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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Friday, November 27, 2009

Arizona: Most Draconian State in America.

Below is an idea of something Arizona legislators with courage will do once back in session: This package of bills in NJ is absolutely stunning. Democrats or Republicans should be competing to be the ones to come up with something like this for Arizona - a package that came out of extensive community dialogue, and appears to be research-based.

Whatever politicians or parties are behind criminal justice reforms in the next session doesn't matter so much - good conservatives would want our money invested in responsible, productive ways, anyway, and should support such reforms.

Given the right legislative and executive support, there's so much possibility here for Director Ryan and his people to do something with the Arizona Department of Corrections that actually works to lower recidivism rates, improve protections for prisoner rights, provide meaningful community-based treatment (not just "supervision"), and stop the gross economic exploitation of impoverished prisoners/parolees and families. If he's successful, he might even be able to revise his blueprints for the future by downsizing anticipated prison bed needs...


NJ Prison Bills Advance, To Improve Rehabilitation Efforts

November 24th, 2009

A sweeping bill package sponsored by six Assembly Democratic legislators to improve rehabilitation in New Jersey prisons and to save taxpayer dollars by cutting recidivism and giving released inmates an improved chance of success was advanced Monday by an Assembly panel. News from PolitickerNJ.
The package is sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Bonnie Watson Coleman and Assembly members Albert Coutinho, Elease Evans, Mila M. Jasey, L. Grace Spencer and Cleopatra G. Tucker. It stems from a series of hearings on Watson Coleman hosted throughout New Jersey to hear from citizens and experts on how to cut into recidivism and save public money.

The bills were released by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.

“The pervasive cycle of arrest, release and re-arrest is failed system that wastes lives and costs taxpayers dearly,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer). “Quite simply, it’s a disgraceful and destructive cycle that must come to an end for the good of all New Jersey taxpayers and those directly affected by our failed system. We’ve seen too much money unsuccessfully spent on programs that don’t work. These reforms are a long overdue step toward progress.”

“These reforms range from improving education and job training to enhancing family support to eliminating antiquated roadblocks to success for those released from prison,” said Coutinho (D-Essex). “These common sense steps will give people an opportunity to earn their second chance and ensure we spend public money wisely.”

“None of these bills would make it easier to serve sentences,” said Spencer (D-Essex). “What they would do is make serving that time more sensible and help ensure that after their time is served, prisoners re-enter society ready to be productive citizens. That will save lives and taxpayer dollars.”

“The simple fact is that of the thousands people released from New Jersey prisons each year, 65 percent of the adults and 37 percent of the juveniles will return within two years,” said Tucker (D-Essex). “That is unacceptable, and these bills aim to not only to improve lives and neighborhoods, but to save money.”

“Spending money time and time again on prisoners who come and go from our prison systems is, quite simply, a waste,” said Evans (D-Passaic). “We need to do better, not only for the wellbeing of the people whose lives are being lost in our prisons, but for taxpayers who need to know their money is spent smartly.”

“We simply cannot afford to continue the present system of spending money repeatedly on repeat offenders,” said Jasey (D-Essex). “The time has come to change our approach so that we can give people and our society a better chance at a better future.”

The “Women and Families Strengthening Act” (A-4197), which would:
  • End the prohibition in state law against released prisoners from receiving cash assistance benefits provided under Work First New Jersey.
  • Require the state to contract with the lowest bidder for inmate telephone services, prohibit the contractor from imposing surcharges on inmate calls and bar the state from accepting revenue in excess of the cost of operating inmate telephone services.
  • Establish a commission to examine strategies for strengthening bonds between jailed parents and their children.
  • Require an assistant corrections commissioner establish and monitor policies affecting incarcerated mothers and their children.
  • Prohibit the state from housing female inmates in the same facility as male inmates, if it results in conditions more restrictive than the male inmates.
  • Require the state to make every effort to assign an inmate to a facility close to where the inmate’s family resides.
A bill (A-4199) designed to address incarceration concerns, which would:
  • Allow prisoners in a state or county jail to keep $25 of their monthly income earned for labor performed at the facility, up from $15.
  • Require the state to semiannually submit all inmate complaints to the Department of the Public Advocate.
  • Require the state to develop an in-service training program for corrections officers that must include mental health sensitivity.
A bill (A-4201) designed to address release concerns, which would:
  • Establish a faith-based programs coordinator with the state Department of Corrections to compile and disseminate information about faith-based groups and programs, especially those that provide assistance and services to inmates re-entering society.
  • Establish Mental Health Courts to facilitate voluntary treatment of defendants who have mental health illnesses.
  • Create a Prisoner Re-entry Commission and require the collection of data on recidivism and a fiscal estimate or the potential cost of any legislation that increases prison sentences.
  • Give prisoners a 90-day grace period on outstanding fines and other monetary penalties.
  • A bill (A-4202) designed to address education and job training, which would:
  • Require the state to create a mandatory workforce skills training and a mandatory education program in each state correctional facility.
  • Require inmates to attain a high school equivalency certificate or high school diploma.
  • Allow inmates and parolees to enter into agreements with institutions for education, training or other activities that, if successfully completed, could reduce parole terms.
  • Establish a mandatory six-month period of post-release supervision for all state inmates.
  • Allow a person who has been released from prison to obtain a court order that allows them to visit prisons, if they can show that such visits are likely to motivate and help rehabilitate other inmates.
“This is important unfinished business from the many hearings we held throughout New Jersey, during which we heard from thousands of people about how our system has failed people and cost us money,” Watson Coleman said. “A broad coalition of community organizations, faith leaders, law enforcement officials and ordinary citizens have lined up behind these ideas and will work to build support for these well-informed and carefully crafted bills that reflect a desire to improve lives and save money.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a Parole Officer in Arizona.. This is a joke. Offenders must WANT to stay out of prison. They must WANT not to use drugs. They must WANT to get a job. Most offenders are just WANTING to blame others for their problems and push the blame for their failures on to the State. Expanded education in prison, education, and other programs, just don't work. A 9-5 grind is not something that most, if not all, released offenders want to do. I have given offenders more jobs than I can shake a stick at. Most quit in the first week. Why? Because they are lazy fu*ks whom would rather sleep all day, party all night, and walk to the ATM to use their welfare card that they stole from their girl friend. My suggestion is that money would be better spent in Arizona, if the offender makes it to the end of his first month on Parole... give him a one way ticket out of Arizona. The is a reason that Arizona has natural warning signs all throughout the desert "Stop, put your hands up" (cactus).