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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Monday, November 22, 2010

Cut prisons or schools? It shouldn’t be this hard

From: Arizona Daily Wildcat

By Kristina Bui
Published: Friday, November 19, 2010

Arizona's facing an ugly budget battle, and higher education is looking like just another drafted casualty in the war against deficits.

But don't worry about it, Rep. John Kavanagh. It's totally cool. I've only been hanging out in college to kill time, since I couldn't find anything to watch on TV. I didn't actually want that whole degree thing anyway.

According to Arizona Daily Star reporter Becky Pallack, the budget cut could be as large as $200 million. Making up that loss would force the UA to cut 25 percent of its entire payroll, or raise tuition by $9,000, roughly doubling the cost of in-state tuition. Neither will be met with support by the public, but the Legislature refuses to explore other options.

Kavanagh, the Arizona House Appropriations chairman, told the Daily Star that cutting university funding was one of a limited number of options for solving the state's deficit problem. The state universities haven't cut out enough administrative bloat, he said, and they would be able to compensate for the loss in funding by simply raising tuition costs some more.

There is nothing new about a politician who brushes aside education as soon as money gets tight. Nor is anyone surprised by the earnest student who begs him to hear cheesy variations of "America's students are America's future."

What is new is the politician who is also an educator. Kavanagh is a professor of criminal justice at Scottsdale Community College and a former instructor at Arizona State University. I respect Kavanagh's position as a legislator, but wonder about his perspective as a teacher. All jokes about his affiliation with ASU aside, his rationalization for cutting university funding because tuition can make up for the loss is baffling. As a professor, Kavanagh knows firsthand who's affected by tuition increases.

Students are being prepared to enter a workforce, one that has to be educated and skilled to attract job-creating businesses to the state. Ironically, such businesses would shape a healthy economy. Strange how that works out.

Rep. Bill Konopnicki, who will leave the Legislature in January, and Rep. Cecil Ash proposed an alternative: Cut funding for state prisons by reconsidering sentencing laws. Ash has vowed to propose legislation next year that would loosen mandatory-sentencing laws to save Arizona millions of dollars spent on non-violent criminals.

Read the rest here.

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