I just finished listening to this week's episode of Blog Talk Radio's "4 Justice Now: Women Behind The Wall". It was about the private prison industry, and there was a lot of focus on Arizona because two of the three guests are from here: Caroline Isaacs (American Friends Service Committee in Tucson), and "Robert", a whistleblower from one of the private prisons in Florence. Also on the show was probably the most knowledgeable man in the country on private prisons, Frank Smith, who co-founded the non-profit Private Corrections Institute (PCI), an organization committed to exposing the greed, lies and corruption in the industry, and to helping communities fend off privateers. His last stop in Arizona, I believe, was to help the T'ohono O'odham reservation, where one company was hoping to build a new prison. PCI's website is an excellent source of background material and current news on private prison corporations as well as private correctional health services, food services, etc.
Women Behind the Wall is hosted by two women who were wrongfully convicted and - now free - are in the thick of efforts to bring about criminal justice reform and tackle the prison industrial complex. Gloria was in California prisons for 17 years before being exonerated; Mary Ellen was in the Florida prison system for 5 years. This weekly show usually focuses on issues most pertinent to women in prison, but - as evidenced by tonight's show - they aren't limited to those topics. If you hit the link above it'll take you to the home page where you can play or download this week's show, as well as any of their previous shows (including one about Marcia Powell's death in May). Both Gloria and Mary Ellen are extremely articulate and well-informed, their guests are high quality, and the show is worth the hour, so check it out - especially this one about private prisons.
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. firstname.lastname@example.org
until all are free -
MARGARET J PLEWS (June 1, 2015)
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