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, August 3, 2009

The Crime Wave that Wasn't

Oops! Former Guv Napolitano Wrongly Hyped "Impending Crime Wave" in 08

By Sarah Fenske

Phoenix New Times

Monday, Aug. 3 2009 @ 12:43PM

Janet, Janet, Janet ...

We found ourselves sadly shaking our head while reading the New York Times yesterday, wondering (yet again) how our former governor could have gotten things so wrong.

Governor Janet Napolitano, need we remind you, repeatedly insisted the state was not in a budget crisis -- suggesting as late as 2008 that we ought be giving free college tuition to any Arizona student who could muster a "B" average, even though in just a few short months things are bad enough to discuss selling the freakin' Capitol building. She also famously buried her head in the sand on Joe Arpaio, letting the sheriff get away with murder before realizing she'd helped to create a monster.

Now this.

Tucked near the end of a fascinating Times piece about the nation's plunging murder rate, we were reminded that Napolitano was part of a team of Dem governors who predicted that just the opposite was bound to happen, only a year and a half ago.

Napolitano, along with Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, Martin O'Malley of Maryland, and Phil Breseden of Tennessee, held a press conference in D.C. in February 2008 to detail an upcoming problem so great, it surely required suspending all sorts of civil liberties: A massive crime wave! Headed right toward your suburban neighborhood!

According to a press release from Third Way, the progressive group hosting the press conference, four new and "menacing" trends were converging all at once. We're talking about "a massive group of prisoners poised to reenter" your community! And "the lengthening shadow of illegal immigration!" And "the sprawling parentless neighborhood of the Internet"! And, finally, "the surging youth population"!

The exclamation points are ours. The overheated rhetoric, sadly, isn't.

Of course, as reporter Shaila Dewan points out in yesterday's Times' analysis, just the opposite is now happening all over the country. Crime rates, in fact, are plummeting.

As DeWan notes, regarding the governors' press conference:

Such appeals to Americans' fears, several criminologists said, is often linked to a political agenda fueled less by crime than by another variable that is famously unfazed by real-world predictors: public perception. Along with its report, The Third Way released a poll showing that by a 5-to-1 ratio, Americans believed crime was worse than it had been the year before. By year's end, though, the national crime data showed a decrease.

Indeed, the press release from Third Way shows that then-Governor Sebelius was using the supposed crime wave to call for "signficant federal support" for a "crime-fighting agenda." So now that it turns out the feds didn't increase their support for crime prevention, and the murder rate is way down, will we see Napolitano suggesting that we need fewer resources over at the Department of Homeland Security?


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