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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AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Friday, September 23, 2011

ASH: Sentencing reform, not more prisons, is smart on crime.

He's not the abolitionist that I am, but I truly love this man (I hope no one holds that against him). His piece here speaks for itself.

----------------from the Arizona Republic------------------

by Representative Cecil Ash

Sept. 23, 2011

While headlines in 13 other states read, "State reduces prison capacity," the headline in Arizona will soon say, "State awarding bids to private prisons for 5,000 new beds."

As a conservative Republican, I support the privatization of many government services: in schools, where the consumers of the product are its purchasers; in construction, where the project is open to public scrutiny; in maintenance, where performance can be observed or measured. In each of these cases, the provider's goal of a profit is subject to the forces of the competitive marketplace.

With private prisons, however, the consumers of the product (the inmates) have no say in its quality. The free market is not in play. They cannot take their business and go elsewhere.

The goal of the private prison - profit - is antithetical to the goals of the state: incarceration, rehabilitation and the reduction of recidivism. In fact, the less rehabilitation, the more recidivism, the greater numbers to be incarcerated, the better for the private-prison industry's bottom line.

Inherent in the argument to use private prisons is the claim that they operate more cost-effectively than state-run institutions. Studies have not shown this to be true.

Nor does the state's experience last summer in Kingman, when three dangerous prisoners escaped, suggest that they are more secure.

The exact amount of the expenditure for these 5,000 new beds is unknown. But it will be in the millions of dollars.

There is another alternative: Re-examine the provisions of our criminal code. Here are some options:

- Grant medical parole to prisoners whose physical condition prevents them from being a threat to public safety. For example, Arizona houses a female inmate who has become blind in prison. Is there really any reason to continue her incarceration?

- Restore incentives for prisoners to earn earlier release. Currently, all prisoners must serve 85 percent of their sentence, leaving the last 15 percent to be served under community supervision. Is there any reason that inmates who have a good disciplinary record and who have taken all the rehab programs available and otherwise abided by the rules should not be released at 60 percent of their sentence and be under community supervision for the last 40 percent of their sentence?

- Give judges discretion to deviate from mandated sentences where appropriate. In Payson last month, the criminal code required the judge to give a 73-year-old man a 90-year sentence for a non-violent first offense. The judge felt probation was more appropriate.

- Provide for more rehab and treatment programs for substance abusers, even where people may have failed the first time. (How many people quit smoking on their first attempt?)

- Allow DUI defendants who agree to refrain from alcohol and wear a GPS bracelet that indicates alcohol consumption to remain on home arrest rather than serve time in prison. Appropriate exceptions could apply where there has been serious injury or where the person has violated the probation by consuming alcohol.

The implementation of any or all of the above options could save the state millions of dollars, negating the need for 5,000 new prison beds.

I would then use these savings to restore funding to the developmentally disabled population and to perform long-delayed maintenance on existing prison facilities.

There may be problems with any one or all of the above recommendations. But Texas recently avoided spending $750 million on more beds by restructuring its criminal-justice system and simultaneously saw its crime rate drop. This is happening in a number of other states. Arizona should do the same.

Cecil Ash, a Mesa Republican, represents District 18 in the Legislature.

1 comment:

Random Girl said...

  I just wanted to say that this was an excellent post and an interesting article. At this time last year I myself was in prison, and it was disconcerting to see how many women were there for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th times.
   And there are so many women who're in prison right now, that I don't believe really belong to be in there. (In particular, women who are first-time offenders doing time for non-violent class 4, 5, and/or 6 felonies; a class 6 felony being more or less equivalent to a class 1 misdemeanor.)
   There have got to be better ways to punish such offenders. Ways that don't involve spending thousands and thousands of tax dollars on keeping them in prison. Tax dollars could just as easily be going towards programs that might help would-be inmates from returning to the same negative cycles that keep landing them in prison again and again.

   That being said I also just want to mention that I have a real appreciation for this blog. Your dedication to it is both commendable and inspirational.... In your own rite you are a much needed voice for those who can't speak for themselves. Thank you for that. Great work! Keep it up!

      Random Girl (Me)
    Meth and Me; Diary of a Tweaker (My Blog)