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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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Fields of Dreams in Flames: AZ Private Prisons.

(FYI: McCluskey and Welch arrested in AZ 8/19/10 post. All escapees back in custody.)

Here's the lovely trio, folks, still on the lam. Last I read (30 minutes ago), they are believed to be heading east out of the state (so check the other three directions now). I'm not big on calling the cops in most cases, but I don't believe these fellows are rehabilitated, and their accomplice, Casslyn Mae Welch, is apparently rather disturbed. If you happen to see them driving through a Mickey D's, please do call the police.

Also, to clear something up: I heard some nonsense on the radio today that these guys were in medium security at Kingman because of "good behavior". Look up their ADC records -
Province (in on two consecutive life sentences for 1st degree murder and robbery, which could have sent him to death row) has more major violations than any prisoner I know (and look at that smirk on his face). McCluskey (who got only 15 years for attempted murder, and aggravated assault, among other things - while on parole from PA) had just started doing his time a little over a year ago - at which time he was automatically assessed as a medium security (level 3) risk.

Imagine that. Recall that we're shelling out big bucks to keep a 75-year old innocent man, William Macumber (note how his record indicates the clemency board recommended pardon) locked up tight in ASPC-Douglas - presumably until he dies or we get a governor with courage. Then there's 56 year-old Anant Tripati (in failing health) at ASPC-Tucson/ Manzanita still facing another 34 years for non-violent crimes he maintains he's innocent of. When not in the hole for being a vexatious litigant, Tripati's still surrounded by at least three razor-wired fences (and he was initially assessed as a maximum security risk, lest he escape and defraud or sue some poor soul).

Both Tripati and Macumber are considered medium security risks - like these two guys still on the run were. Oddly, though, these two young sociopathic killers (McCluskey just missed his target, that's all) are loose because our marvelous system for managing criminals thought they were safe enough to farm out to the private prison industry, which Ryan has publicly said himself can't handle dangerous populations as well as the state. So how does the prison industrial complex - from the cops to the cages - constitute any semblance of justice or assurance of public safety? I don't see it.

As best as I can tell, the only difference between the state-run and privately operated prisons is the profit motive (even that's questionable, since the ADC sucks up nearly 10% of our state budget, some of which it turns around and uses to lobby the legislature for tougher criminal sanctions and more prison sentences - someone's getting something out of that).

In any event, security at Kingman wasn't lax because of recent state budget cuts (another excuse I heard on the news today) - it was lax because of competing corporate priorities which always trump prisoner needs, employee safety, and the public good regardless of the health of the economy. That's capitalism at it's finest - that's what Pearce and his buddies (including Brewer) want so much to bring to Arizona's struggling communities: the chance to profit from victimization and misery, at considerable risk, apparently. So much for rehab and crime prevention - we're just going to pack in more private prisons to warehouse people as cheaply as possible. If you're smart, you'll invest now - it's supposed to be recession-proof.

Not that the state prisons are much better for the money we spend there - they're all fire traps, as you may recall, and crumbling to the ground from neglect. They also have their share of staffing problems, overcrowding, inadequate medical services, and so on...but I was just at a medium security ASPC-Tucson yard, and I can't see anyone breaking out of that place - especially not with a posh new development down the road. So, don't believe anything you hear about this incident just yet - there will be more revelations to come, I'm sure. Some may even be true.

Boy, I sure hope you prison town wannabes are giving your Fields of Dreams some serious second thoughts right now...

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