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, October 12, 2011

AZ private prison contract awards delayed...

Just got feedback below from Frank Smith, Private Corrections Working Group, on the following article in the Coolidge Examiner today. He's been investigating the private prison industry for something like 20 years. His remarks may or may not be posted to the site by Tri-Valley Central, but are important to share:  

D-Day has been extended

Mark David, 
Coolidge Examiner 
October 12, 2011

The “D” stands for decision as in whether a prison is built in Coolidge. Regardless of what side Coolidge citizens are on they want an answer. The answer to whether Coolidge gets a private prison apparently will come later rather than sooner. A decision that could have come as early as Sept. 16 has now been extended to Nov. 22, according to the Arizona Department of Corrections.

The DOC has apparently asked Management and Training Corporation (MTC) and the other companies that bid on a private prison “to extend its bid through November 22, 2011, while they continue to evaluate the proposals.”....


There are a lot of questions, but few have been answered in the media.
MTC's escape on July 30, 2010, probably cost the state, local and federal government unreimbursed millions. The corporation ran a prodigiously insecure facility. AZ DOC Director Chuck Ryan had been unwilling to assure that the state properly monitored its operations.

Ryan owes a considerable debt to his mentor, Terry Stewart, who is a consultant for MTC. MTC also verbally accepted blame for the escape, absolving the state, and is likely being rewarded for falling on its sword during a gubernatorial campaign.

The DOC allowed MTC to operate for years in Kingman when the alarm systems didn't work and there was only a single fence surrounding the medium security facility. The AZ DOC sent hundreds of prisoners there who were clearly ineligible to be kept in such low security. What has changed in the interim, since the escapes of the murderers?

The state is being sued for $40 million by the families of the deceased victims of the escapees.
It's also being sued for failing to conduct a required analysis that would determine if use of the for-profit contractors saves taxpayers any money, as required by law. A number of previous studies have found that is not the case.

There are major additional questions.
Arizona's prison population has flattened out. It only grew by 65 beds last year, but it trying to contract for 5,000 unneeded beds at a cost of over two million dollars a week. The legislature is strangely silent on this issue. The contracts will require the state to pay for 90%-97% of the beds, even if they are never filled.

MTC has come to Coolidge and essentially told locals that it is willing to invest over a hundred million building a prison and it will be an engine for economic development. In fact, it wants the municipality to borrow the money to build the prison, putting the city's credit rating at major risk, and risking none of the corporation's money.
Why haven't Coolidge resident been informed about taking on over $100 million in debt?
Where is the water supposed to come from to supply this prison, and what is the capacity of sewage treatment to deal with the waste? A 3,000-bed prison would use about 180 million gallons of water annually, and 80% of that would go back into sewage treatment. Where is the analysis that demonstrates the city has the water rights to supply that prospective need?

GEO Group operates two prisons in Pinal County and CCA runs and owns six more. They appear to be recruiting most of their staff from bottom-of-the-barrel, high turnover, Pima and Maricopa county labor pools. Neither chose to offer to build another facility in Pinal because the local labor pool willing to work for low wages in dangerous conditions is obviously exhausted. MTC pays starting guards on $11 hourly in Kingman but it seems unlikely that they would attract any employees for less than $17 hourly, and they probably shouldn't be hiring those. CCA has only kept its prisons staffed by using lower than contracted staff ratios and failing to do adequate background screening.

Who owns the water rights for the Coolidge land on which the prison would be built, and how much water go with the land? These are the most basic questions to be answered, but I haven't seen any of them discussed in the Examiner.

Lastly, CCA is is a world of hurt. It pretends that it can move its California prisoners anywhere to its facilities in other states. In fact it has many empty prisons, some long closed such as Watonga, OK, Walsenburg, CO and Appleton, MN. But its contracts with California expire in January and there is some question if they will be renewed. 

It has also repeatedly shown, at Red Rock and Las Palmas, that its staff is incapable of dealing with the level of offender which it has been importing. Just yesterday, its Sayre, OK facility had a major riot involving those same California gang bangers and dozens of prisoners, some in critical condition, had to be transported to hospitals, some over 100 miles away.

The Republic has asked some of these questions. When will the Examiner do its duty to subscribers and residents?
Frank Smith 
Private Corrections Working Group
---and, from the Arizona Republic, for those who missed it,  
the series Frank referred to---

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