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, September 2, 2010

AZ In Dark About Private Prison Populations

Way to stay on this, KPHO and Morgan Loew! I had no idea the AZ Department of Corrections was so clueless about who else we have in prisons here. What kind of dolt would block legislation that would hold private prisons accountable for the out-of-state prisoners they house, here, too? (Oh, apparently a well-paid one. We have many such dolts on the private prison payrolls in the Arizona legislature, it would seem)


Lack Of Laws Allows For-Profit Facilities To Stay Quiet About Inmates

Morgan Loew, CBS 5 News

POSTED: 1:57 pm MST August 31, 2010

UPDATED: 3:11 pm MST August 31, 2010

PHOENIX -- A July prison break in Kingman, Ariz., brought a local and national attention to the state's private prisons.

But a CBS 5 News investigation discovered records of inmates in the for-profit facilities of which state Department of Corrections are unaware.

In the early morning of Sept. 17, 2007, two inmates overpowered a guard and used ladders to climb out of a prison in Florence.

Both were convicted murderers, including one who killed a man with a machete, according to prison records.

"I just think they took the opportunity because it was there," said former guard Robert McDonald.

McDonald, who worked at the Florence prison, attributed part of the problem to the fact the facility is a private, for-profit prison.

"Night shift was always the weakest scheduled shift because of staffing," McDonald said.

The surprising fact isn't that the prison break involved the machete murderer, but that neither the Department of Corrections nor any other law enforcement agency in Arizona was aware he was there.

The escapees committed their crimes in Washington state but were sent to a privately-run prison in Arizona that houses out-of-state inmates.

There are at least three of these prisons operating in Arizona, and not even the director of the Arizona Department of Corrections knows who is locked up in them.

The CBS 5 investigation found inmates such as Byran Uyesugi, who was convicted of murdering seven people in Hawaii in 1999, the worst mass murder in the state's history. He is an inmate at a private prison in Eloy.

There is no Arizona law that requires private prisons to report who they hold.

Bill Brotherton was an Arizona state senator in 2006 and sponsored two bills that would have reined in some of the freedom private prisons enjoy.

"One of the pieces of legislation was just to say nobody can import murderers or sexual offenders to the state of Arizona," he said. "You keep your people. We've got enough of our own. We don't want any more."

Neither bill passed, Brotherton said. "I had a hearing on one in committee. Couldn't get a hearing on the other one. They died," he said.

Brotherton found himself against a brick wall the private prison industry has created at the state Capitol.

Records show that from 2001 to 2004 the companies that run private prisons and their lobbyists contributed $77,000 to powerful state lawmakers, and have contributed even more since then.

"These companies have been buying influence in the Legislature for decades, really," said social justice advocate Caroline Isaacs, whose job includes monitoring the industry for the American Friends Service Committee.

She said big state contracts and loose regulations combine to make Arizona the "promised land" of private prisons.

Prison companies are exploring new locations in Globe, Benson, Prescott Valley, Florence, Tucson and the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation.

"They've been very busy running around the state talking to these various town councils and county zoning commissions getting land rezoned for correctional usage," Isaacs said.

A prison break in Kingman in July that drew national attention and a nationwide manhunt for three escaped convicts and an accomplice put a temporary stop to those prison expansion plans.

Even some of the Legislature's top supporters of private prisons now say it's time to enact "some" regulation of prisons that house out-of-state inmates.

State Rep. John Kavanagh said, "I think the major requirement is that we get to ensure that the custody level of the prison matches the custody level of the prisoner."

Kavanagh stopped short of saying there should be limits on who these prisons house in Arizona, which means convicts like the machete murderer from Washington and the mass murderer from Hawaii will continue to call Arizona home.

Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the private prisons that hold inmates from other states, issued a statement that reads, in part:

"We cannot support regulations that would result in the closing of facilities and the loss of hundreds of jobs in Arizona."

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