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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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Terry Stewart: Grassrooots Leadership Hall of Shame.

from the Grassroots Leadership Blog, some insights on former AZ Department of Corrections Director Terry Stewart...


Welcome to The Humpday Hall of Shame – every Wednesday we’ll highlight the private prison industry’s influence on public policy through campaign contributions, lobbying, and the revolving door of public and private corrections.

This week’s Hall of Shame inductee is Terry Stewart, former Arizona Department of Corrections (ADOC) director and current Management and Training Corporation consultant. Over the past several weeks, Stewart has reportedly been at all five community hearings debating bids on the State of Arizona’s RFP for a 5,000-bed for-profit prison expansion. MTC is one of four private prison corporations attempting to secure a contract under the bid for the new private prisons.

Terry Stewart has quite the resume. He served as ADOC director from 1995 until 2002. His second-in-command was none other than current ADOC director Charles Ryan, the man who is now in charge of awarding the contracts for the new private prison beds. In those days, dissatisfied correctional officers referred to Stewart as “The Emperor” and Deputy Director Charles Ryan as “Darth Vader,” according to an article in the Phoenix New Times (“The Vampire Strikes Back,” August 8, 2002).

As ADOC Director, Stewart was a proponent of prison privatization claiming that private facilities would be cheaper to build (though a later New York Times article found they are in fact more expensive than public facilities to operate). Under Stewart’s leadership, the department was sued by the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division over a pattern of sexual assault against female prisoners by male prison guards. The suit was settled after the Arizona Department of Corrections agreed to make major changes to prison practices (“Arizona DOC Settlement Agreement Addresses Abuse of Female Inmates,” Corrections Professional, April 23, 1999).

After his stint at the DOC, Stewart went to work as a prison privatization consultant, starting his own firm, Advanced Correctional Management (ACM). ACM pushed prison privatization as early as 2003, only a year after Stewart’s departure from ADOC (The Associated Press, “Former Dept. of Corrections chief involved with firm bidding to build new prison,” August 9, 2003). Stewart was also supported a proposal to build a for-profit prison in Mexico for Arizona inmates of Mexican nationality that was eventually defeated, in part because of Mexican government opposition.

However, Stewart’s international prison work was not over. Stewart was a part of a team, including former MTC chief Lane McCotter, that set up the Iraqi prison system, including the Abu Ghraib facility that would later become synonymous with prisoner abuse. Senator Chuck Schumer called for an investigation into how Stewart won the job in Iraq given his “shocking record of tolerating prisoner abuse” while in Arizona. The charges were investigated by the Department of Justice, though officials failed to fault Stewart for directly abusing detainees in Iraqi prisons.

Despite the bad press, Stewart continues pushing prison projects. In addition to his current work for MTC, Stewart has also contributed at least $1,950 to a host of right-wing Arizona candidates and causes over the years, including pro-privatization and SB 1070 supporters like State Representative Andy Biggs, who we profiled last week, as well as State Senator Al Melvin and State Senator Sylvia Allen, who was quoted in the Arizona Republic (Bob Ortega, “Winslow mostly open to prison plan,” August 12, 2011) as saying, “”I personally will cry if my district doesn’t get part of these 5,000 beds.”

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