs were on a percent basis. What these three charts indicate together is that the declines in revenues on a percent basis were a leading indicator foreshadowing economic deficits to come. Here you can clearly see just how catastrophic Arizona's Failed Services Economy has affected the state.

    Graph Showing AZ's growing budget deficit

    These deficits in 2010 would be even worse were it not for the fact that the federal government bailed out Arizona in like measure to its bank bailouts. Below is a chart of a spending plan for the moneys in the 2010 budget. $776 million of the $1.1 billion dollar´s estimated to be spent in FY2010 is the federal government bailout of Medicaid and the K-12 school system. It´s a one-time fix.

    Graph Showing AZ's use of Budget money

    So where does Arizona go from here? I have analyzed one state that bought heavily into the Failed Services Economy´s judicial sector hook, line and sinker. It has arrested and incarcerated much of its own tax base and scared those living outside the state to the point that the marketing message of a tourist Mecca has been overshadowed by the constant bleat that Arizona is a dangerous place to visit and a dangerous place to live. The smaller, less prosperous, counties in Arizona (those who produce agricultural products and offer natural tourist attractions) suffer deeper than Maricopa County. Today, their small governments are heavily lobbied by the For-Profit Prison Corporations to build yet more prison complexes as a means of creating jobs—something Arizona´s politicians desperately need.

    I forecast that Arizona will begin to visibly collapse as early as the next 18 to 24 months. A truism in Finance, as well as in nature, is that collapse is a catastrophic and sudden event. It is that the timing of a collapse, not the likelihood of its occurrence, that is difficult to establish. Growth and recovery on the other hand are slow, plodding, long-term processes. An arduous climb back to prosperity does not come quickly and it requires a lot of sacrifice to get there—in the case of The Failed Services Economy, it could be generations of sacrifice.

    The American Chronicle, California Chronicle, Los Angeles Chronicle, World Sentinel, and affiliates are online magazines for national, international, state, and local news. We also provide opinion and feature articles. We have over 5,000 contributors, over 100,000 articles, and over 11 million visitors annually.