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:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Investing in community? Mesa prioritizes private jail.

According to KidsCount

11.2% of  Mesa's children and 
7.1% of her seniors live below poverty.
8.5% of Mesa's kids live in high-poverty neighborhoods, and
 13.1% of teenagers are high school drop-outs.

Mesa also has a falling crime rate.

In light of all that, you'd think the city could find something better to do with her money than incentivize further criminalization and incarceration of her black, brown and poor people...

------------------from the AZ Republic-----------------

Gary Nelson - Apr. 10, 2012 09:56 AM
The Republic |

Stung by soaring costs for housing misdemeanor offenders in the county jail, Mesa is looking for someone willing to build and operate a private one.
The City Council's public safety committee told the police department Monday it could issue a request for proposals to build the jail, which also would serve Gilbert, Chandler, Tempe and perhaps Scottsdale.

"This is a positive step," committee chairman Dennis Kavanaugh said, noting that a regional wireless cooperative among public-safety agencies could serve as a model.

AdTech Ad The size and cost of the jail are not specified. Assistant Police Chief Mike Dvorak said the department anticipates several proposals and will evaluate them on their merits.

The idea has been simmering for several years and has new momentum because of a projected spike in what the county charges cities to book and house misdemeanor offenders.

Mesa expects to spend $5.5 million for that this year. Next year's estimate is $6.9 million.

That money comes from Mesa's general fund and is not considered part of the police budget, Police Chief Frank Milstead said.

"We're not going to quit buying police cars because we have this big spike," he said. "But we've just got to come up with a better business plan than what we're doing now."

The private jail would be overseen by a board representing the police agencies using it. Companies bidding the on the project will be asked for numerous details, including how they plan to staff, operate and secure the jail.

Compliance with national standards for correctional facilities would be required.

If the model works well in the East Valley, Dvorak said other regions might want to pick up on the idea.
Arizona has no private jails at present. It does have private prisons, which hold felony offenders for a year or longer.

Dvorak said California has several private jails where police have noticed better accuracy in booking, lower costs and fewer confrontations between suspects and officers.

Milstead said the proposal for a private jail, which was first raised several years ago, went dormant for a while because of a notorious escape from a private prison in Kingman, Ariz., in 2010.

Two of the escapees murdered an Oklahoma couple.

"We were afraid at the time that people would not be able to differentiate ... between a private prison and a private jail," Milstead said.

At present, misdemeanor suspects are taken first to city holding facilities to be booked. They're arraigned in city court within 24 hours and if the court orders them held, they are taken to the county jail.

Mesa's holding facility can hold fewer than 30 people.

Peviously, the county's Southeast Valley jail at Mesa Drive and U.S. 60 both booked and housed offenders. The county stopped housing prisoners early last decade, and in 2007 stopped using it to book offenders as well.

That forced city police to take prisoners to the Fourth Avenue Jail in downtown Phoenix. Mesa police officers make about five such trips a day, Dvorak said.

Mesa Police Chief Frank Milstead said the county has indicated it would reopen the Southeast Valley facility within the next two months, but only to receive prisoners.

That still would help local departments, Milstead said, because they wouldn't have to spend so much time taking prisoners to Phoenix.

The old jail has 180 beds. Even if that part also were to reopen, it could house only some of the hundreds of misdemeanor offenders for which Southeast Valley cities are currently responsible.

Milstead and Kavanaugh both raised the possibility of the county turning over the vacant jail to Mesa or to a regional cooperative, but that would require political buy-in from the county board.

Mesa will pursue that with the county while also considering bids from private jail operators.

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