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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AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Private Prison Watchdogs and AZ Department of Corrections: Oversight Needed.

Here's my best resource on the private prison industry. Contact these guys if you have any questions about what's really going on here in Arizona. If you want, Ken will put you on alist-serve he runs with news on prison privatization around the world.



August 25, 2010 – Private Corrections Working Group

For Immediate Release

Watchdog Group Calls for Major Overhaul of Private Prison Oversight After Audit Finds “Serious Security Lapses” Led to Escape from Private Prison in Arizona

“A door to a dormitory that was supposed to be locked had been propped open with a rock, helping the inmates escape.”

Phoeniz, AZ – Today, the Private Corrections Working Group (PCWG), a not-for-profit organization that exposes the problems of and educates the public about for-profit private corrections, called for overhaul of the Arizona Department of Corrections’ (ADOC) oversight of the for-profit prison industry, including:

An immediate halt to all bidding processes involving private prison operators and a moratorium on new private prison beds

• Hold public hearings during the special session to address the problems with for-profit prisons in Arizona

• Enact other cost-cutting measures that not only save money but enhance public safety, like earned release credits, amending truth in sentencing, and restoring judicial discretion.

This action came about after the ADOC released a security audit on August 19th concerning the July 30 escape of three dangerous prisoners from a private prison in Kingman operated by Management and Training Corp. (MTC) (Coincidentally, that same day the last escapee and an accomplice, John McCluskey and Casslyn Mae Welch, were captured without incident at a campground in eastern Arizona. The other two escaped prisoners, Tracy Province and Daniel Renwick, had been caught previously in Wyoming and Colorado).\

Ken Kopczynski, executive director of PCWG, condemned MTC for the numerous security failures that led to the July 30 escape.

“If MTC had properly staffed the facility, properly trained their employees and properly maintained security at the Kingman prison, this escape would not have occurred. But because MTC is a private company that needs to generate profit, and therefore cut costs related to staffing, training and security, three dangerous inmates were able to escape and at least two innocent victims are dead as a result,” Kopczynski observed.

“That is part of the cost of prison privatization that MTC and other private prison firms don’t want to talk about.”

The murders of an Oklahoma couple, Gary and Linda Hass, whose burned bodies were found in New Mexico on August 4, were tied to McCluskey, Welch and Province.

While MTC said it took responsibility for the escape, vice-president Odie Washington acknowledged the company could not prevent future escapes. “Escapes occur at both public and private” prisons, he stated, ignoring the fact that most secure facilities do not experience any escapes – particularly escapes as preventable as the one at MTC’s Kingman prison.

According to the ADOC security audit, the prison’s perimeter fence registered 89 alarms over a 16-hour period on the day the escape occurred, most of them false. MTC staff failed to promptly check the alarms – sometimes taking over an hour to respond – and light bulbs on a control panel that showed the status of the perimeter fence were burned out. “The system was not maintained or calibrated,” said ADOC Director Charles Ryan.

Further, a perimeter patrol post was not staffed by MTC, and according to a news report from the Arizona Daily Star, “a door to a dormitory that was supposed to be locked had been propped open with a rock, helping the inmates escape.”

Additionally, MTC officials did not promptly notify state corrections officials following the escape and high staff turnover at the facility had resulted in inexperienced employees who were ill-equipped to detect and prevent the break-out. According to MTC warden Lori Lieder, 80 percent of staff at the Kingman prison were new or newly promoted.

Although the ADOC was supposed to be monitoring its contract with MTC to house state prisoners, the security flaws cited in the audit went undetected for years. Ryan faulted human error and “serious security lapses” at the private prison.

Arizona corrections officials removed 148 state prisoners from the MTC facility after the escape due to security concerns. “I lacked confidence in this company’s ability,” said ADOC Director Ryan.

Although it’s a small corporation, since 1995 over a dozen prisoners have escaped from MTC facilities in Utah, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and Eagle Mountain, California –where two inmates were murdered during a riot in 2003.


The Private Corrections Working Group ( is a non-profit citizen watch-dog organization that educates the public about the significant dangers and pitfalls associated with the privatization of correctional services. PCI maintains an online collection of news reports and other resources related to the private prison industry, and believes that for-profit prisons have no place in a free and democratic society.

For further information, please contact:

Ken Kopczynski, Executive Director Alex Friedmann, President

Private Corrections Working Group Private Corrections Institute

1114 Brandt Drive 5331 Mt. View Road #130

Tallahassee, FL 32308 Antioch, TN 37013

850-980-0887 802-257-1342 / 615-495-6568

Frank Smith, Field Organizer

Private Corrections Working Group

390 SE 110 Avenue

Bluff City, Kansas
620-967-4616 620-441-8882 (cell)

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