Fight the Treatment Industrial Complex

Fight the Treatment Industrial Complex by supporting the AFSC- Arizona campaign

Fight the Treatment Industrial Complex by supporting the AFSC- Arizona campaign
AFSC-Arizona staff are amazing advocates for prisoners - and as such, are true blessings to our communities. Spend time on their site - lots of resources.

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)

AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Monday, June 13, 2011

Middle Ground re: ADC "visitor application fee"

This is a thoughtful response to a concern many folks have been expressing about the new fees being imposed by the state, balancing their budget on the backs of prisoners and their families already being bled dry by profiteers. Thanks to Donna Hamm for putting this out there...check out her website at Middle Ground Prison Reform for more info on dealing with the state prisons.


Date: Fri, Jun 10, 2011 at 7:10 PM
Subject: FW: RE-WRITE needed: DO 911/Relevant portions of of SB 1621

Middle Grounders:

The information below is self-explanatory. No need to respond to this email; it is sent to you for information purposes only. Our preliminary legal research indicates that the new fee for visitor background checks (which DOC has now dubbed as a "visitor application fee" for what we believe are very specious reasons) is an unconstitutional "special tax." We are in the early stages of preparing a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment against Charles Ryan, DOC Director. We hope to have the lawsuit prepared, written and filed prior to the effective date of the new fees, July 20, 2011. However, there is no way that the lawsuit will be resolved by that time. The "relief" we will be seeking is (1) to have the court declare that the statute is unconstitutional and imposes a "special tax" on prison visitors; and, (2) that all fees thus far collected are to be refunded. The court will NOT grant us a preliminary injunction (prior to implementation of the policy/fee) because the imposition of the fee does not represent "irreparable harm," which is the standard of law that must be met.

Please carefully read the information below. As you can see, we have demanded that the DOC re-write DO 911, effective 7/20/11 because they aren't even following the law that is stated in the new statute. By naming the fee a "visitation application fee" instead of what the law calls it -- a BACKGROUND CHECK FEE -- we believe that the DOC is trying to avoid having to perform actual background checks on all visitors because it will overwhelm their resources. Keep in mind that NONE of the fee monies collected are allowed to be used by the DOC to off-set the actual costs (whatever they are) for background checks. Instead, 100% of the monies collected MUST go to the Building Renewal Fund (to repair roofs, fire safety systems, locks, etc.) Note: ALL taxpayers benefit from the alleged safety that is created for the state by locking up prisoners; prisoner families should not have to pay the costs of building maintenance of prison facilities on their own. That's what this law attempts to do.

Right now, we don't need Plaintiffs for the lawsuit, but if we do need volunteers, we will put out the word and obtain names.

Thanks for understanding that this email is being distributed to more than 2,000 people and we can't possibly respond to individual questions from each one of you. Feel free to pass this information along to at least ten (10) people. If they want to be included on our Middle Ground E-mail alert list, ask them to send us an email with the subject line marked: ADD To Email Alert List.

Donna Leone (Hamm)
Criminal Justice Consultant
Executive Director - Middle Ground Prison Reform


Subject: RE-WRITE needed: DO 911/Relevant portions of of SB 1621
Date: Fri, 10 Jun 2011 15:54:39 -0700

Mr. Ryan,

As we discussed, I am writing to provide you with concerns and objections to the implementation of SB 1621, specifically that part which provides for a fee for background checks for visitors, but which will actually be used (100%) to fund an Building Renewal Fund wholly operated by the DOC. I noted on the DOC website that you have already issued revised DO 911, effective 7/20/11, but for various reasons -- particularly because it is illegally written from the start -- it will have to be revised.


Please note the underlined portions of the above paragraph. The recently revised Visitation policy, effective July 20, 2011, and known as DO 911, states at 1.2, Visitation Application Fee, A one'time, non-refundable, $25.00 application fee must be paid at the time the application is submitted for all adult visitors. . . . All fees collected shall be applied to the Building Renewal Fund.

Mr. Ryan, there is no such thing in Arizona law which authorizes a "Visitation Application Fee." As noted above, the fee is imposed for "conducting background checks." This is an important distinction and must be rectified.

Although I, myself, am a potential visitor to the prison facilities throughout the state, I decied to poll our Middle Ground email "alert" list (which consists of about 2,000 valid addresses) to see what thoughts and concerns others have about this background check fee. In no order of importance and in no order of frequency of an item being mentioned, those concerns -- along with those specifically identified by Middle Ground -- are listed below.

As I previously mentioned to you, this list of concerns -- even if taken into account by the Department in re-writing the policy which will govern this fee -- in no way constitutes an endorsement or support of the fee. We are adamantly opposed to any fee imposed on potential visitors and believe it to be an unconstitutional special tax.

1. The amount of the fee is of grave concern. DPS charges only $5 for a background check for any person who properly identifies him/herself. The $25 fee as identified in DO 911 is exhorbitant.

2. Visitors have indicated they will expect to be provided a written or digital receipt for paying the fee or fees. There is no indication of providing this reasonable information to anyone who pays money to the Department contained within DO 911. This is critical since any subsequent re-incarceration of a released inmate is not supposed to result in another fee for his previously-paid visitors. The Department may lose a computer record which confirms receipt of the previous payment. A written receipt to the person who pays the fee is expected and required.

4. Since visitors are required to pay for a background check (and not, as the Department has disingenuously renamed it, a "Visitor application fee") , they will expect to receive a copy of the results of the background check. The background checks are confidential, but not to the party on whom the check is being performed (see DPS rules and statutory authorities). This document will have to be mailed by the Department to an address provided by the applicant. Persons who pay for a product or "service" provided by the State are entitled to receive the product they paid for. The statute authorizes a fee for a background check only. There is no statutory fee authorized for a "visitor application."

5. On the date the fee provision goes into effect, will all persons currently approved as visitors be denied visitation until they pay the fee and have a new background check performed? There are already extraordinary delays in clearing visitors through background checks (although the process itself only takes a few minutes, according to DPS). Will all visitors to the Arizona DOC have to have their visitation suspended until a new check is finalized?

6. Will additional staff be hired to timely process all the new and/or updated background checks that will need to be performed?

7. If a person visits more than one inmate (multiple family members incarcerated), is there still a one-time background check fee?

8. How was the $25 fee arrived at by DOC? DPS charges only $5 for a background check fee.

9. Why are there no exemptions (except for lawyers and their agents) for the background check fee? What about truly indigent persons?

10. Once a previous visitor turns age 18, will they have to pay the background check fee upon turning 18 even if they are already visiting as a child?

11. What reports does the Department intend to prepare and distribute which reflects how the collected monies are being spent (on building renewal)?

12. If someone lives in an out-of-state location and has no intention (or means) of visiting, will they still have to pay the fee to become a telephone contact for the prisoner? (The statute says only visitors over the age of 18 will pay the background check fee).

13. How long must a potential visitor wait to be advised whether the application has been approved or not? Will approvals be significantly delayed as a result of all the new background checks that must be performed to comply with this statute?

14. The DOC receipt sent to the applicant must include assurances that the privacy of the applicant is strictly protected and that the information is not sold to any other agency, company or used for any other purpose that a background check for visitation approval.

Please advise what you intend to do to address the above reasonable concerns, as well as to revise DO 911 to correctly identify the reason for the fee (background check).

Donna Leone (Hamm)
Criminal Justice Consultant
Executive Director - Middle Ground Prison Reform



Anonymous said...

This post is both interesting and thought provoking as it plainly illustrates the lack of research, prepardness and attention to detail such a task of policy writing takes in order to be in compliance with federal, state and and local laws as well as other policies and procedures..I agree that DO 911 needs to be redone. It appears the ADOC was so quick to insert the new language it forgot to follow the laws of the state. Perhaps, if the agency would have conducted an impact statement that would have revealed some of these concerns, they would have been provided with the proper guidance to rewrite the policy and be in compliance with requirements of such background checks. Great questions and good presentation..I am curious on how the ADOC responds as I have been personnally involved in these background checks for many years and when I say "overwhelmed with background checks" would be an understatement but truthful. The ADOC would have to hire clerks to maintain the flow and timely processing of such a case load and all the required tasks associated with the processing and giving a receipt and a copy of such background check.. I doubt that it can be done without excessive time delays in approving visitation or phone lists. Great work to keep the ADOC follow the existing laws. Sometimes we just need to slow down and not be in such a hurry to collect fees that are regulated by laws and not personal desires or motives.

Anonymous said...

These fees are of great concern to my family and I as we already live hours away from the prison my brother is in and it already costs an arm and leg to visit. My brother recently told me that starting July 10th? ADOC will be taking 1% out of all money orders sent in to the inmates. Is this legal being that they already tax them from when they work? I don't feel that is right but don't know where to start looking as to if it is legal or not. Please help.