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, September 9, 2009

Children in Immigrant Detention

A frank commentary on kids and immigration detention. Nothing spectacular or scholarly; I think her numbers are way low and her sources aren't all confirmable, but the point is well-made. I don't give these kids enough thought, myself...

Immigration detention camps traumatize children, create special needs

Casi Preheim

The special needs kids section might not seem a likely place for a discussion about immigration, but for those of us who struggle with the effects of trauma on our kids, it is a topic that should not be ignored. In advocating for their own children, so many parents become activists for all kinds of children. It is for those parents that I write this article.

As adoptive parents, we're willing to address trauma caused by biological parents. As single or step-parents, we're willing to address trauma caused by "the other parent." So, as human parents, we must be willing to address the trauma caused by parenting governments. How many of us think about the abuse suffered by our children and desperately wish someone had stepped in and stopped it? Most of us, in fact, have spent large sums of money on adoption proceedings or to win court battles that would prevent further abuse of our children. We seek therapy for our kids, understanding that the effects of neglect, abuse, and exposure to traumatic events and environments are far-reaching. This seems to be a natural response, even an obligation on our part. So, how is it that we allow thousands of children to be detained and abused in our own state, with our own tax money?

Photo by YanYan92/Stck Xchng
According to an article in Law and Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice (2005):

 In 2001, 5,385 unaccompanied immigrant children were detained by the INS in the United States. Fleeing war, armed rebel forces, political persecution, child slavery, abusive families, and other perilous conditions in their native countries, or brought by child traffickers, these children seek refuge in the United States...Nationwide, as many as one-third of children in INS detention are placed in secure detention centers for juvenile offenders...Children interviewed for this report were handcuffed during transport, strip searched, and subject to other degrading treatment (Georgopoulos).

To give a little perspective, an American student was recently strip searched in a school in Arizona. National headlines expressed the outrage of parents from across the country over this invasive practice, and the student's case against the school has gone to the U.S. Supreme Court...and this was only one student.

For photo origin, click here.
As a country, we acknowledged long ago the detrimental effects of institutionalizing children and began closing down orphanages in the 1950's. Why, then, is there such a drastic difference in how we perceive the local institutionalization of children from other countries? One way we do this is by distancing ourselves from the reality of this abuse. We change our political views and use different language to make ourselves more comfortable with the situation. Terms like "illegals" and "anchor babies" are intentionally used to dehumanize these immigrant children.

History tells us that unthinkable acts can be committed against entire populations through the use of gradual changes in political views and language. No one wants to think that current-day citizens are capable of the atrocities of the Holocaust. Do we really think, though, that people blindly accepted what was presented in a swift, open campaign proposing the total annihilation of a people? Probably not. Perhaps it was a campaign based on fear, prompting the need to secure a homeland? Most likely. Under the guise of security, a similar bigotry is perpetuating child abuse in our own country, in our time.

According to Amnesty International (2009), "seventy-four people have died while in immigration detention over the past five years." As we stand together to promote groups and organizations that work to end child abuse, we cannot forget about those that work to end the traumatic abuse caused by immigration detention facilities. That burden of responsibility also lies with us, no matter how uncomfortable that burden might be.

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