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, September 19, 2011

DHS' "Secure Communities" program damages communities

Got the lead on this one from Bender's Immigration Bulletin, which is packed full of info updated daily about immigration laws and practices. The actual article below comes from Immigration Impact. Note that some members of the task force felt the recommendations didn't go far enough to address the problems with the Secure Communities program.

Anyone following the saga surrounding Secure Communities—DHS’s flawed enforcement program that runs fingerprints through federal databases—can tell you that the program has been ripe with controversy since its inception in 2008. As DHS began to stray from the program’s original focus on criminal aliens—state and city leaders, police chiefs, immigration advocates, and congressional members blasted the agency for casting too broad a net and for its dubious implementation process. After tensions reached a boiling point in June, ICE Director John Morton created a 20-member task force to address growing concerns. This week, that task force submitted its final recommendations in a report to the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC)—recommendations that some former task force members say don’t go far enough.

In the report released today, the task force—which initially consisted of 20 members representing immigration advocates, law enforcement leaders and union members—found that “fingerprint identification through the program should no longer lead federal agents to deport immigrants arrested by local police officers for minor traffic violations.”

The report also criticized immigration offices for making inconsistent statements about whether participation in the program was voluntary and found that Secure Communities has an “unintended negative impact” on public safety.

To the extent that Secure Communities may damage community policing, the result can be greater levels of crime. If residents do not trust their local police, they are less willing to step forward as witnesses to or victims of crime. As a result, some Task Force members believe that decisions by local jurisdictions regarding participation in Secure Communities should be honored.

Task Force chairman and executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, Chuck Wexler, said that DHS loses credibility in the community when it snags low-level offenders and that the program “should focus on deporting serious and violent felons”—a sentiment shared widely by the task force. The task force was apparently divided, however, on whether the program should be suspended while the problems were solved.

Benjamin Johnson, executive director of the American Immigration Council, said the group was initially told to focus on how the program deals with traffic offenders, but realized there were much larger questions to consider if they were going to make meaningful recommendations:

This program is seriously flawed as it exists today. DHS needs to take bold action to either refocus the program on strictly pursuing violent criminals or change the program completely. Either way, DHS can no longer afford to jeopardize the relationship between communities and the law enforcement officers there to protect them.

Some task force members, however—who resigned from the group and did not endorse the final report—believe that Secure Communities is far too flawed to get better. Arturo Venegas, a former California police chief who resigned from the task force this week, said the report didn’t go far enough.

Even if DHS/ICE put the recommendations in place, the problems would continue. Without concrete accountability measures and without concrete directives, the fact of the matter is people will still get into the system that shouldn’t be there. I even question the legitimacy of the program.

Only time will tell how and when DHS takes these recommendations into consideration. The report was submitted to the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) which will review the recommendations before submitting them to ICE Director John Morton.

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