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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Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Kingman escape: Dollars and Nonsense

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

Here's the latest AP article out there about the Kingman escape. I almost posted this one that had Goddard blaming the escape on Brewer's budget cuts, too, but I've already addressed that claim as bogus.

God help us if Goddard's agenda is to increase the ADC's funding for private prisons now, instead of decreasing the number of people we incarcerate. He should be focusing on restorative justice projects and preventative measures, like helping more youth access college. Please don't go there again, Terry. This escape happened at a place that's still profiting from our contracts with them - the prisoners and guards may be hurting, but MTC investors are doing just fine, I'm sure. The prison management was sloppy and their staff may be complicit, but MTC is not suffering from poverty like our public schools are. Slap them with fines and cancel their contract instead.


Arizona inmate escape exposes security flaws

By FELICIA FONSECA (AP) – 8 hours ago

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The three inmates didn't seem to arouse the least bit of suspicion when they sneaked out of their dorm rooms and rushed to the perimeter of the medium-security prison.

Alarms that were supposed to go off didn't. No officers noticed anything amiss. And no one was apparently paying attention when the violent criminals sliced open fences with wire cutters and vanished into the Arizona desert in their orange jumpsuits.

The series of blunders surrounding the escape and the state's practice of housing hardened murderers and other violent criminals in private, medium-security prisons have placed Arizona corrections officials under intense scrutiny in recent days.

Two of the fugitives remained at large Wednesday as the manhunt entered its fifth day. Authorities believe the inmates have left Arizona and were heading east with a girlfriend who allegedly threw the wire cutters over a fence and fled with two of them.

Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan said he met Wednesday with representatives of the Utah-based prison company Management and Training Corp. and that they "have been assured that MTC is committed to addressing and correcting the security deficiencies that contributed to the escape."

Ryan said a corrections security team at the prison was completing a comprehensive evaluation, and he would meet with MTC next week to finalize a plan.

Investigators were focused on how the inmates managed to go undetected for several hours around the time of the escape and why three violent criminals were allowed in a medium-security prison in the first place.

An Arizona lawmaker said the state needs to overhaul its inmate classification system, which allowed the prisoners to get put into the medium-security lockup despite their violent pasts. Corrections officials said their prison behavior was good enough that they downgraded the inmates' threat risk, clearing the way for placement in the facility.

"One thing we might have to look at is saying if you're convicted of a crime that is as serious as murder, that you are always considered a high risk," said David Lujan, a state lawmaker who unsuccessfully sought to regulate the types of inmates held in private prisons. "They may be a moderate risk to the staff when they're inside. But when you see what happens outside afterward, obviously, they're more than a moderate risk to the public."

The Arizona State Prison in Kingman sits amid nothing but a dusty field, three miles from a major east-west interstate highway.

It opened in 2004 and was designed to house repeat drug and alcohol offenders and set them on a path to rehabilitation, but eventually grew to include more serious offenders in a separate unit. That was where Daniel Renwick, 36, Tracy Province, 42, and John McCluskey, 45, plotted their escape.

Province was serving a life sentence for murder and robbery, including allegations that he stabbed his victim multiple times over money. Renwick was serving two 22-year sentences for two counts of second-degree murder, and McCluskey was doing 15 years for attempted murder, aggravated assault and discharge of a firearm. Authorities originally said McCluskey was convicted of murder, when it was in fact attempted murder.

Province has a dozen prison disciplinary infractions since 1996 — many of them drug-related. He worked in the prison's kitchen, while Province and McCluskey worked in the prison dog kennel, where they trained the animals for adoption.

The trio last was accounted for at 4 p.m. Friday, said Department of Corrections spokesman Barrett Marson. Staff noticed the men missing in a head count and after electronic sensors along the perimeter fence sounded around 9 p.m.

The local sheriff's office wasn't notified of the escape until 10:19 p.m., and state corrections officials weren't called until 11:37 p.m.

"I think there was a concern by everyone that it was after the fact," said Trish Carter, a spokeswoman for the Mohave County Sheriff's Office. "Time is of the essence during this type of incident. The faster you get there, the more likely you're able to catch these inmates who escaped the facility."

The three hopped a fence in the area of the dog kennel and used wire cutters that McCluskey's fiancee, who also is his cousin, had thrown over a fence to cut through two perimeter fences and flee.

Carl Stuart, a spokesman for MTC, indicated that the dog program might have to be suspended because of the incident. He declined to comment further on security at the 3,508-bed prison.

Province, McCluskey and his fiancee, 44-year-old Casslyn Mae Welch of Mesa, kidnapped two semi-truck drivers at gunpoint in Kingman and used the big rig to flee to Flagstaff, police said. Renwick was captured Sunday after an early morning shootout with an officer in Colorado.

Ryan has said "lax" security may have created an opportunity for the men to escape, and authorities are looking into whether prison staff members might have aided the inmates. Ryan also has said the prison contractor will "be on the hook" for costs associated with finding the fugitives.

The fugitives were among more than 115 inmates housed at the medium-security unit where others convicted murderers were held. Under their classification, they were considered a moderate risk to the public and staff. They weren't allowed to work outside the prison and were limited in their movement within the prison walls.

The men were in orange jumpsuits when they escaped, which should have been easy to spot against the desert backdrop, said Kristen Green of Phoenix, who visits an inmate at the prison.

"Guards should be on top of this, people in the control room should be on top of this," she said. "There's no way that they should have missed these guys, three of them going through a fence? This was pretty well planned."

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