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, March 28, 2011

What Is GEO Group?

by Aarti Shahani

National Public Radio

March 25, 2011

Within the $3 billion private prison industry, GEO Group is the nation's second largest for-profit prison operator. One of its prisons, which is the subject of an NPR News investigation, is now being investigated by the Department of Justice, and a civil rights lawsuit alleges that juvenile inmates are being held in "barbaric and unconstitutional conditions."

A Corporate Corrections Giant

On any given day, there are 1.6 million people serving sentences in state and federal prisons. Eight percent of them are in facilities operated by private companies. In the federal detention system, more than 16 percent of detainees are held in private lockups.

This proportion is projected to grow. According to industry leader Corrections Corporation of America, no state has allocated money to build new state-run prisons in the last year because of budget crises. So some state governments are turning to the private sector to house their prisoners. The private corrections industry maintains that it can build and start up prisons faster, and incarcerate inmates more cheaply than state-run facilities.

Based in Boca Raton, Fla., GEO — formerly Wackenhut Corrections -— is competing with CCA for new contracts. Since 2009, GEO has acquired 7,600 new prison beds, a growth of 10 percent, according to a GEO annual report.

Expansion By Diversification

GEO — which is traded on the New York Stock Exchange — is diversifying more than its competitors, seeking international contracts for prisons in Australia, South Africa and the United Kingdom. At home, it's also following the money into new lines of the corrections business.

The current trend in American criminal justice is to move away from incarceration toward cheaper alternatives like supervised release and treatment. So GEO is buying smaller companies with contracts in psychiatric care, civil immigration detention and electronic ankle monitoring for low-level offenders.

After borrowing cash for each new purchase, GEO's debt grew to $1.5 billion by January, and its credit rating was downgraded to B+.

NPR requested an interview with GEO to discuss its performance, but Pablo Paez, vice president of corporate relations, said in an email that the company declined to comment.

Assessing Its Acquisitions

In August, GEO bought Cornell Companies, America's third largest private prison operation. The acquisition included the troubled Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Mississippi, which is the focus of the NPR report.

GEO has had a rocky reputation in the youth prison business. In 2007, the Texas Youth Commission canceled a contract with GEO to manage the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center after auditors conducted an unannounced visit and found rampant mismanagement.

Barclays Capital, an investment firm that tracks the private prison industry, advised GEO on the Cornell purchase. Manav Patnaik, an analyst at Barclays, says GEO did not necessarily want the Mississippi youth facility. "If they could acquire Cornell without it, they would have. They got it because it was a package deal," he says.

But Patnaik also calls the purchase a "no-brainer" because it included existing revenue streams.

Lawsuits and Justice Department investigations, such as those focused on Walnut Grove, aren't more than a "headline risk," he says. At worst stocks dip on the day of bad press, just to float up again.

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