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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Saturday, November 7, 2009

AZ Prison Town Blues

We've already seen this quote from Ryan - I just thought the home town view on the issue was interesting. This is a sad commentary on how prisons distort the characters of prison towns: prisoners are sources of revenue, not people.

Local leaders talk about impacts if Ft. Grant closes

By Diane Saunders
Staff Writer
Eastern Arizona Courier
Published on Wednesday, November 4, 2009 9:53 AM MST
Closing down the Fort Grant Unit of the Arizona State Prison-Safford would have negative economic impacts to Safford and Graham County and could result in county jail inmates being sent to other counties.

Those are a few of the scenarios discussed by local government leaders in response to budget cuts submitted to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer by Charles L. Ryan, director of the Arizona Department of Corrections.

The budget cuts — which include laying off 107 full-time equivalent employees at Fort Grant — are not a proposal. Instead, they are a response to Brewer's request of all state agencies for budget reductions that could trim 15 percent from their spending plans, ADOC spokesman Barrett Marson said.

Still, Safford City Manager David Kincaid is concerned about negative local impacts on "an economy that is already battered."

According to Kincaid, the city is operating with less state money due to the Arizona state budget crisis. A 15-percent cut in state agency budgets — not just ADOC — would have a "severe and profound" effect on the city.

Layoffs at the prison would result in less spending at Safford businesses. A 15-percent cut by other agencies would have other impacts. For example, a budget cut at the Arizona Department of Commerce would impact local economic development.

Budget cuts would also negatively impact the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

"If they take a 15-percent cut, the Arizona Department of Water Resources goes away," Kincaid said.

There would also be impacts to the county, including financial and overcrowding in the Graham County Jail, said Drew John, chairman of the Board of Supervisors.

"It would be a snowball effect," John said.

As the county continues to reel from layoffs from the Freeport-McMoRan copper mine near Safford, a layoff from Fort Grant would cause county residents to be even more cautious when spending money.

The ADOC budget cuts call for prison inmates with sentences of a year or less to be housed in the county jails. This would cause overcrowding in Graham County.

"We would lose our (federal) Bureau of Prisons contract," John said. "It would be almost impossible to take those prisoners into our jail."

He added that Graham would be forced to send its inmates to county jails throughout Arizona.

John said he does not believe the answer is to close state prisons or to privatize them. He believes the state should allow a private corrections company to build a new prison in Arizona to relieve the financial pressure on the existing system.


Prison closure idea no good for local, state economy

By Aimee Staten
Managing Editor
Eastern Arizona Courier
Wednesday, November 4, 2009 9:53 AM MST
The Gila Valley economy is still reeling from layoffs of Freeport McMoRan employees in Safford and Morenci, so even a hint of a possibility of the Fort Grant Unit closing is enough to strike fear in the hearts of the community.

The budget cut ideas to the prison system are not realistic, nor are they even a reality at this time. They are in response to Gov. Jan Brewer’s request of all state agencies for budget reductions that could trim 15 percent from their spending plans, ADOC spokesman Barrett Marson said.

If they were a reality, however, the savings would only amount to about $153,368,700, which is like a fast evaporating drop in the bucket of the state’s expected shortfall of $4 billion over the next two years. Besides the negligible savings, the state’s criminal code would have to be rewritten so that some people who are serving sentences at this time could be released.

“The rewriting of the criminal code and releasing thousands of prisoners is neither realistic nor in the best interest of public safety,” Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles L. Ryan wrote. “Releasing thousands of prisoners because of the budget deficit will place the public at risk and is akin to turning our backs on the law-abiding citizens of Arizona.”

If this idea were to become reality, this Valley and the state would be affected in every aspect of the economy. Locally, the 107 employees who would be laid off would have to quickly obtain new jobs or file for unemployment benefits, and their spending would decrease. The impact would be felt sharply on state and local levels.

The problem with this scenario is that once this type of idea reaches the public arena, it somehow becomes reality unless voters let their voices be heard. If you would like to voice your opinion on this matter, call, write or fax Governor Jan Brewer at 1700 W. Washington, Phoenix, AZ 85007; phone 602-542-4331 or fax 602-542-1381.

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