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 2, 2013

PIMA county revelation: Drug treatment works better than prison!

This new, grant-funded program giving addicts alternatives to prison is fine and dandy, but why is it"news?" We've known this for decades: Treatment works for drug offenders; prison doesn't. No news there.

 And why does the county only do it with grant money, if $30K can be saved for every person who goes through it instead of prison? It  sounds like even though there's a 70-75% success rate, they will drop it and go back to wasting money sending addicts to prison (where only 4% will get ANY kind of drug treatment)  if they don't get more grants. GRR!!!
An even better solution would be to end the war on drugs and make health care (and thus drug treatment) accessible to all when needed - that would save a lot of lives and money right away...


Rehab, not prison proves successful for some drug offenders, County says

Posted: Sep 20, 2013 3:52 PM Updated: Sep 20, 2013 4:37 PM  
By Paige Hansen PIMA COUNTY, AZ ( Tucson News Now) - 
 Pima County leaders are touting the benefits of a program that keeps some drug offenders out of prison. It is part of the changing attitude towards non-violent drug offenses.  U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced he is expanding a federal effort to keep non-violent drug defendants from getting long prison terms.

The people behind the local program say Arizona's first "Drug Treatment Alternative to Prison" program or DTAP, is getting results, better than what they expected. A three-year grant to fund the program is up at the end of the month, and now the search is on for more funding to keep it going. One of the arguments for keeping, and expanding DTAP is that it costs less to put these sorts of offenders through a rehab program than it does to put them behind bars.

"Of course, it takes money to save money so we have to have the money to put into this program: $10,000 per participant to save $40,000," Amelia Cramer, the chief deputy Pima County attorney said. "It's going to cost Arizona taxpayers one way or the other."

According to a report conducted by an independent agency, Pima County spent at average of "approximately $10,000 to rehabilitate an individual DTAP participant who succeeds in the program, compared to a cost of more than $40,000 if that same individual had been incarcerated for the average sentence of two-and-a-half years," according to a news release sent by the county.

Michael Kennedy, 45 years old and a Tucson native says he has been to prison five times and started using drugs when he was 13 years old.

"People like me don't do what I do," Kennedy said of his subsequent recovery and graduation from the DTAP program. "People like me end up dead or in prison for the rest of their life."

Kennedy qualified for the DTAP program because he is a multiple-time offender, charged with a drug-related offense with no history of violent or sexual crimes. Kennedy says in the past, he would go to prison, get clean, then end up back to square one upon release.

"Then I get out," Kennedy said after saying he would use his time in prison to get off drugs. "I know that drugs is my problem so I get a job and I try to be a normal person, a productive person but yet I haven't dealt with what the problem is. The problem is me."

Kennedy said he started using drugs to feel better about himself. He says it started with weed, then coke and finally, heroin and meth. His addiction fueled his life of crime, he said. Kennedy said he stole for drugs and money.

"I should be dead, or I should be in prison for the rest of my life," Kennedy said. "And I'm not. Thank you God, thank you."

After years of living a life of crime, Kennedy says he is thankful for "normal." He says he has a job at a local car wash, pays taxes and has been sober for two years, seventeen days and counting.

The program is designed to reduce drug addiction and drug-related crime in Pima County. Cramer says going into the grant nearly three years ago, they anticipated a 40-percent success rate. The program turned out to be successful 70 to 75-percent of the time, Cramer said. 

The grant runs out at the end of the month but will continue in a smaller capacity until the county finds out whether it will be eligible for more funding either from the state or federal government. 

Pima County was funded for three years through one of 28 grants awarded nationwide by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Copyright 2013 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.