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

Reflecting on private prisons in Arizona

This is a little dated but worth reading for some perspective on Arizona and prison privatization...

Justice Strategies analysis finds cost-saving claims based on flawed, outdated research. 
Arizona's corrections budget has doubled over the last fifteen years, placing a tremendous burden on taxpayers and on the families of state university students. Despite the growth in corrections spending, however, the state prison system remains underfunded and dangerously overcrowded.

Arizona's corrections crisis has led many to call for an overhaul of the state's sentencing system, which packs state prisons with non-violent substance abusers who make up half of all prisoners. Others argue that privatization is the answer to the state's prison woes because private companies can operate prisons at lower cost and finance new prisons the state cannot afford.

Bolstered by reports of cost-savings, supporters of privatization won legislative approval for thousands of new permanent private beds, including a 1,400-bed DUI prison in Kingman and a 1,000-bed prison for people convicted of sex offenses. As a result, state-contracted private prison beds nearly tripled between 2003 and 2005.

But the research used to justify the expansion of the private prison program is methodologically flawed, outdated and, in one case, discredited by the researcher's financial ties to the private prison industry. And critical issues such as the implications of municipal bond financing of private expansion have never been addressed.

Justice Strategies found that no rigorous, independent evaluation had been made of Arizona's private prison program, nor had the cost-comparison figures reported by DOC been independently audited. Existing research failed to account for key factors such as population characteristics, facility design and proper allocation of costs.

Our analysis also determined that prisoners housed in private facilities were far less likely to be convicted of serious or violent offenses, or to have high medical and mental health needs, than prisoners housed in public facilities. Public prisoners were seven times as likely to be serving time for violent offenses, three times more likely to be serving time for serious offenses and two times more likely to have high medical needs than those housed in private facilities.

We also found that private prison costs have risen rapidly since 2002 due to generous contracts approved by former DOC Director Terry Stewart. The new rates range from nine to 35 percent above the old rates and appear to have pushed the cost of private prison beds well above comparable public costs. Finally, the use of municipal bonds to finance construction of new private prisons and re-finance existing facilities carries significant risks for both the state and host counties that have assisted with financing.

The report was authored by Justice Strategies analyst Kevin Pranis and commissioned by the American Friends Service Committee - Tucson and the Arizona Leadership Institute.

Click on the attachment at the end of the page to read the full report as a PDF document.
Public and private prisoners by offense type: August 31, 2003
Public and private prisoners by medical/mental health need: August 31, 2003
Cost-saving_or_cost-shifting.pdf254.61 KB
Justice Strategies
199 Washington Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11205

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