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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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tax The Rich. Restore health care, education.

We need to get Pierce out of decision-making positions...And no thanks, folks to that sales tax hike. What a bunch of propaganda. We know you're just trying to shift the burden back on to the rest of us while around the corner you plan to cut taxes for the rich even more. We're hurting out here, thanks to your tax haven for white supremacists. 

Yeah. That's why we're so regressive and brutal and vindictive in Arizona - white supremacists cleared out of the Civil Rights South and began investing here: buying homes, businesses, and politicians and making new laws, tax codes, and zoning ordinances to favor themselves and their heirs...We have a lot of deconstructing to do out here, once we get our hands on this beast. Racism is so deeply enmeshed in everything.

You do know that if we truly resist any of this now, folks, it's going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better. If we don't, though, I think it gets a whole lot worse anyway.


Arizona struggles with budget crisis
LA Times
November 26, 2009
Nicholas Riccardi

The Legislature faces a nearly $2-billion deficit, which rises to $3 billion next year. It's one of 35 states with ongoing budget problems, and experts say its plight is second only to California's.

Reporting from Phoenix - When the Arizona State Senate broke into disarray last week during its fourth special session in four months to deal with this state's seemingly perpetual budget crisis, Senate President Robert "Bob" Burns told his colleagues: "It amazes me we're having this much trouble. This is the easy part."

It took until Monday for the GOP-controlled Legislature to pass $300 million in spending cuts, ones they had already approved in June but which were vetoed by the state's Republican governor, Jan Brewer. Even so, Republican lawmakers still argued among themselves over how to close what is a relatively small part of the state's deficit. Looming on the horizon is a nearly $2-billion gap that remains in this year's $10-billion budget. Next year the deficit rises to $3 billion.

In percentage terms, Arizona's deficit is nearly as big as California's, and although the state may lack a movie-star governor, there has been no lack of drama in Phoenix for several months.

The state has put its Capitol buildings on the block to raise money. It is trying to privatize its prisons, and some legislators are talking about a four-day school week. This month, the Pew Center on the States ranked Arizona as having the second-worst budget crisis in the nation, just behind California.

"There are actions they can take, but none of them are easy or pleasant," said Dana Naimark, president of the Children's Action Alliance, a local group fighting budget cuts.

Noting that legislators have already cut more than $500 million since February, she worried that the state is already reeling from reduced services. "It's very disturbing, going backwards on so many fronts," she said.

Most states need to have budgets in place each July 1, when the fiscal year begins. But with the economy in the tank, many states are watching new deficits pop up as tax receipts plunge and more and more people demand social services to alleviate their own financial woes.

Arizona and California -- which still faces a deficit of $20 billion -- are only two of the most extreme examples. Thirty-five states are still scrambling to balance their books for the current fiscal year. "We're seeing this in several states across the country because the revenues continue to drop faster than projected," said Sue Urahn, managing director of the Pew center.

Arizona's revenues are 16% lower than projections made as recently as this summer. Unlike California, the state grew rapidly this decade. Legislators, awash in tax money, cut taxes and expanded government.

But that growth was fueled by booming real estate. Now Arizona has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation, and its economy has ground to a halt.

For months, Brewer battled with members of her party, arguing that an emergency tax hike was needed to save vital programs. But conservative Republicans refused to raise taxes, saying it would devastate Arizona's already weak economy.

This summer Brewer vetoed cuts in education and social services, insisting that the Legislature live up to a deal to place a penny sales tax hike on the November ballot. But the referral to the ballot failed by one vote, and Brewer signed cuts into law this week.

On Monday, Brewer and GOP legislative leaders are scheduled to meet to discuss how to get a possible tax increase on a future ballot. Kim Sabow, a spokeswoman for the governor, said the delay has been because "every single Democrat and a handful of GOP extremists have prevented solutions from passing -- choosing only to vote 'no' instead of being responsible for participating in solutions that have a chance of passing."

The budget battle has so far been an all-Republican affair. The GOP holds commanding majorities in both houses of the Legislature. Democrats, who have voted against every major budget bill, complain that Brewer would not negotiate with them until days before the July 1 budget deadline.

"She has been unwilling to work with the Democrats to get her proposal through," said David Lujan, minority leader of the House of Representatives. "The problem's so big we can't cut our way out of the crisis. We have to raise revenue."

Steve Pierce, majority Senate whip, said the state may be able to come up with ways to raise money -- by cutting taxes. He said that cuts in business taxes may raise tax revenues, an argument made by believers in supply-side economics, a theory that most economists say is flawed.

Pierce said Arizona would have to find a new way to govern itself. "We're going to have to redo government here," he said. "There are good programs that were created in the past that we just can't afford anymore."

He floated the idea of cutting both the government workweek and the public school week to four days, and of violating the minimum funding levels the state needs to meet in K-12 education and healthcare to qualify for stimulus funds.

Burns, the Senate president, said that lawmakers would be unable to take decisive action until voters gave them direction (I have some directions for them...). "We need to let the voters tell the Legislature what is your choice," he said. "Do you want taxes or what some people call 'draconian cuts?' "

Of course, putting that question on the ballot would require another special session of the Legislature, possibly as soon as December. "This year, it doesn't seem like it's ever going to end," Burns said. "It just keeps going."

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