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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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Navajo County Jail: Special privileges for wealthy customers.

Given that the criminal justice system is already a location of great disparities, this is really inappropriate. Creating a heirarchy of privileges in the jail according to who can afford them isn't new - class war rages behind bars too. But doing this, as opposed to emphasizing a token economy kind of system whereby prisoners earn privleges with good behaivor - is going to create a ton of resentment towards the jailer. It's also going to expose the jail to allegations of more constitutional violations (unequal protection), since the effect will be that white prisoners by and large get protected from the same violence and misery that other prisoners will be subjected to.

I wouldn't be taking tips on how to run one's jail from Joe Arpaio to begin with. That's definitely a bad sign.

Cell Upgrade Is Offered To Jail Inmates
AZ Journal
Feb 7, 2014

By Tammy Gray

Navajo County Sheriff K.C. Clark has a plan to generate extra income for the county by offering jail inmates an optional cell upgrade. Inmates who wish to pay a daily fee may serve their time in cells that have cable television hookups, electrical outlets and generous access to the recreation yard, as well as smoking privileges.

Clark explained that a previous contract with the Arizona Department of Corrections to house prisoners brought much-needed income to the county government. With the construction of a new private prison, however, the DOC no longer has a need to contract with the county for inmate services, leaving the cells empty and the county’s income reduced.

As a provision of the former contract with DOC, state prisoners housed at the Navajo County Jail were given certain privileges not allowed to county inmates. Clark explained that the DOC required that inmates housed at county facilities have the same amenities and privileges as those housed at state-run DOC facilities. As a result, the county remodeled a section of the old jail to separate DOC prisoners from county inmates, and to include the necessary wiring and accessories to meet the state’s requirements.

A total of 50 cells are available to inmates who want to upgrade, including 34 for men and 16 for women. The cost to upgrade is $20 per day and is collected in advance.
Each inmate must also provide his or her own television set, and use headphones to keep noise down. The upgrade also entitles inmates to use certain food preparation items in their cell. A hallway leads directly from the group of cells to a separate rec yard, allowing inmates to come and go between the two areas as they wish during certain hours. The rec yard has a special electrical outlet for safely lighting cigarettes, which may be smoked at any time in the area.

“I’m not making their life easier,” Clark said. “They’re making their own life easier by getting the same rights as a DOC inmate.”

Not every inmate will qualify to upgrade to the special section of the jail. According to Clark, inmates must meet certain classification requirements. Inmate classification is based on the individual’s criminal history, current charges and behavior while incarcerated. Those who are classified as posing a potential security threat, or a physical threat to others, will not be allowed to upgrade their accommodations.

“They have to be part of general population,” he said.

Clark explained that the idea for the cell upgrade program came from Maricopa County. According to Clark, inmates in Maricopa County who do not wish to be housed in tent city may pay to serve their time at the Scottsdale Police Department facility instead.

“It’s a way for the county to help pay for the facility and save money,” he remarked. “Later, if we need that space, we’ll tear it out and use it, and the program will end.”