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 10, 2009

Immigrants on the Auction Block

Fed Payments For Holding Immigrants Vary

Geography, Cost Of Living Don't Explain Discrepancies

MICHELLE ROBERTS, Associated Press Writer

Posted: 8:11 am CDT August 10, 2009

SAN ANTONIO -- As federal officials begin an overhaul of the widely criticized system used to incarcerate immigrants awaiting hearings and deportation, their challenge includes a deep inconsistency in the amount paid to a hastily assembled network of private prisons and local jails that hold thousands of such detainees.

Contracts obtained by The Associated Press illustrate the problem in paper-heavy detail, and not all of the discrepancies can be explained by geography or differences in the cost of living. For example, a suburban Atlanta county is paid less than $43 per day to house an illegal immigrant, while a rural New Mexico county gets $97 a day -- just a few dollars shy of the amount paid for a bed in Los Angeles.

Some county jails charge only the actual cost of housing an immigrant, while others acknowledge partnering with private prison companies to profit from the system.

Last week, the Obama administration announced a series of "major reforms" in the detention of illegal immigrants, including placing federal employees inside the largest facilities to monitor detainee treatment. In doing so, John Morton, the new director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, acknowledged the current system is both inconsistent and lacks oversight.

"There isn't a uniform rhyme or reason to it," he said.

Morton pledged to review all the agreements ICE has to detain illegal immigrants at 350 different facilities, an operation that will cost $1.7 billion this year. Most of the facilities were designed to hold criminals, but the immigrants detained by ICE face only civil immigration proceedings and many have never been convicted of any crime. They include families and people seeking asylum.

Only a tenth of the 33,400 beds in use are owned by ICE, and many of those beds are guarded by private contractors. An additional 16 percent of the beds in the ICE network are completely owned and operated by private prison companies. The majority of beds are owned by local and state governments, some of which outsource their jail and prison operations to private contractors.

The result is that in all but a handful of cases, the federal detention of an immigrant involves a payment to an outside company or agency.

Many of those contracts were negotiated over the last decade when the government was outsourcing a growing number of services and ICE, under pressure to detain more immigrants who had previously been allowed to remain free, was rushing to add space.

"They had to find quick places with beds," said Peter L. Markowitz, director of the Immigration Justice Clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

Through a Freedom of Information request, the AP obtained ICE's contracts with some of the largest immigration detention facilities; the agency also recently began posting dozens of other contracts online. The daily rate paid for a jail bed varies widely among 38 government-to-government agreements signed since 2006, even within the same regions.

For example, Orange County, N.Y., has a deal to house detainees for nearly $134 per day, compared with $105 per day in Monmouth County, N.J. Separated by 106 miles, the counties sit about the same distance from New York City.

The deals ICE signs with local governments allow for some profit, said agency spokeswoman Ernestine Fobbs. Haskell County, Texas, takes in about $1,000 per month more than it pays a private contractor to run its Rolling Plains Regional Detention Center, and the extra money is used to boost salaries in the three-man sheriff's department, said the county's top official, David Davis.

But at less than $58 per day, Haskell County receives far less than the $97 per immigrant being paid to Otero County, N.M., even though both counties are rural and built prisons as economic development projects. Davis said he wasn't aware that other counties were getting paid substantially more.

"I've never compared what we had with what they had," he said.

Otero County opened its immigration detention facility last year about 25 miles north of El Paso. Approached by a private contractor looking to arrange the deal, "the county saw a potential to increase some revenues," said Assistant County Manager Ray Backstom.

The county makes a "small" profit on every bed that's occupied, said Backstrom, though he wasn't sure how much. He said he wasn't directly involved in the negotiations between ICE, the county and Centerville, Utah-based Management and Training Corp., the private company that built and runs the facility. ICE pays Otero County about $3 less per immigrant per day than it pays Los Angeles County.

Morton said ICE has long-term plans to find arrangements that are more suitable than prison-like facilities. "We're going to focus on building a better mouse trap," he said.

Immigrant advocates say that could mean more use of electronic monitoring, allowing immigrants to remain free while pressing their cases in court. ICE officials have said that electronic surveillance programs that cost about $13 per day have a near perfect compliance rate, though they complain cases generally take longer to resolve when immigrants are free.

"There are entities that are profiting from the use of detention," said Jacqueline Esposito, policy coordinator for Detention Watch Network. "There are community-based alternatives and they cost a fraction of the price. You have to wonder then what the motivation is behind a detention system that has exploded."

Additional Resource:

US Immigration Detention System

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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