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 19, 2010

Kingman Prison: What went wrong?

(FYI: McCluskey and Welch arrested 8/19/10 post)

So, here's the
Arizona Republic's coverage of the Kingman prison security report. They only link to one section of it in that article, though, so here's the direct line to the ADC's cover sheet, which gives us a number of documents, including the security assessment, a 14-page corrective action plan, and an interesting 11-page CYA piece by the ADC, (also known as a "fact sheet" on the prison's history), explaining their prisoner classification and placement processes - noting pointedly when the Attorney General signed off on a plan or policy (likely because Goddard has been giving them grief over this).

I'm kind of confused by contradictions in the CYA document and the security assessment, when it comes to the "loading" (like cattle) of new prisoners at Kingman this spring. The former says explicitly that there was a transition from minimum to medium custody level in April, but the latter says that the April arrivals were minimum security prisoners. Does the left hand of the ADC know what the right one is doing? If not, how can they keep on top of those contracts?

In the AZ Republic article, ADC director Ryan pledges to think carefully about how the state proceeds with those 5,000 new private prison beds that towns like Globe have been so hungry for. They just want to lock up people who really don't need to be behind bars - those prisoners who don't pose a risk to the public to begin with. I find that pretty distasteful, but I suppose every town will want someone else to take the mean prisoners while they keep the good ones who can tend the city parks. We'd still rather invest tens of thousands of dollars in incarcerating those folks after they get in trouble with the law than spend a fraction of that on the psychiatric or substance abuse treatment or quality education they need to avoid a prison term in this state.

With politicians and "community leaders" pushing the minimum security private prison idea on all these little towns as their only economic salvation, it's no wonder we haven't voted the legislature out of office for criminalizing everyone. Heads up, folks - they'll be coming to lock up your kids, next - possibly even for doing a good deed, too, like rescuing someone they found dying in the desert. They'd better check their papers before they take anyone to a hospital.

Anyway, you can read the articles and documents for yourself - it's pretty appalling how Kingman was run. That doesn't get the ADC off the hook, though. They go to the other extreme all too often, actually, caging, isolating, neglecting and brutalizing sick and helpless prisoners while the gangs run amok among the rest. They can sound good on paper, but in truth they spend a lot of time and money defending their right to abuse and neglect prisoners. To the best of my knowledge, no one in an Arizona State-run prison lives in the kind of lax environment you see at Kingman in that security assessment (one of the prisoners actually yelled "Fuck ADC" at the visitors. That's on page one. Bet you he got a major violation for that one).

The head honchos at Kingman have already resigned, but a lot of little heads are about to roll, too - probably poor area residents working the lowest wages to do the hardest jobs. They were clearly never adequately trained to take this kind of population on. Too bad the ADC missed that in their March 2010 audit of the place (back to the AZ Republic for that).

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