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

Winslow: Such a beautiful town could do something much more creative...

Navajo-Hopi Observor
November 24, 2009

WINSLOW, Ariz. - The Winslow Planning and Zoning Commission recently approved conditional use permits for Ruby Wash Properties, LLC regarding a private prison complex to be built near the present Arizona State Prison at the southern border of the city.

An attorney representing the company said at the meeting that the company plans to build a 5,000 bed prison facility in Winslow if the company is awarded a contract for constructing and operating the facility by the state. The state has said that the contract would be awarded by June 30. The attorney said that once the contract has been obtained, the company would begin construction as quickly as possible and expects to complete the project in approximately 18 months from then.

The area is already properly zoned and the permits required were expected to be acquired by Tuesday. The attorney said that the staff working for the city of Winslow was a great team to work with and were totally cooperative.

The company has agreed to donate 30 to 35 acres to the city and a site for police and fire substations west of Route 87.

The city has agreed to allow use of the airport for transportation of prisoners. This is a very important ingredient to the facility as it is perfect for the safe handling of ICE and federal prisoners.

The plans indicate that the 5,000 bed unit is only phase one of the development the company plans in the area. Two more units are planned for a total of 12,000 prison beds or 16,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees in the next two phases of the development. There may also be an ICE processing unit constructed. The entire area of the proposed development contains some 900 acres located south of the Winslow-Lindberg Airport, north and to some extent east of the Arizona State Prison and west of State Route 87.

Phase one of the projects is expected to cost approximately $350 million and employ some 1,000 people not including those who work during the construction of the facilities. Those added jobs and residents would be a huge benefit to the city.

The facilities will large house state prisoners who are currently farmed out to other states, prisoners from other states and ICE prisoners. Arizona currently has nearly 5,000 prisoners serving their time in other states and locating them in Arizona should lower the cost of incarceration. The lack of adequate prison space is a factor in many states and the federal system is also overcrowded.

There are at least two more actions the city council and a staff committee need to perform before the company can expect the state to grant the contract they need to build and operate the prison. The state, according to legislation authorizing the 5,000 prisoner facility, will award the contract on June 30. It should be to the advantage of the city and the company to have their plans in place and local conditions met as soon as possible.

The first item that needs to be considered is for the Winslow City Council to accept a development agreement with the company. The council may accept, reject or modify such an agreement and is expected to do so at its Dec. 8 meeting provided the agreement is ready for such action.

After an agreement is has been accepted by the council, the staff Development and Review Board will review the agreement, looking at plans to make sure they meet the city code, suggesting changes, looking at the plot plan and building plans. There are a host of items the board will address including most of those mentioned by speakers in opposition to the project.

Once the agreement has been accepted by the city agencies, the company will seek a contract with the state for the 5,000 prisoner beds in question. Construction of phase one of the projects will begin immediately after the contract is awarded.

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